January 09, 2015

(Another) Interview with Ken Rose



Anonymous lack of coherence said...

Good news!

"Mitt Romney 'considering' 2016 presidential run despite two previous losses"


7:10 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


America needs Mittney; of that there can be no doubt. But then there's this:



11:58 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

The never-ending saga of Zimmerdouche:


8:37 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

Two items:

Interview by JHK with the author of "Empire of Mud" here:

Great post by Dmitri Orlov here on how empires create anti-societies:

From the post:
"When the British got tossed out of their American Colonies, they did all they could, using a combination of import preferences and British “soft power,” to bolster the plantation economy of the American South, helping set it up as a sort of anti-United States, and the eventual result was the American Civil War."

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Bingo said...

I love Ken Rose's interviews. I am looking forward to this one.

Mittney's entry gives me great joy. I only hope he chooses Michelle Bachmann as running mate (and possible second First Lady, in his typical Mormon style).


12:49 PM  
Anonymous J S RANK said...

MB, WAFers ... Re: Charlie Hebdo ...
As a professional editorial cartoonist, I share the grief concerning those killed in this massacre and the followup hostage incidents.
I also never have comprehended why some satirists create images of supposed religious icons in insulting and embarrassing sexual situations. These are mostly all imaginary figures anyway. All they do is serve to inflame the already messed up emotions of fanatics. They're hardly ever funny or present a capable intellectual argument.
They're an attack by proxy ...and I put them in a similar category as Hitler and Godwin.
I will rarely depict 'jesus' ( or what many accept as that image ), but mostly to counterpose acts or speech by some asshole 'christian' or group of such behaving anything but.

IMO, there is a difference between being thought-provoking; or being provocative, gratuitous, and snarky. Some of these artists might think they are clever, but really they're just lazy.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

a take on Charlie Hebdo from left field


from the comments:

"“Free Speech purism as an ideology favors power because of differences in access to the public sphere. ”

I guess its a form of free-market ideology where markets are portrayed as democratic when capital is unevenly distributed."

1:13 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, wasn't able to post it. We have an informal half-page-max rule here, so I suggest you compress it by 50%, and re-send. Thanks.


3:47 PM  
Blogger Marc L Bernstein said...

Ok, 2nd try. Maybe I'll make more than one comment.

This one pertains to your remark that intelligence is not strictly about IQ, but instead is ontological.

Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov has a facebook page, and I decided to see what he had to say. I was disappointed. His view of the "West", the USA, Canada and the NATO nations is hallucinatory.

Kasparov was a great chess player but he's hopelessly confused as a politician. I fear that he fails to listen to some of the people who could set him straight. He does not seem to understand how corrupt the USA is. Does he not know about the drone strikes? the wealth and income inequality? the unwieldy and expensive healthcare system? the severely weakened labor unions? the slave-labor prison system? the overbearing police and surveillance state? the dangerous gun culture? the extraordinary waste within the bloated military establishment? the constant stream of lies from the US government and from the cowardly and corrupt mainstream media? the bought and paid for congress? It goes on and on. He calls this the "free world"??? He's living in an imaginary universe.

Garry Kasparov is an ideologue. Instead of studying and reading what intellectuals say, he assumes that he already understands everything of importance. Kasparov is not an intellectual! That does not reflect well on the game of chess, if one of its greatest players is seen to be an ignorant ideologue in the world of politics. Kasparov does not even know that industrial civilization is deteriorating. He presumably has no training at all in science, or else he might have noticed that something is going wrong with civilization itself, with overpopulation, across the board resource depletion, rainforest destruction, species going extinct, ocean acidification, pollution of rivers, lakes and oceans, loss of coral reefs, draining of fossil aquifers, accelerating climate change, melting of glaciers, etc.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous tristan tzara said...

MB, Miles,

Sorry for the misunderstanding. I wasn't posting to debate, make points, etc... Just questions I was pondering myself as I also do political satire. My viewpoint roughly coincides with Sacco and J. S.

My response to what you said about Sturmer is encapsulated in the link from Dan.

"It’s self-evident that hate speech promotes discrimination and violence against marginalized, oppressed and colonized people — from random assaults against individuals all the way up to genocide — and keeps members of these groups intimidated and fearful. This was the thinking behind the judgment during the Nuremberg trials that Julius Streicher, publisher of the virulently anti-Semitic Der Stürmer newspaper, was an accessory to mass murder and therefore should be hanged, a judgment with which I completely agree. Any defense of speech that does not at least acknowledge the relationship of hate speech to discrimination, violence, and genocide and instead reduces its consequences to causing offense, places its advocate outside serious consideration and beneath contempt."

Also, Nazi hate speech wasn't confined to Jews and included homosexuals, gypsies, and the rest of the sub-human races.

In my book, a Neo-Nazi group publishing crude and demeaning attacks against Jews, Blacks, Muslims, and homosexuals doesn't sanitize the vileness of the activity.

Also, Hebdo was pouring petrol on a raging fire, andI find this equivalent to the limit of free speech, ie., yelling out "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, what can I tell u? Bobby Fischer was one of the greatest players in history, and when it came to politics he was literally insane. A much more tragic life than Garry's, I fear.

As for additional postings: another informal rule is, only 1 every 24 hrs, thanks. By limiting the length and frequency on this blog, I get to have a life apart from it.


5:08 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Hey, it's OK to debate, or make a pt; not a problem! I disagree w/u abt Charlie Hebdo--I don't think what they were doing can be compared to Der Stuermer--but that's jus' my ol' pt of view, and other Wafers might agree or disagree.


5:14 PM  
Anonymous kilo_mega_giga said...

MB -

Glad to hear the new book is coming out soon. Unfortunately I won't be able to purchase it, as I'm filling up my credit cards with the latest toys.


Re: Charlie, could you comment on the Bill Maher/Salmon Rushdie show yesterday? Where are the US/Europe headed in regards to Muslim terrorists?


6:29 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

lack, MB, all-

Well, one never knows *what* to think of our Mittney. I recall that he nixed the idea of running again; news of which sent me into a deep depression. I posted the terrible news on this very blog, in fact. Reading your post about Mittney's possible return to the arena has, once again, lit the fire of joy in my life.


Perhaps our bewuved Mittney and Michele will invade France in the spring of 2017. High time for America to grow au pair and get a sister-wife to boot.


Many thanks for sharing your recent interview w/Ken Rose. I particularly loved the points you made about form and content in American life, el diablo in the classroom, and the fact that you had to explain to Ken that Americans are as *empty* as the space between Kim's ears!


ps: When is someone gonna beat the living shit outta the Zimmerdouche, already?

8:02 PM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

Dr. Berman has several times recommended the novel Gain by Richard Powers. I just finished it, and I agree that it's a fabulous book. The professor does a good job of describing the plot (here). To me, the novel provides a well rounded tale of capitalism. Certainly there's the greed, but there's also the honest desires of some to free humanity from misery and pain. Not to pardon the corporations, but I like that when Powers deals with the environmental fallout of corporate chemical engineering, he also points out that we, the public, have often been complicit. When Laura, the protagonist in one of the two threads of the novel, comes down with cancer and suspects that it may have been caused by contamination from the Clare corporation, she says...

"As if cancer just blew in through the window. Well, if it did, it was an inside job. Some accomplice, opening a latch for it. She cannot sue the company for raiding her house. She brought them in, by choice, toted them in a shopping bag. And she'd do it all over again, given the choice. Would have to."

Finally, at the risk of awakening the rage-monkeys, I would say that Powers agrees with the professor concerning the real motivations of the North for the civil war.

"The country needed to think beyond the life of the plantation. And if the South failed to accept the inevitable change, Julia publicly promised that industry would vanquish the wayward agrarian with half of the North's machinery tied behind its back. She predicted, too, that Armageddon's real beneficiary would be large-scale manufacture. ... Northern mills would whip landed gentry's tanned ass."

Thanks professor. That was a good ride.

8:37 PM  
Anonymous SW said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

I really enjoyed listening to the interview. i particularly liked the comments on content/form and having the courage to not define life by form alone.

tristan t. -- I'm uneasy too about how quickly the screams of Free Speech!!! have filled the air while ignoring (or minimizing) the content of these cartoons. How quickly would people defend cartoons if they depicted African Americans engaged in racially provocative images such as stealing chickens, eating watermelons,being lazy,fishing on the riverbank, etc.? Please don't misunderstand--I condemn the murders and there's no excuse to justify them. I saw the Bill Maher/ Rushdie show last night and it was little more than a smug I-told-you-so rehash of all the cliches about radical Islam we've all heard before. Soon Bill will be welcomed on Fox News.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous cafe voltaire said...

Will Self on satire, free speech, afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted:


He makes the point that since the French government is to fund 1,000,000 copies of the next issue of 'Charlie Hebdo', these supposed satirists have now been co-opted by the state. That's certainly stoking the fire if not quite yet on a par with Der Sturmer:


11:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


You'll note that I refrained from telling Ken that the future of America can be viewed by lowering a periscope into the depths of Kim's rump. As for the Paris situation: I have this recurring daydream, that a bunch of Islamic terrorists break into a kosher supermarket, and don't kill anyone or steal any $, but make off with 500 kg. of pastrami. When finally captured, they explain that they are jealous of the Jews for inventing pastrami, and that even tho the Ay-rabs have felafel and couscous etc., they realize that their cuisine can't match up to the Deli World. Then all the French rabbis get together and propose a kind of seder, to include the entire Muslim and Jewish communities of France (20 million people?), at which everyone will gorge themselves on pita and baba ganoush and chopped liver and dill pickles, and finally declare a truce between jihadis and hasidim. Wild jubilation breaks out in Palestine/Israel, where that stupid wall is torn down and replaced by slabs of corned beef pasted together with tabouleh. Etc. Is this too much to ask?

Seriously, there's so much to say abt the Charlie incident, pro and con regarding cartoons, the historical background of Muslim rage, and so on, that I haven't known where to begin. Better u guys shd hash it out, back and forth; I'm enjoying the debate. One thing I do know: the attackers did Islam no favors, politically speaking; that's fer sure. And I am in great admiration of the French Muslim community, for condemning the attacks.

Am currently working thru the proof copy of the Japan bk, muchachos...up to my eyeballs.


12:02 AM  
Anonymous Kung Fu Idiot said...

I am not a hero. I'm basically a nerd who went into martial arts and tried to face violence in the world --with ridiculous results i must say.

But what that antiheroic time of my life teached me is that not only does matter the action of facing violence, but actually the this action's quality.

What I liked abt Sacco's strip linked above is that, at least, he recognizes satire as a form of violence too.

You don't have to be a Marx reader to know that a mass comunication media like l'Hebdo was happens if you have the resources and the cultural capital to make it happen.

So in this light I see their satire akin to a comic book character like The Hulk doing a lot of collateral damage in his fights with supervillians: basically undisciplined --and here's where I think for example abt MB's CTOS.

But there are superheroes and superheroes tho. My favourite, no doubt, it's the "inhuman" Black Bolt: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Bolt

5:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: data correction: France has 5 million Muslims and 600,000 Jews.

6:07 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps2: Here's a great human being:


6:29 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Smooth Move Dept.:

The pres, instead of attending the march in Paris w/other world leaders, chose instead to ram his head up his buttocks and roll around the corridors of the White House like a doughnut.


10:54 AM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

It's interesting to note that most of the Muslim world lies in geographical areas with historically rooted cultures of honor; not unlike the antebellum American south. These cultures arose as patriarchal, clannish, honor-bound herding societies. In this setting, no man could afford to appear weak or vulnerable to livestock raids among other lesser slights. Thus, all insults had to be answered forcefully; deadly force in many cases as honor was at stake and became the operative concept. Does this factor in as a deeper ancillary reason why a tragedy like Charlie Hebdo occurred? This, of course, outside of the compelling fact that as al, Sarasvati, tristan, and other Wafers have persuasively pointed out, that the Muslim world *is* under attack by the west and that relentlessly ridiculing one's God is essentially a defamation of religion, producing a psychic assault on the believer's spirit.

Anyway, I don't know? I hope this wasn't too muddled...

BTW, I stumbled upon this gem today in my local rag:



ps: My hat's off to any American Wafer who has successfully emigrated to Norway or any other sane society.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, don' ferget Breivik (Norway).

Anyway, yes, Islamic cultures are shame/honor cultures, like the antebellum South, and in the latter, slights led to duels. A tad oppressive, eh wot?

I'm on the side of Charlie Hebdo here, and believe Muslims need to lighten up, not go nuts over every cartoon (and in fact, most don't). Comparisons w/Der Stuermer won't work. Charlie does not have the Arabs as its exclusive, pointed, and hated target; they make fun of all religions. Of course, if you come from a theocratic culture, that doesn't matter, and every slight must be avenged, regardless of context. As I said, oppressive; but then all religions tend to be rather humorless.

But I don't see this attack as being in the category of 9/11, which was a response to American exploitation of the Middle East that has been going on for a long time. And which is a whole lot more serious than some dumb cartoon. 9/11 can be seen as a rational response to historical circumstances, even if that doesn't condone the murder of innocents. And of course, the US Govt immediately branded the attackers evil, insane, and jealous--which is very ahistorical and truly lame. But in the case of the Charlie assassins: nah, these people strike me as being fanatical assholes, nothing more. It was a knee-jerk reaction to ridicule, it seems to me. No surprise that the French Muslim community has roundly condemned the attack; whereas in the case of 9/11, I think many people, and not just Muslims, privately felt the US had it coming, for its arrogance and its ignorance. As the Rev. Jeremiah Wright put it, "When u terrorize people, eventually they are going to terrorize you back." That's basically the story of 9/11. Cartoons, on the other hand, are not terror, esp. when they are not part of any deliberate hate campaign.

Anyway, these are just 1st impressions. Let's continue the discussion; I'm enjoying it.


4:06 PM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

"Wild jubilation breaks out in Palestine/Israel, where that stupid wall is torn down and replaced by slabs of corned beef pasted together with tabouleh. Etc. Is this too much to ask?"

Not at all. Bravo Dr. Belman, although hommous might stick better.

While there's no justification for what those murderous jihadis did in France, the cartoonists contributed to a climate of hate that allows western people to dismiss such atrocities as the periodical mowing down of Gazans. That said, these jihadis contributed more to that climate of hate than has anyone else.

I just finished reading the autobiography of Lt. Buck Compton, of Easy Company, made famous by the TV series, "Band of Brothers." Compton, incidentally, was portrayed by the same guy who did that notorious Cadillac advert that was mocked here a few months ago.

After the war, Compton went on to be a cop and a lawyer, eventually becoming a judge. He was the judge in the Sirhan Sirhan case. In discussing that case, he said that our leaders should be chosen by ballots, not bullets. Strangely, he said that if he were young enough, he'd join the US troops in Iraq.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think it depends on the joke. Consider these 2 Jewish jokes:

1. Why do Jews have big noses?
A: Because the air is free.

2. How many Jews can you get into a VW?
A: 100. 2 in the front, and 98 in the ash tray.

I don't have a problem w/#1; it's funny. As for #2, it's grotesque, and anyone who told it to me (goy or yid) wd no longer be my friend.


6:18 PM  
Anonymous tristan tzara said...

Thanks to everyone for their help in discussing the Hebdo situation. I particularly appreciated the Will Self piece. I'd suggest the Ray McGovern piece. McGovern is not naive, as he was CIA chairing the Prez Daily Briefings in the 80s.:


I'm in a state of shock/grief personally over the massacre of the Hebdo cartoonists, as I was aware of them through friends, one of whom was a very close long-time friend of Wolinski and even had made a date to see him next week.

Another close friend living in France wrote me that Hebdo has been pro-NATO since the 90s and this, for me, is an indication that the hit was political and not a matter of extremist sensitivities. While the two are entangled, I don't think Jihadists act out of religious sensitivity or Rushdie would have been rubbed out ages ago.

I also don't think they're stupid, incompetent, or kneejerk, at least any more than we are, as I've taken in the evidence of them kicking US out of Iraq. also see that we've had to re-enter the Iraq war as they've just threatened to take the state back from our incompetent Maliki. I'd suggest viewing the Frontline special "Losing Iraq" and noting the relative competence of the "counterinsurgents" vs. US military post-invasion.


I'd also take a look at our progress in Afghanistan after the longest war in US history.

The former editor of Hebdo, Philippe Val, was a supporter of Israel who fired the cartoonist Siné for his "anti-Semitic" cartoons. So Jihadis might be understood for viewing Hebdo as a political target.

I don't see the two guys as "fanatical assholes" in the least. I see them as soldiers activated by a highly intelligent and deadly enemy.

While I always respect your opinion, MB, and usually agree with it, this is a case where we differ. And I, naturally, hope you're right and I'm wrong. I fear an over-reaction here by the West just as much as I did when I referred to the Afghan invasion as whacking a hornet's nest.

Who are we fighting now? Does anybody have the least idea? How many people here were shocked when ISIS appeared out of nowhere to take over half of Iraq overnight? I know I was. We know nothing whatsoever in the West, with our all propaganda news media, of who the "Jihadists" are or what they're capable of.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Sam Holloway said...

Good evening, MB and Wafers.

Regarding the Hebdo issue, I tend to avoid the comparisons and take it on face value. It's easy to point out the qualities of Islamic nations that allegedly make them prone to take offense at vile, bigoted cartoons, but let's back up a hair. Out of the estimated 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, only two (maybe three?) got angry enough to take guns and kill 12 individuals. I hardly call that a consensus. On the other hand, how many thousands of Muslims have been slaughtered by Westerners in the last couple of decades alone, and for reasons that are often more Byzantine than an offensive cartoon? Let's not forget, too, that our oil-guzzling industrial societies indirectly fund the very extremism that helps inspire such as the brothers Kouachi; our prolific proxy warmongering also arms many of them, too.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


It's hardly just 2 people. There have been repeated incidents of going nuts over cartoons or satire; it's very much a pattern.
Rushdie is perhaps the most outstanding example. So some novelist doesn't like yr religion? So what?


Watch length, por favor: half page max. Meanwhile, Rushdie survived because he had a lot of friends who hid him; it wasn't for lack of trying on the part of Muslims. As for the rest: yr rt, we disagree.


8:26 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

While I don't mean to defend Western involvement in the Middle East at all, I think it's important to consider a few points.

When bloggers like the "I don't mourn the deaths of imperialists" dude paint with that broad a brush, there's no productive discusson to be have, and he's an idiot to boot. (What about the five hostages, for example? Was that somehow a completely detached incident from the Hedbo shooting spree?)

Arabs are, on the one hand, oppressed by Westerners in various situations across the globe today, and historically.

On the other hand, several populous nations, such as Saudi Arabia, enjoy wealth, autonomy, and a king who doesn't allow females to drive. When I taught Saudi students here in NYC, a few women became comfortable enough to share that because they didn't wear head scarves, the 19 year old Saudi men in the hallways, who mostly watched soccer on YouTube and seemed boyish, chatty, and a bit charming, would regularly call them the most vile Arabic equivalents of cunts, whores, etc, etc, etc.

I have no doubt (though I could be wrong) that the shooters in this case were not simple "freedom fighters" for the Arabs, but would also happily see the subjugation of plenty of their countrymen (i.e. women, other minorities) at the hand of an oppressive religious state. I'm not sure what can be defended about this.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


No argument from me on all that, but pls don't refer to other participants as idiots. We often disagree here, but are civil abt it.

The whole thing is, of course, a complicated mess, but I stick to the pt that this is not 9/11. I really don't think a history of imperialism can be invoked here. There have to be limits to that type of arg, as u pt out; when the brush gets that broad, then anything can be excused. And in this particular case, I don't think it applies: this is ideology and oversensitivity taken to the pt of insanity.

What worries me the most, I suppose, is how easily this conflict turns into a 'clash of civilizations', the sacred vs. the secular. I like to think of Wafers as sacred humanists, walking a line between those 2 extremes. Yrs ago a colleague of mine at Rutgers said to me: "There are two types of barbarism in the world. In one case, everything is ruled by reason. In the other, by the nonrational." It behooves us to be eclectic, no? Aristotle was rt, after all, abt moderation and the golden mean.


9:04 PM  
Blogger Michael said...


Apologies about the "idiots" comment--that was not meant for anyone posting here, but to the author of a blog that was linked to.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Observer said...

Why did 4 mil feel the need to hit the streets in France along with so many world leaders?

Europe is entering a period of deepening economic crisis. The last thing they need is to put the blame on Muslims, Jews, Blacks, or whoever.

I think Europeans are scared. They don't care so much about freedom of speech as they do about preventing WWIII and the rise in popularity of European nationalist parties.

My guess is that Obama didn't attend because the SS wouldn't allow it.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


SS = Social Security? (haha)

The march was to affirm the secular values of free speech, I think, along w/mourning the tragic death of a dozen innocent people. Also, to show unity; to say, We won't be terrorized, won't be censored; we're not gonna shut up just because yr sick. The danger, as mentioned above, is that it probably will be taken as a 'clash of civilizations': the secular West vs. Muslim fanatics. That we need like a hole in the head. I don' have the time or $ to fly to Paris, but if I *had* been in town, I wd have joined the march, for a # of reasons...but certainly not to say, Islam is evil.

Man, those guys really made it worse for Islam, I tell u.


11:05 PM  
Anonymous cafe voltaire said...

Charlie Observer said...

'I think Europeans are scared. They don't care so much about freedom of speech as they do about preventing WWIII and the rise in popularity of European nationalist parties.'

Too right. We are acutely aware that fascism is on the rise again and that it thrives best in tough economic times. Freedom of speech is a quaint nicety in the face of that spectre.

Dr B,
Salman Rushdie didn't have friends who hid him he had a 10 year, state-funded close protection team of police officers guarding him 24/7.


I didn't object to my taxes paying for that but I could understand the book burnings as I found The Satanic Verses to be unreadable tosh.

11:35 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Freedom of speech is never a 'quaint nicety', and fascism is its greatest enemy. As for Rushdie, thanx for the info; I'm glad to learn Scotland Yard was on the ball. Book burnings: also the metier of fascism, if u remember. Freedom of speech means you burn nothing, including "Mein Kampf." Anyway, Muslims were hardly burning it because it was (to some) 'unreadable tosh'; their crit was not based on style, if I recall.


1:31 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


This has been an interesting debate, and you can see it in even deeper hues at the current Truthdig. Hedges has an essay that advances the blowback argument, and he makes some gd points. At the same time, to Truthdig's credit, there are 2 articles that might be seen as ripostes to Hedges. To their credit (from my pt of view) Truthdig named Charlie Hebdo "Truthdiggers of the Week"; another is a fine piece by Signe Wilkinson defending satire as fundamentally healthy, wh/I encourage all of u2 read. Be sure, in case of the latter, to read the comments section: Henri Day reproduces past cartoons from Charlie Hebdo making fun of Jews, and they are quite strong. I also have to add that what Hedges' article brings out quite clearly is (despite his disclaimer) that this may finally, at least in part, reflect a clash of civilizations--the sacred vs. the secular. Shd theocratic polities put up with satire? Shd secular ones put up with theocratic rage, and censorship? Wilkinson gives some gd examples of bridging the gap, but I doubt they are or cd ever be the norm. What do you do when you have a shame/honor culture in opposition to a secular/free speech culture? Are we living thru some type of Armageddon showdown, finally?

And then there's the question of whether, historically, democracy was just a moment, a luxury of sorts, wh/wd be (for me) a very sad thing (see my essay on "Tribal Consciousness vs. Enlightenment Tradition" in QOV). In addition, there's the question of whether democracy has been, in part, a smokescreen for privilege, a form of politics that rests on severe social inequality. The Paris massacre shd force us to think abt these questions, it seems to me, and kudos to Truthdig for airing both sides of the argument.


2:45 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Here's a New Yorker piece on the Hedbo/Free Speech discussion."

8:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Great essay! It doesn't let the Charlie attackers off the hook, but says something abt the larger picture. I agree.


9:25 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, interesting article on www.nakedcapitalism.com.

I wonder if you've had the same experiences as the author Ann Jones.



9:41 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hello Wafers:

That New Yorker piece was indeed thoughtful. Somehow lost in all the noise over Charlie Hebdo is an acknowledgement of the role of colonialism in creating this modern mess. Also, pointing out that Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning are being persecuted for their particular heresy doesn't seem to be talked about much.

Moreover, there are quite a few out there who simultaneously call for the heads of Assange and Manning because of their treasonous activities, yet condemn the gunmen of Paris for attacking free speech.

I have news for these people: the wretched of the earth do not threaten your right to free speech, those in power do.

One of these cranks hosts a call-in programme on CBC radio. Yesterday he was waxing eloquent on how these fanatical butchers don't share the enlightenment values of Europeans. I guess he forgot about Sikes-Picot and all those guillotines, from Algiers to Saigon, that enforced those values, huh?

10:05 AM  
Anonymous SW said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

There's a good article by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept about the issues raised in this discussion. From the article:

"With all due respect to the great cartoonist Ann Telnaes, it is simply not the case that Charlie Hebdo “were equal opportunity offenders.” Like Bill Maher, Sam Harris and other anti-Islam obsessives, mocking Judaism, Jews and/or Israel is something they will rarely (if ever) do. If forced, they can point to rare and isolated cases where they uttered some criticism of Judaism or Jews, but the vast bulk of their attacks are reserved for Islam and Muslims, not Judaism and Jews. Parody, free speech and secular atheism are the pretexts; anti-Muslim messaging is the primary goal and the outcome. And this messaging – this special affection for offensive anti-Islam speech – just so happens to coincide with, to feed, the militaristic foreign policy agenda of their governments and culture."

Here's the link to the article:


This will further inflame hatred and distrust against Muslims and go a long way to "justify" the wars against countries predominately Muslim. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if this were a false flag event. Whatever the cause or agenda, however, the death of these journalists was a tragedy.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous al-Qa'bong said...

Hi Dr. Belman.

This isn't a second post in 24 hours. It's just a note to you.

I just took a look at that Chris Hedges article and saw that he used "wretched of the earth," which I used in my last post.

Damn; I had that line all thought out last night while I was walking home from the radio station in the -25 degree air.

Now my post looks highly derivative.

Oh well, O&D, as they say.


10:18 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Mike, good article and the discussion on the blog has been good, but I fear this will all be forgotten in a few weeks ... I'm guessing right around Super Bowl time.

Meanwhile this happens:


Also, some fun in techno-buffoonery-land yesterday when I was told I will soon HAVE to upgrade to a smart phone (or at least a new phone) because my 6 year old dumb phone is becoming obsolete and whattatheycallit, unsupported. If anyone cares, the issue I was having is number 11 on this funny list:


10:23 AM  
Anonymous tristan tzara said...

had a hard time deciphering what you wrote. Unsure if you're aware audis are US/NATO allies and their "vile theocracy" is fine with us. Given this fact alone, we might view the Free Speech marchers like Hollande, Sarkozy, LePen as a tad hypocritical?

MB/General Assembly: Pepe Escobar writes that the killers were pros. Hebdo hadn't the slightest idea what hit them, their racist cartoon notions making them unaware of who they were taunting. Of course we can all go on underestimating Islamic radicals as it's working just fine. We always have our nukes ready if it really gets out of hand. The attack was related to 911 as these are the same people we attacked in its aftermath. The only way to imagine this not the case is to see them as maddened free-lance bozos. If you believe that, I gotta bridge I can sell ya. A bridge to nowhere.


Agree people running out into the streets out of fear, little to nothing do with free speech. It has to do with fear and mobilizing people to agree to a shredding of constitutional rights and living under police state law.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Sorry, I don't buy Pepe's conspiracy theories, and I do think this is a different kettle of fish than 9/11. These bozos may not have been free-lance, but there is such a thing as getting fanatical to the pt of insanity, and I think they fell over the edge. And I also think the march had a lot to do w/free speech, and defending a certain way of life.

The problem is, as you can gather from the discussion we've been having here, that none of these issues are straightforward or 'clean'; they overlap, and are entangled. So you've got a piece of the truth, but there's a larger picture I feel yr missing. As I said, it's to Truthdig's credit that they published Hedges' essay (w/wh/you wd be in agreement, I take it) *and* the 2 essays in the pro-Charlie camp.


"The Wretched of the Earth" is title of a bk by Frantz Fanon, publ. 1961. And yr rt abt the colonial issue, of course, but again, this attack doesn't seem to be in the category of 9/11. Partly blowback, perhaps, but not the whole story; and I think free speech is threatened by both The State and The Terrorists. Democracy is getting increasingly fragile, from whatever direction.


Greenwald might be rt, but I don't have the entire run of Charlie issues in front of me. Check out the Wilkinson article comments I mentioned, one by Henri Day, showing mockery of Jews. Again, this is a tricky issue, because I feel cartoonists have the rt to ridicule anyone they want, and w/o fear of retribution. But as I said above, it depends a lot on the content. If you go overboard (e.g. how many Jews fit into the ashtray of a VW?), it's not illegal, but you have crossed a line into sheer indecency.

The problem for Muslims is that too often, the slightest offense is indecent; they are a shame/honor culture with a very short fuse. This is also where we come up against the 'clash of civilizations', because secular cultures and honor cultures are very different. You may recall that in describing the antebellum South as an honor culture, I said (WAF Ch. 4) that I wd have a hard time living in it. This aspect, along w/slavery, of course, is the dark side of that culture, because the slightest remark cd lead to a duel. (Bertram Wyatt-Brown discuss this in detail in "Southern Honor.") Well, it's not my thing, and also why I won't be buying a condo in Tehran any time soon. Of course, both sides in this clash have something to teach the other side, but I'm guessing not much learning will take place; wh/also didn't happen during the Cold War.


Gd to hear from u, hope yr doing well up there in S.D. Mexicans in general tend to see the US in favorable terms, because of an illusion they have abt the American Dream (wh/quickly dissipates once they cross the border). Hence, I don't get a lot of questions regarding how fucked up we are. But see my essay (in Archives) on "Love and Survival," for an exception.

Well, let's continue on w/this discussion, tho I fear the world will continue on its B&W path regardless of what consensus (or lack of same) we come up with.


1:14 PM  
Anonymous Innocent bystander said...

Yes, this discussion is a fart in a hurricane but interesting nonetheless. Thank you for hosting in. I find little sane discussion elsewhere. One point I'm confused on. Hedges mentions that anyone denying the Holocaust in France faces a 60K fine and year in jail, a rather significant curtailment of free speech. But you say a sick joke about VW ashtrays is permissible there? Are you sure about this? Seems you're contradicting what Hedges asserts. He's wrong? There's a proviso allowing sick humor abt the Holocaust but disallowing denying it occurred. Hedges is the only one I've read mentioning this law. Is he mistaken? I'm aware of the plagiarism charges and try to look at what he writes skeptically.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

I think Tarzies caustic edge is nearly always present and, definitely in this case at least, uncalled for. It may have to do with being homosexual, as I can only assume the life experience of growing up on the "outside" like that is guaranteed to jade ones outlook (the similarity here in style between arthur silber and tarzie is too much for me to dismiss). All that said, I think his point about the power differentials involved in the ideal of free speech now in the time of mass communication is absolutely dead on and is the most pressing factor here. Its utilitarian, but at this scale that's all "we" are capable of. Ive gone nearly completely misanthropic so while I still hold a personal ideal of non violence I think these cartoonists were suicidal. I know thats a sad standard...

3:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan H.-

Gd pt, but in future perhaps leave out any refs to sexual preferences or Wafers' motivations; it sets the wrong tone, and cd be taken as a smear or personal attack. Thanks.


Some confusion here; I never said a joke abt Jews and VW's was permissable in France. I was just making a comparison between 2 Jewish jokes, one being funny, the other offensive. As to exactly what goes on in the French legal system regarding anything, I have abs. no idea. Hedges may be rt (or not), but pls don't confuse a possible mistake w/plagiarism; these are 2 very different issues. (ps: you can probably find out something abt French law regarding Holocaust denial or whatever by doing a Google search)


4:04 PM  
Anonymous cafe voltaire said...

My first thought on seeing the footage of the murderers was also that these were professionally trained soldiers with the necessary logistical back-up required to pull off this atrocity. I immediately thought of Gladio--we have seen this before in Europe and have form (from the 70's) in this kind of thing, known as a 'strategy of tension'.

I agree with Pepe Escobar when he makes the point that, whether or not this is a false flag: 'as an Italian analyst memorably put it, jihadis don’t attack a vulture hedge fund; they attack a satirical rag. This is not religion; this is hardcore geopolitics.'

I have to disagree with you, Dr B, on:'Freedom of speech is never a quaint nicety....'
I dumped the notion of free speech as an impossible absolute about 40 years ago and have merrily self-censored, like most rational people, ever since. (I am studiously avoiding mention of '9/11 truth' here, just as a an example, despite not being a believer.) My thoughts remain my own however and Glenn Greenwald argues this point far better than I can.

BTW, It wasn't Rushdie's style that I found to be unreadable tosh. After his brilliant novel, 'Midnights Children' on the partition of India and the carnage we Brits perpetrated and then left behind, he went for the lazy, cheap shot (but hey, great marketing--it shifted shedloads of product, even to the non-reading book burners) and has continued doing so ever since.

4:57 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,


Yes, I agree, the fragility of democracy from all angles seems to be the larger issue/danger in all this madness, MB. I am encouraged by the people of France and others around the world (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, non-believers, etc.) who went into the streets to stand for unity and secular values in the face of this tragedy. We can only hope that all of this will somehow translate into some kind of understanding which will help counter the many anti-democratic trends sweeping the world. It sounds pretty pollyannaish, I know, but what other shot does the world have? Who wants to witness Armageddon, aside from the fanatics? Jesus, I can't go a week w/out pastrami...imagine NO pastrami!

Here's one thing all Wafers can agree on 4 sure: Obama is a tone-deaf turd! Where the fuck was this guy, already? The Golden Globes? Even "Bibi" had the balls to go to France... I can't tell you how disappointed I am w/Obama. Was *everything* this guy said on the campaign trail a lie, a total hustle?


5:56 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, Voltaire, we're in different worlds, literally on every issue you raise; but that adds spice to the blog, n'est-ce pas?


5:57 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, Bibi was quite eager to go, since it's political capital for him, and more justification for oppressing the Palestinians. (He doesn't make much distinction between jihadists and Muslims, as far as I can make out.) As for Ovomit, it's getting to be a compliment to call him a douche bag; the guy is just a little piece of excrement, when all is said and done. To wit:


Two more yrs of him seems abs. insufferable. I can't wait for Mittney to take over, really.

As for pastrami, I propose, as East-West conflict resolution, that everyone (male or female) in the world wear a burka, around the clock (including in the shower), and everyone eat a pastrami sandwich once a week (side of chopped liver optional).


6:10 PM  
Anonymous COS said...

Well this its a small world after all united colors of bennetton spectacle is probably giving a few sensible people and a Postmodernists a bit of nausea. Bibi there? That alone casts a pal on the whole show.... All standing for unity and secular values! I wonder who will march for the 50 civilians killed by U.S. bombing in Syria earlier this week? What is it that these people are united in? A Seems they are united in being upset when some "exteremists" kill 12 Europeans but the 2,000 Palestinians and the aforementioned Syrians don;t warrant a parade of "unity" and secular values. Hell, millions where slaughtered for the sake of secular values in the 20th century no? The 12 killed is a tragedy but it was a crime not an act of war or a symbol of the clash of cultures. A crime exploited and fodder for spectacle. Check back when somebody does a march or outraged at the killing of the 4,000 in eastern Ukraine for the sake of secular values.......

7:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is encouraging:


7:53 PM  
Anonymous Charlie Observer said...

ss=secret service.

Again, this is about Muslims/Jews/fascism in Europe (not freedom of speech), so it's important that European and Eurasian leaders attend, and it's less important for other parts of the world. Notice when they say "world leaders", they only mean European/Eurasian leaders. This is really a European/Arab/Israeli problem, not a global problem. Like you said, this is really unrelated to 9/11, and I agree.

Not sure if I agree with the honor culture in Middle East, at least in historical terms.

The Ottoman Empire was very tolerant of other religions. This change is recent, with the major change starting after WWI. Things really ramped up after WWII with the industrialization of the Middle East.

The attacks in Paris were only partly motivated by Charlie. You have to remember the other guy attacked a Jewish grocery and killed random Jews - completely unrelated to a cartoon.

France just deployed 10000 troops, the majority to protect Jewish sites. There's also a large push right now to move Jews to Israel.


8:32 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yes, I know what SS stands for (Schutzstaffel).

Of course this event is abt freedom of speech; it's just abt other things as well. (E.g., raw antisemitism, as you pt out--the Jewish supermkt; French Muslims as marginalized class; etc.)

Ottoman Empire tolerant of other religions, but not of slights to Islam, as far as I know. Shame/honor cultures go back a very long ways; certainly much longer than secular/rational cultures.

Two things I'm sure of, in any case:

1. Everyone will continue to disagree abt this.

2. Manichaean lines will get harder, and general conditions will get worse and worse.


8:56 PM  
Blogger NearFar said...

Thanks for this lively discussion.

I was impressed w/ Žižek's take on this, especially the way he draws out the 'metaphor' of Nietzsche's 'Last Man': it's an insight that's stuck with me for two days now.

"Slavoj Žižek on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: Are the worst really full of passionate intensity?"


9:52 PM  
Anonymous Kathy Sloan said...

WAFer alert: with all that's been written about the tragic events in France last week, the shaman of our time (along with MB of course) Chris Hedges cuts to the very heart of it. This is must-reading for all WAFers; its truth is searing and profound.

"The terrorist attack in France that took place at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was not about free speech. It was not about radical Islam. It did not illustrate the fictitious clash of civilizations. It was a harbinger of an emerging dystopia where the wretched of the earth, deprived of resources to survive, devoid of hope, brutally controlled, belittled and mocked by the privileged who live in the splendor and indolence of the industrial West, lash out in nihilistic fury.

We have engineered the rage of the dispossessed. The evil of predatory global capitalism and empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And rather than understand the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate it, we have built sophisticated mechanisms of security and surveillance, passed laws that permit the targeted assassinations and torture of the weak, and amassed modern armies and the machines of industrial warfare to dominate the world by force. This is not about justice. It is not about the war on terror. It is not about liberty or democracy. It is not about the freedom of expression. It is about the mad scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor. And the poor know it."


11:01 PM  
Anonymous Kung Fu Idiot said...

I'm sick of people romanticing CH humor as "direct, punch in the face humor" vs "cheesy political correct humor".

Problem is that even Mike Tyson broke his hand in a street fight versus a dude called Mitch Green;

If u don't know where to punch on the face, u can easily break your hand.

3:43 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I already referred to the Hedges article above, and also mentioned the riposte by Wilkinson in the same Truthdig, and that Truthdig itself named Charlie Hebdo "Truthdiggers of the Week." As the discussion here, from various sources, over the last few days, shd indicate, the event can't reduced to one cause or one interpretation. Hedges has a part of the truth, but he does tend to be a guitar with one string. It's an important string, granted, but there are others; and the fact is that the Paris massacre might *not* be a case of blowback, like 9/11. I'm not very shamanic, truth be told, but I encourage you to work toward a larger perspective. This event can't really be wrapped up in a tidy formula.


5:00 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thank u4 writing in. I actually do remember u from UVic, tho that was eons ago. How r.u. doing, amigo? You can write me at mauricio@morrisberman.com, if you want. Sorry I lost yr message, BTW; something slipped in the transmission, and I still remain technologically challenged.


5:03 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Meanwhile, this is what Americans are concerned abt:


5:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

"They hate us for our freedom"(2.0). An Algerian friend called me and expressed her disgust at what happened in Paris, where her family is. But I don't quite have her restraint. Maybe a luxury she doesn't have. The Hedges article should be recorded, and run on non-stop loop here and in France as a public service announcement. His analysis of religion, free speech as insignificant is compelling. Little more than a casus belli, adding insult to injury.

Chuck Hebdo is in the business of hate, provocation, masquerading under the cloak of free speech. This is not the satire we know. Enlightenment notions of free inquiry, the pursuit of truth don't apply. It's a nihilistic rejection of truth entirely. It exploits Islam's sacred prohibition of the depiction of humans, the subjugation of the Muslim community, and Western Culture's elevation of the obscene to profundity in order to have a disproportionate effect. And it uses all this with the intent to further marginalize a people. Too cute by half. Who are we to define another culture's parameters of free expression? Such hubris. Is it too much to refrain from depicting the ass-rape of Mohammed? We all have rights, that bc of decency, we choose not to exercise: farting in the face of the person next to you, saying "nigger", going up to a couple in a bar and saying, "Sir, may I fuck your wife?" This is what makes a civil society. We are not Chuck Hebdo. It should do a weekly column on the Algerian War of Independence, or "Who our Raffal fighter jets are attacking today: Libya? Iraq? Syria? Mali?" That would test free speech. Hedges is right. The wretched are forever screwed, the world is upside down. I want to vomit.

5:49 AM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

I think there are two aspects of European culture involved in the putative "clash of civilisations" as evinced in the events in Paris.

The first is the Enlightenment secular/rationalist culture represented by Charlie Hebdo which picks on Islam precisely because Islam is so sensitive to criticism.

The second is the atavistic European tribal culture represented in France by Front Nationale and similar (but not identical) organisations in other European countries. These people want Muslims out of Europe and are happy to watch the fall out from Charlie Hebdo from the sidelines, as the secular rationalists are doing a good portion of their work for them (i.e. goading Muslims into demonstrating their incompatibility with "Western values").

It's fascinating, but far from edifying, to watch this pernicious dynamic unfolding. The really ugly stuff is probably still to come, tbh.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


What I'm sure of is that regardless of the spectrum of opinion on this issue, and regardless of what we discuss on this blog, the Manichaean lines will harden on both sides. There will be no meeting of minds, just another cycle of violence.


Well, again, I don't think it's as cut-and-dried as u make it out to be, but there's no doubt that the full spectrum of opinion out there on this issue is being reproduced on this blog. Which is fine, I suppose.


6:24 AM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

From a Tomdispatch.com piece by Ann Jones, picked up and appearing on Salon.com as "Has America gone crazy?," this comment by reader "girdyerloins":

So few comments on such a tender issue?
H.L. Mencken was fond of pointing out that America was truly the home of the zanies. While other countries were well stocked with chawbacons, we were the only country to plug them into 220v at the highest amperage.

Makes for a great show and consistent with the Roman idea of bread and circus, which America also excels at.

Pity. With all this energy going to making money, this could've been the best place on earth to live and work. Look at Norway, for crying out loud. Took oil revenues and invested it so EVERYONE could get a piece of the action. Oh, and they are the only country to invite ANYONE from any other country to study at their universities. For free. America, on the other hand, makes health care, the most serious concern and any thinking human's mind, for profit.

And before you clodhoppers elbow each other aside for an opportunity to invite me to leave my country, let me remind you why I stay. It is for the show. Nothing else on earth comes close. Oh, Russia may have the most colorful drunkards, and African countries may have the most entertainingly corrupt governments, and South American countries the most gut-wrenchingly chauvinistic male chauvinists, but we, America, combine it all into a stew worth paying to watch. And it's all free.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous SW said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

The boundaries of decency and free speech turn out to be not an easy thing to define. A Supreme court judge (don't know which one)said he couldn't define pornography but he knew it when he saw it. Maybe the same is true for the limits to what free speech really is. Your example of the dismissive, cruel "joke" about Jews' ashes in a car ash tray illustrates this point. At the core of this so-called joke is maliciousness.

One of the best op-ed pieces I've read about the attack in Paris was written by the Guardian:

"But Islamists are not alone in their contradictions. Today is the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo Bay. Given the recent release of the US torture report or France’s role in resisting democratic change during the Arab spring, many of those who claim that this is a battle between liberty and barbarism have a foot in both camps.

This is why describing these attacks as criminal is both axiomatic and inadequate. They were not robbing a bank or avenging a turf war. Anti-terrorism police described the assault on the magazine as “calm and determined”. They walked in, asked for people by name, and executed them. Coulibaly killed a policewoman and shot a jogger before holding up a kosher supermarket and killing four Jews. These were, for the most part, not accidental targets. Nor were they acts of insanity. They were calculated acts of political violence driven by the incoherent allegiances of damaged and dangerous young men.

They are personally responsible for what they did. But we, as a society, are collectively responsible for the conditions that produced them. And if we want others to turn out differently – less hateful, more hopeful – we will have to keep more than one idea in our heads at the same time."

Here's the link to the entire piece:


9:48 AM  
Anonymous tristan tzara said...

Dan, I don't find my remarks caustic at all. Try William S. Burroughs if you're looking for a jaded, caustic homosexual. I generally prefer reasoned discussion but if it makes you feel better to call names I won't object.

MB, Yes. I largely agree with Hedges and his one-note guitar, Voltaire, Golf Pro, Chomsky, Sacco,Self, Escobar, Cabaret Voltaire, David Bolas and many others. Disparage/dismiss my opinions. Even allow posts to go through calling me a a queer. I've been called worse. Fine with me.

Hebdo were clearly and with intent inflaming racial hatreds. They can hide under the moronic French law allowing them to do so but there is no way to get around what they were doing. Do you think we should have this law in the US by the way? Getting some hard-hitting anti-Semitic cartoonists, throw in a couple Islam bashers and Catholic haters for a nice enqual opportunity hate fest? Find the American version of a fundamentalist atheist like Charb to edit it.

You believe they had a right to do it. But I haven't heard you yet express anything that says they shouldn't have been doing it. As matter of fact, you say that these Muslims need to lighten up. People having bombs dropped on their heads and living in poverty need to lighten up while religion is riciduled in obscene cartoons in the country supporting their enslavement need to lighten up? And smutty obscene cartoons are an effective way to approach it?

Well, Prof. Berman, it's a rather strange attitude to say the least from my perspective, which seems a world apart from the one you inhabit. Respectfully, Tristan.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I'm not dismissing yr opinion; I just disagree. There are a # of intertwined issues here, and things are not as straightforward as you, Hedges, et al. want to make out. (And BTW, I allowed that 'queer' post because I don't think being gay is anything shameful; I just wrote Dan H. that he shd avoid ascribing motivations, in future. This seemed to me the best way to handle it, but I'm sorry if this offended you.)

Charlie Hebdo has a record of making fun of all religions, not just Islam; see the cartoons of Jews reproduced by Henri Day (discussed above). Where does poking fun become hate speech? I gave the example of the 2 Jewish jokes to distinguish, but sometimes it's not all that clear. Is it hubris for us (the secular West) to reject their (theocratic East) standards, or is it hubris for religion to insist that everyone observe their notions of propriety? These things aren't so clear. If u wanna follow the one-string guitar schl, with its formulaic approach to something that is in fact very multi-faceted, well, that's yr prerogative. But you might look at the quote from the Guardian reproduced by SW above: "we have to keep more than one idea in our heads at the same time." You don't wish to do this; I do.

So yes, we inhabit different worlds.


12:44 PM  
Anonymous Innocent Bystander said...

Professor. It didn't sound to me like Tristan was offended but perhaps he was covering up. In any case I have to say that the insult was deeply offensive to me. And I also found the insult to Arthur Silber both gratuitous and offensive. Why in earth would you assume that since you yourself aren't a homophobe, remarks that insult gay men are perfectly fine?

Thank you for clearing up my confusion about funny v offensive Jewish jokes . Have you been beaten or had death threats made against you as a Jew? That wld make your sensitivity to the ashtray joke natural vs a big nose joke... Lots of people have big noses and are made fun of for them. Gays are humiliated and spit on for simply being homosexuals just as Jews are treated to despicable treatment simply for being Jewish....

I hope you will excuse me if my thoughts aren't stated clearly enough as I'm extremely upset by Dan's remark. It triggers fear in a person like myself.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Honestly, I didn't know the best way to handle Dan H.'s remark, and I really wasn't sure Tristan wd be offended by it. In other words, it wasn't clear to me that it really was an insult. So I did the best I cd w/it, asking Dan not to ascribe gender prefs or motivations to other Wafers (what does it have to do w/the content of the argument, anyway?), but apparently that left some folks unhappy. I'll try to do better in future, but I can't guarantee I'll bat 1000. Just call me a non-homophobic jerk, I guess.

On another topic...I wanted to revisit the observation I made earlier, abt Manichaean lines hardening, the cycle of violence continuing, and no one learning anything from the other side (story of the Cold War, among other conflicts). It relates to the one-string guitar trap that I think a lot of people are falling into. Namely, Manichaean behavior is paralleled by Manichaean (one-string) explanations. If one's analysis of a complex event is monolithic, that makes things much easier. Such explanations are reassuring, and of course energizing. Camp A says, "It's abt free speech!"; Camp B says, "It's abt blowback!" Then each side, energized with the Whole Truth, can act accordingly, and we're off and running. Realizing that things are complex, and intertwined, and that there are shades of gray--well, that's much less convenient, 2b sure. As I said, most people don't wanna keep more than one idea in their head at one time--which is why our problems don't get solved. (If the USSR had admired our freedom of speech and our entrepreneurship, and the US had admired Russia's determination to provide a socialist safety net for everyone--how different history wd have turned out! But Manichaeanism is so seductive...)


1:35 PM  
Anonymous Pilgrim said...

Criminy! Time to crack a window.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Yeah, I think we may have run this topic into the ground. Everyone's had their say, we know what positions they hold, it won't make a damn bit of difference anyway (given that it's a Manichaean world), and perhaps we shd revert to discussions of deli meats and more interesting topics. Of course, I don' wanna cut off debate here, so if u guys do wanna continue on with Charlie Hebdo etc., feel free. I just think it may be hard to say anything new at this pt.

One thing comes to mind, however...I can't remember if I talked abt this b4, on this blog, but the discussion w/Tristan has been a very constructive and stimulating one, and I'm glad we had it. What I remember now is a meeting I had w/Noam Chomsky back in 1982. I was teaching at the U of Victoria; he came to give some lectures. He and I and a couple of other fac members had lunch. It was rather strained, because every other word out of his mouth was 'fascism'. But what I remember most is that I broached the subject of the role of culture in historical change, and he rejected it wholesale: everything came down to politics and economics, for Noam. Later, a mutual friend of ours told me he tried to discuss Gregory Bateson's work w/Noam (which wd again involve the role of culture), and Noam said he had met Bateson and thought the guy was talking nonsense.

In the wake of all that I had an image of Noam's mind as resembling the space between 2 parallel lines, 4" apart. Ie, infinite in one direction, very limited in the other. This is definitely a one-string guitar approach to reality, and I actually felt bad for the guy: among the most brilliant thinkers America has ever produced, and yet--curiously blind to complexity. Manichaean, in short. (Myself, I'll take Camus to Sartre any day.) Well, that's the majority path; no doubt abt that. Let the charade continue!


2:40 PM  
Anonymous Golf Pro said...

If there's one thing I'm diametrically opposed to, it's Manichaeism.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

MB, Wafers-

Just for the record, my comment about Netanyahu in the Paris unity march should not be construed, in any way, as support for Netanyahu. I consider Bibi a war criminal, tho I don't think his presence at the rally necessarily diminished or trivialized the point of the rally; even if some see the rally to be completely disingenuous and hypocritical. My comment was directed at the absence of the other war criminal, Mr. Obama. In particular, what a gutless turd he is for *not* being there. I'm not sure if anyone took it that way, but jus' wanted to be clear.


I would send you a Cel-Ray and a corned beef if I could, MB! Holdin' down the fort for 146+ individual Wafers (the best of the best, BTW), can't be easy...


2:51 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


I think we're up to 148 Wafers rt now. Whee!


u n me both; I hate it; it's got to be rooted out! (New Yorker cartoon of many yrs ago: some guy holding up a sign in a demonstration he was in, saying "Ban Protest Marches")


3:42 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

Wow, shit storm. I was referring to Tarzie, the author of the piece I had previously linked. Seem to be quite a few commenters waiting for offense here so I'll bid adieu.

4:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Note to cafe-

Thanks for info. What a mess. We really hafta get off this whole subject. Ugh.


4:06 PM  
Blogger Dan Henry said...

I know this is now a double post but it's probably my last. If mentioning an author's sexuality as a contributing factor to his worldview is beyond the pale of acceptability here then I am frankly sad that level of discourse has been so contained. Another one bites the dust.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dan H.-

That's what Voltaire wrote me abt; that u weren't referring to Tristan. Wish that had been clear to me, but it wasn't. As for referring to an author's sexuality: yes, that's fine, if were talking abt a public figure. But I hafta ask u not to do it w/other folks on this blog; it's not relevant, and it can easily be construed as an insult, and/or a cheap way to invalidate their argument. Anyway, sorry 2 c.u. go.

In general, I'd like to pt out that this is another reason why I find identity politics so tedious: everyone gets hurt, the discussion gets bogged down in crap, and one winds up apologizing for--what it is, I'm not certain. Anyway, a gd topic to avoid here; it's the opposite of enlightening. Let's stick to content, s.v.p.


5:31 PM  
Anonymous James Allen said...

In hopes that another post on Charlie Hebdo won't be de trop, here's a link to an article from the New York Observer, filed on 10 January.

Writer Celia Farber conducted a telephone interview on the Paris events with Robert Crumb, the cartoonist-creator of Mr. Natural, the "Keep on Truckin'" dude, and Fritz the Cat. Crumb, an expatriate, has lived in France for the past 25 years.

Among the interesting observations, Crumb's assessment that America doesn't have journalists anymore. Instead, we have two-hundred and fifty thousand people "in public relations" and a dwindling number of actual reporters and journalists.


Keep on truckin'

6:56 AM  
Anonymous Rusty Snag said...

Dr. B-

I hear what you're saying about identity politics. I used to be one of those guys that thought if I fought for civil rights, I could save the world. I marched for African Americans, LGBT people, war veterans, disabled people, Hispanics and others. Then it just hit me one day that there aren't enough hours in the day to support all the causes. It doesn't change much of anything anyway. To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, what good does it do a black man to sit at a lunch counter if he can't afford to buy a sandwich and coffee? Dr. King was allowed to talk all he wanted about social injustice. When he crossed the line and started talking about economic justice, he was killed. Coincidence? I'm not sure.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


MLK was too smart to think that identity politics was finally all that important. Just b4 he was killed, he began speaking out against the war in Vietnam; connecting foreign and domestic policy (e.g. the garbage workers' strike); and apparently told Harry Belafonte that in terms of civil rts, he felt like he was herding people into a church that was on fire--in other words, why get a larger share of the pie if the whole pie is rotten? These, of course, were the real issues, and I have no doubt it made the Powers That Be nervous. Ultimately, identity politics is a distraction.


9:08 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, found this article by Arthur Silber interesting vis a vis what he calls the 'Charlie Hebdo spectacle'.

Others may find it of interest.


Silber writes very strongly and challenges power whatever or wherever it maybe including in previous articles (Gasp!) Glenn Greenwald.

Hope all is going well.


9:12 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Many thanks. It's a gd essay, but again, there's another dimension of the march that is no less impt, and wh/he is ignoring.


10:18 AM  
Anonymous Jesse said...

Hi Professor Berman. I just started reading your book this morning. I'm really enjoying it so far.
I've been curious about something: have you heard of Professor Carroll Quigley? I read one of his books a while back -- "The Evolution of Civilizations," and also some of his essays/interviews/etc. He's been dead since the late 70's I think, but his argument is somewhat similar to yours -- it's very different, but the conclusions are essentially the same, that the US is a sinking ship. But he goes a bit further and says that all of Western civilization is going down. His analysis is kind of similar to Wallerstein in some ways, with the idea of the core and the outer rings, etc. Anyways, I'm wondering what you think of this idea. Because it seems that the US has alot of control over Europe's foreign policy, and according to some economists the US also has alot of control over Europe's economic policy. Now, if this is the case, it really seems like the US could end up pulling Europe down into collapse as well. Especially when you look at a country like Greece, where the country is being strangled to death, and allegedly Goldman Sachs has alot to do with t his. And then in addition, the situation with Russia, where the neocons are talking about using Europe as a battlefied. So, I just wanted to get your thoughts on this. I'll write again soon, after I finish reading your book.

10:43 AM  
Anonymous JWO said...

Alright, I hope WAF-ers don't mind a change of pace, it is National Hot Pastrami Day!


though serving pastrami with pesto borders on heresy...

10:54 AM  
Blogger Cj said...

Hi Professor, you don't have to post this since I'm violating the one comment a day rule. Thought you may find these of interest as well.

Glenn Greenwald has a new article on the Intercept about the hypocrisy with the sudden infatuation with free speech (one that only values free speech where it does not threaten entrenched power): 'France Arrests a Comedian For His Facebook Comments, Showing the Sham of the West’s “Free Speech” Celebration'


More interesting takes can also be found on Chris Floyd's 'Empire Burlesque' blog: http://www.chris-floyd.com


11:03 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Thanks for chg of topic. Pesto??! Why not on white bread with lettuce and mayo? Jesus...


Thanks again for refs.


Not sure which bk yr referring to. I did read some bk by Quigley, or parts of it, yrs ago,but have long since forgotten what was in it.


11:58 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Then there's this:


12:29 PM  
Blogger Miles Deli said...

Greetings MB and Wafers,

CRE Dept.:


Mademoiselle Hooper's been smoking some high-grade weed...

Kinda Blue Dept.:



1:08 PM  
Blogger Jack Lattemann said...

Here's a vignette on the operation of stupidity in American culture.

My spouse has been commuting from Olympia to Seattle to take a once a week course on database management offered by the University of Washington extension. The course is taught by a 30-something IT professional. She is the only public sector professional in a class of 25 other technical types mostly in their 30's and 40's, and had a rough time last quarter on a group project when the four other younger members of her "team" declined to communicate with her by email between classes and resented her taking the initiative on completing some tasks when she had heard nothing from the others.

Anyway, at this week's class the instructor announced that no class would be held this week on account of "there is some holiday, Martin Luther King Day or President's Day, I can't remember which." She was incredulous that he didn't know the difference. I just smiled knowingly when she told me the story afterward.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous tristan tzara said...

MB: I'm not dismissing yr opinion; I just disagree. There are a # of intertwined issues here, and things are not as straightforward as you, Hedges, et al. want to make out.

T: You're misconstruing me if you think I'm making things out as "straightforward." The links I cited were diverse in their various perspectives.. from Self to Sacco to Escobar to McGovern to Hedges. Each offered singular viewpoints abt a complex event as I read them. When I write I "agree " with them I'm saying I agree for the most part but have no way of breaking them down into nuanced analysis.

My views aren't Manichean. For example, I was just reading Paul C. Robert's Hebdo piece. I'm reading it skeptically but he adds things to the pool of information coming out that are worth considering. I don't rule out that people I don't generally agree with might provide me something that I'm missing from others I might read.

I don't see this reading as indulging in conspiracy theories. I'm not expecting to solve the case. The journalists writing about the apt. complex bombing in Russia found hard evidence that Putin was behind the bombing not the Chechens, and the event did put him into power. I have no idea whether this is a false flag. But I'm leaving everything open on the table to think about.

I'm not advocating for a single point of view. I see the attack as a watershed moment in a series of global events spinning out of control. Thanks for allowing me to contribute to the discussion, and of course I will certainly drop it if that's what you prefer to do. {PS: never offended in the least by the homosexual thing, as i joked it off above. in fact sorry that i mistook it directed at me. apologies to dan and you for getting things confused.)

2:36 PM  
Blogger Sam Holloway said...

Good day, MB and Wafers.

Here's a thought, and it's a bit off the ongoing topic: after having followed Prof. Berman's suggestion to read Lionel Shriver's So Much For That, I realized that I'd given up on my half-serious desire to emigrate to Canada at some point. Our neighbors in the Great White North show no signs of abandoning their hotly pursued goal of suiciding their country right alongside ours. Shriver's book-- in addition to being entertaining as hell-- got me thinking about Western 'civilization' itself being the problem. (I've also read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael, so factor that into my insane line of reasoning.)

Anyway, here's a discussion with Peter Linebaugh about how the seeds of our ongoing cultural collapse were sown with the Magna Carta:


3:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Well, despite yr Dadaist lineage, you sound like an enlightened kinda guy. Look, my problem is not that folks like Hedges or Chomsky are wrong, but that their analysis is conducted w/a shovel, when what is needed here is a scalpel. The rush to dump the Charlie event into the category of blowback feels gd (to some), but (I believe) is ultimately counterproductive. Take a look at John Feffer's article, cited above (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/01/13/charlie-hebdo-middle-east-blowback), for a scalpel approach. He rightly pts out that the blowback narrative serves the purposes of ISIS, al-Qaeda, AND the national security state in the West! Anyway, I encourage u2 check it out. These things are simply not cut-and-dried.

Good discussion, at any rate.


If u assume that Americans are literally brain damaged, a lot of odd behavior falls into place.


3:20 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Thanks MB for doing your level best to make this the most intelligent discussion of the Charlie Hebdo killings I've seen online - indeed I hafta say the *only* consistently intelligent discussion of the topic I've found so far.

My own inclination is to agree strongly with your statements that free speech is never a trivial frivolity, and that book-burning is an old habit of totalitarian polities, theocratic or otherwise - or words which I take to be to that general effect. Further, I think that the right to free expression ought to take precedence over what many people seem to feel is their right to not be offended.

But I realize that striking this posture puts me in danger of being another one-string guitarist. Questions raised about the conspicuous invisibility of western satirists are skewering such things as western-sponsored drone attacks and the frequent killings of civilians in the Middle East, and other examples of western hypocrisy concerning freedom of expression (the official American posture toward Assange & Manning, for instance) are definitely legit.

Yet I also see a narrative developing which seems to go something like this: "So-called freedom of speech is a decadent western bourgeois pretension used to inflict insults upon the impoverished Muslim masses, while simultaneously oppressing them; therefore, it merits universal contumely & contempt." I find that worrisome. If people go along with this kind of thinking, then how many other western bourgeois pretensions that we'd be sorry to do without might be flushed with it down the historical oubliette, in the fullness of time?

When it comes to complexity, hopeless entanglement of issues at cross-purposes to one another, and - as you say - the hardening of lines of emotionally-charged division into intransigence, this matter looks to me to be one really royal Clusterfuck.

3:33 PM  
Blogger Jake said...

@morris: yes, most Americans are brain-damaged from the fluoride in the water. I say this not ironically, as when I finally removed it using the right filters, my long-standing chronic depression lifted, and I was able to focus again. I could read for hours on end again, including your great book CTOS. I had tried literally everything else. The filter did the trick. I now have met others who had this experience.
Of course, that makes us all the much-derided "conspiracy theorists," doesn't it?
Regardless, I refuse to submit to the brainwashing which causes people to doubt their own senses, and their own perceptions.
For example, the video that purports to show a 'terrorist' killing a cop in Paris clearly (to an experienced hunter) shows someone purposely missing, and a head not exploding, and the victim not reacting for much longer than he would have if it were real.
Eve my wife didn't buy this one: that some stupid ignorant unassimilated immigrant kids somehow magically pulled off a professional-grade hit, while also unprofessionally dropping a bag with an ID. Good lord.
Sorry, this was JARF (Just another Reichstag fire).
Blowback has alwasy been an absurd theory: the Japanese didn't engage in it, the Germans didn't. Even the Vietnamese didn't engage in blowback terrorism.
When a crime is committed, as "cui bono," rather than buying the third-rate, B-movie script, complete with the di rigeur "allahu akbar," and shootout that conveniently kills the suspects.
Note: there were no sub-lethal acts of outrage before this, such as burning the mag. From nothing to the professional hit.
I give this movie a 2 star rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

4:14 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Glad you've been enjoying it. Honestly, I can't understand why anybody wd bother rdg any other blog than this one. Really, what's the pt? We've got it all here, in one-stop (one-guitar-string) shopping! Just consider the healthy spectrum of opinion that's appeared on this blog in the wake of Charlie Hebdo. There's simply no need to read anything else. When someone tells me they've read another blog, I just sigh and shake my head. I mean why in the world eat pastrami on Wonder Bread with lettuce and mayo, fer chrissakes, when you can get the real thing here, on kimmel rye, w/a side of chopped liver, a half-dill pickle, and a Cel-Ray tonic?


4:46 PM  
Anonymous cafe voltaire said...

Good reading from Arthur Silber (linked above) on the 'spectacle' and the intellectual dishonesty of the Charlie march.
Here's something that made me laugh regarding our noble leaders protesting together, (hmm, where are the cops, the permits, the tear gas and water cannon, the kettling that has attended such demos recently?)


This was a photo-op, as one commenter says: 'They were bussed to the head of the March, posed for a few minutes, walked a few steps, re-boarded the buses and were gone in 30 minutes round trip. The marchers were kept waiting for hours awaiting the arrival of the political royalty.'

I found this funny too, I adore gallows humour:


In answer to an earlier question from Innocent Bystander, Chris Hedges was absolutely correct about France and a lot of other European countries draconian penalising of specifically anti-Semitic utterances.
Must be why the next print-run of Charlie Hebdo is now up to 3,000,000 state-funded copies from 60,000 before the atrocity.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Ach Du Lieber dept.:


5:30 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

This is pretty shameful:


Note the comment section, one guy saying that Hollande has outlawed irony(!).

5:34 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

ps: this is what happens when u analyze events with a shovel. Manichaeanism, here we come!

5:38 PM  
Blogger Val said...

Those who deride Manicheanism are woefully in error. It is the one true faith, the sole salvation of mankind. Every household should be required to burn a nightly candle to it, & unbelievers must be flogged mercilessly.

Sorry for the 2nd post, but this is a vitally important concern. Our very souls depend upon it!

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Reenha Dean said...

"My own inclination is to agree strongly with your statements that free speech is never a trivial frivolity, and that book-burning is an old habit of totalitarian polities, theocratic or otherwise - or words which I take to be to that general effect. Further, I think that the right to free expression ought to take precedence over what many people seem to feel is their right to not be offended"

The problem is, the "right to free speech" is used to promote useless infantile vulgarity that serves no purpose whatsoever. Take,for instance, American movies. The U.S. made some of the best movies in the world between the 1910s through to the 1960s. But during that time there was restrictions on what could be seen and said (the Hayes Act, I think it was called). Then, from the late 1960s on those restrictions were lifted under the "right to free speech" and we saw more trash come about with less and less good shows and movies. Now look at what American cinema is today, utter dreck.

In fact, all of the degenerative changes that America has undergone (which we critique here on this blog) were all brought in under the guise of "free speech", when in the meantime nothing was done to combat true encroachments upon real free speech, which is why the NSA operates with impunity and Edward Snowden still sits in Russia. Those defending Charlie Hebdo are no different from those who have abused free speech to desecrate things that were worth keeping. Magazines like Charlie Hebdo are for those who are content with pretending to combat infringements upon free speech when in reality all they're doing is participating in a circle jerk. Does such infantile garbage help bring Snowden home, or free the Guantanamo prisoners, or dismantle the CIA and NSA? We know the answer to that.

9:04 PM  
Blogger Richard Adelman said...

Just a note of thankx for this blog.
I read lots of stuff and thought alot about the Charlie Hebdo and supermarket incidents but it did not occur to me (stupid!) to take a look at your blog, which I usually read regularly. Well, it felt like "coming home" to see so much intelligent and nuanced comment (generally speaking) and a healthy debate.

I was moved for the first time to comment on a blog by a John Ackerman, an estadoudinse living in Mexico, like Morris and myself, who writes for leftish Mexican rags, sometimes in a clever way. But he overreached when he drew an analogy between the 43 disappeared Mexican students and the Charlie Hebdo massacre as comparable invasions of free speech. I wrote that his readers ought to check out Hedges, Jeremy Schahill on Democracy Now about suppression of journalists in the countries of all 40 heads of state in the march, and your books to correct his naively-optimistic hopes for reform in Mexico or any improvements in the US.

Incidentally, have you all noticed that corned beef and pastrami have succumbed to political correctness, so to speak, and now have much less fat than they used to 30, 40 years ago?

Give me fat!

1:55 PM  

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