Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Still Here

Finals studying is taking a lot out of me, along with other annoyances on my plate. Stuff has been accumulating on my browser, but I haven't even mustered the energy for a roundup.

* * *

Texas conservatives are unhappy that their uber-conservative speaker also happens to be a Jew.

New comments by Helen Thomas about how we're all owned by the "Zionists" have prompted Detroit-Mercy to withdraw their sponsorship of a diversity award named after her.

For the last time, progressive Zionists aren't Zionists in spite of our progressivism, but because of it.

An interesting exploration of Columbia's local Palestinian solidarity chapter, and how its understanding of "solidarity" means that it institutionally refuses to communicate with the local campus Hillel (individual members are free to talk as they please, but the group has ruled out any official dialogue events to try and better understand the positions or sentiments of the Columbia Jewish community).

As time passes, it shouldn't be surprising that the taboos which might have once precluded Israel's fascist parties from associating with European fascist parties are falling away.

Israel's woefully inadequate fire responsive services may be the "Katrina moment" that finally causes the majority to recognize just how much of their resources are being squandered on Haredi subsidies and settler fantasies.

Look, it's not that complicated: Your judges are "activist", mine are "engaged".

33 comments:

joe said...

A general note: "Dialogue" in these college campus settings often means that a marginalized group gets to take a seat and listen to an explanation of how they're not really marginalized and their experience isn't How The World Works (TM).

Could it be that the following is not everyone's idea of a good time?

http://fyeahprivilegedenyingdude.tumblr.com/post/2106608015

David Schraub said...

First of all, the Columbia group at issue here isn't a "marginalized group", it's a solidarity organization allied with a group marginalized in another country (perhaps here as well, but the point isn't to demarginalize Palestinians in the US). Some of its members may be Palestinian, but many -- likely, most -- are not. It isn't "their" experiences that are being explained away. This is in strong contrast with analogizing to, say, interracial dialogue events. That Palestine Solidarity activists might have to revise some of their political priors based on an actual encounter with the other isn't something that really counts as a harm, and I don't feel sad about it.

Second, we're dealing with competing claims from two marginal groups. If we were trying to uncover tensions between Koreans and Blacks in LA, simply saying "we need to listen to the marginalized" would do us very little good -- it begs the question. The conflict between Jews and Arabs, insofar as it is enacted on a global scale and implicates rights, privileges, stereotypes, and histories of people across time and space, is highly kyriarchical and doesn't accord to a simplistic casting whereby we can simply Listen To The Oppressed (TM) and all will be better. Even if I bought that the Palestinian Columbia students posted a better oppression Olympics time than their Ashkenazi Jewish counterparts, I still could easily counter that Mizrachi Jews themselves best Arab Columbia students.

Third, recognizing that there are important norms of discursive respect and consideration that often aren't followed in these sorts of dialogues (a wrong which I think is rectifiable in ways other than "never speak to each other again"), I've long held and will continue to hold that all parties, regardless of social position, have the right to participate in public deliberations, and that the outcome of the deliberative process is optimal when all effective parties are given voice. To the extent that we sometimes privilege the voices of the marginal, it's because we rationally can expect the dominant caste's to already be well-known and well-aired. But given the systematic inability of Palestinian Solidarity groups to accurately encapsulate the desires of the bulk of the world's Jewish population, coupled with their persistent refusal to even acknowledge the validity of Jewish worldviews, I simply don't accept we're in a situation such that bringing Jews and Palestinians (or their solidarity allies) into dialogic conflict would not be beneficial.

joe said...

First, the concept of solidarity might very well include not (officially) taking a seat to listen to one's allies' experiences get explained away either. You can certainly argue that isn't productive, but then you want to take issue with the concept of "solidarity" generally rather than some group's "understanding" of it.

The conflict between Jews and Arabs, insofar as it is enacted on a global scale and implicates rights, privileges, stereotypes, and histories of people across time and space, is highly kyriarchical and doesn't accord to a simplistic casting whereby we can simply Listen To The Oppressed (TM) and all will be better.

That's some major conflation. Talk about simplistic casting! Maybe some Palestinians have reason not to think of themselves as a chess piece in a "global" struggle between Jews and Arabs generally. Maybe they aren't well-served at all by that framing. Maybe it's not even an idea they want to grant a platform.


But all of the points on the above are highly duplicative internet arguments. I'm more curious in what ways the wrong is "rectifiable in ways other than 'never speak to each other again' "? Especially when "never speak to each other again" really means not holding joint events or debates (where partisanship, gamesmanship, and grandstanding are most likely) in lieu of personal discussions.

David Schraub said...

The first answer is, frankly, bogus, insofar as it can't give a remotely plausible account for how a group justifies selecting whom to be in solidarity with in the first place. We can reasonable ask folks not to act against themselves. The selection of whom to ally with requires a more exacting standard, and requires a willingness to encounter all voices.

The second one is also nonresponsive. Putting aside whether even the conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs lends itself to the simply binary you want to ascribe to it, artificially isolating social conflicts from the broader political and social waters they swim in doesn't magically become legitimate simply because it'd be convenient for one side or another. Yes, viewing things in all their complexity tends to make things complex (hence the Hillel slogan: "It's complicated: Let's talk about it."). No, that doesn't turn simplemindedness into a virtue (e.g., conflating "The conflict between Jews and Arabs, insofar as it is enacted on a global scale and implicates rights, privileges, stereotypes, and histories of people across time and space, is highly kyriarchical...." with "Palestinians ... [are] a chess piece in a 'global' struggle between Jews and Arabs generally." Chalk one up for the benefits of non-grandstanding private conversation!).

The third question seems to be why private meetings wouldn't be superior to public events purportedly characterized by "partisanship, gamesmanship, and grandstanding". For one, it's unclear whether public events really are more or less likely to exhibit such characteristics than their private counterparts. Hell, you and NF are the epitomes of partisan grandstanders on the more or less private forum of my blog comments -- I can't imagine you'd perform any more risibly in some hellish universe where you were put on stage. It's at least as plausible, if not moreso, that speaking in front of a mixed (and persuadable) audience would lead to moderating extreme positions, seeking at least some common ground, and seeking to avoid gratuitous alienation. A private conversation between polar opposing factions, by contrast, provides no such incentive towards moderation (and having partaken in some of those conversations, I can say with confidence that they are a near-universal recipe for failure).

For two, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is carried on in public and debated in public, and the Columbia group doesn't want to change that. So it is unclear why asymmetrically "privatizing" one facet of the dispute ought to be viewed as something special. It's not as if PSCs are adverse to public spectacles after all -- they just want to grandstand and be partisan without the messiness of another side (kinda like Fox News).

For three, it utterly ignores the massive public impact on Jews when one articulates a "no platform" policy with the bulk of the Jewish community -- that lines up with a huge background of anti-Semitic discrimination that has historically manifested in refusal to trade with, interact with, or otherwise sully oneself through official contact with Jews (or all but a few "good Jews").

For four, public events have the opportunity to hold people to public commitments. Nobody cares about private assurances that Hillel opposes settlements or that PSCs are willing to endorse a two-state solution. Public commitments build public trust (or demonstrate that certain parties can't be trusted). Public commitments also let the broader public gain an accurate picture at whom they want to align with, by hearing the positions laid out by their own adherents (as opposed to mutated caricatures from opponents). In a private conversation, as Toby Ziegler pointed out, "I can sit here, read the sports section for two hours, walk outside and say we talked," or say that you spent the past 2 hours spitting anti-Semitic invective, or whatever else is convenient.

joe said...

I don't want to get sidetracked exposing all of the assumptions and biases that went into all of the above posts. That's a good way to get called ponderous or ignorable. Suffice to say when people say "it's complicated" that is not merely a neutral assessment, but often a structural imposition on debate intended to gain an audience's sympathy, derail opposition, or create false equivalencies.

The assumption I will point out though, is the idea that there exists some objective, third-party, persuadable audience that both sides should be playing to in order to maximize the public ability to sift out the truth. The sad fact is most folks who don't already have an opinion aren't really interested in hearing dialogues because they're indifferent, and most folks who do have an opinion can just go Google hunting if they want that opinion tested or challenged. Meanwhile groups that already have an opinion and a set of policy goals to work toward may understandably have their own ideas of how to best attain their goals.

Right or wrong, people who attend the kind of debate you are describing are the partisans.

joe said...

The other problem with "public debate" is it's very questionable what people get out of it even when they're open to persuasion. Does watching presidential debates in the US teach people anything substantive they couldn't learn reading a few magazine articles on the issues? Or do they just "teach" us that Ronald Reagan is folksy guy who understands people or George Bush stammers a lot? While giving the partisans (who are still present, eating it all up of course) bragging rights on whose side "won"?

David Schraub said...

I'm not sure what a "neutral assessment" even would look like, and so I don't shy away from admitting that "it's complicated" carries a normative punch (though "create false equivalencies" is not a sin I'd normally attribute to it). I also don't think that gaining audience sympathy is a bad thing if one is deserving of sympathy, nor do I think it problematic if one derails opposition that seeks to run over complexities that need addressing. I think this really hits Columbia groups concern on the head -- they're afraid an audience they have to share with a Jewish group might develop sympathies with Jewish concerns, and might be hostile to programs which don't account for a wealth of morally salient considerations -- but unlike yourself I hardly consider that to be a legitimate grievance.

Nonetheless, complexity causes problems, I agree. But such is life. From a Jewish vantage point, it'd certainly be nice if fighting insurgents in urban areas was simple, or if constructing a homeland that was both Jewish and democratic was simple, or if establishing a homeland period was simple, or if any number of other things were simple. But they're complicated. That sucks. We deal. Complaining about how unfair it is that it getting all that is your due in ways consonant with the rights and obligations isn't simple and easy is childish.

As for your assessment of the agora, I do not share your cynicism. I do not posit nor am I committed to believing in the existence of an "objective, third-party" audience to believe in the existence of a "persuadable" one. Even if I believe that only persons already engaged with a topic will attend events about it, I don't think that everyone who has any interest on Israel/Palestine is irrevocably locked into each and every position and intuition they have about it.

Folks who are interested in the conflict have a range of positions on it, varying degrees of commitment towards the positions they do hold, and are only aware of an indeterminate number of facets of the issue as a whole. It is perfectly reasonable to believe that presentation of issues and argument can affect them (indeed, absent that belief, it is difficult to posit how anyone ever changes their minds on anything -- or indeed, ever forms an opinion in the first place beyond the vagaries of whomever manages to talk to them first) and change things for the better (notably, I'm more influenced by Iris Young than JS Mill here -- it isn't about sifting through the marketplace of ideas in search of "truth", it's a claim the normative questions are best resolved when all affected parties are given a voice, and we do our best to give due consideration to and respect for everyone's interests and values as they express them). Hand-waving about the internet, in addition to being laughable to anyone who's read Republic.com, already concedes that such influence is possible (albeit self-directed internet searching is a terrible way to go about it).

joe said...

Sorry, I don't buy it. I don't buy, for example, that a gay rights group (even if it's got a lot of straight "Allies") is obligated to organize a debate with a social conservative group on DADT. Simply declaring "it's complicated" isn't a magic trump card that can pull anyone into a "dialogue" because chances are people who don't think it's complicated see a lot less need for a dialogue. So it's an example of begging the question. If it's part of your platform that a given issue is not that complicated, getting into an argument with someone lets them imply that it must be complicated because otherwise there wouldn't even be anyone arguing the point! Which is hogwash, of course, because we can all think of things that we don't see as that complicated but nonetheless garner plenty of argument. But hogwash is a tried-and-true method of debate, as "intelligent design" proponents learned long ago.

And, to get concrete, I wonder what some good examples of constructive public college campus dialogues consist of. Certainly all the famous examples I can think of sound quite negative.


(Blogger is still eating any post with a link in it, so one of the above posts of mine has disappeared. So anyone else reading this should note: David is indeed responding to stuff I wrote. More or less.)

PG said...

Watching folks like Jane Hamsher declare that Obama has "betrayed" liberals just reinforces my belief that talking to people who think different things than you do is really helpful in understanding an issue. In the Hamsher universe, Everyone Knows that extending unemployment benefits and reducing the payroll tax would be good for the economy, whereas retaining the Bush income tax cuts for the wealthy and the 2009 estate tax levels will explode the deficit without providing much stimulus. Also, Everyone Knows that Obama has been cravenly capitulating to Republicans on every single issue -- especially health care reform -- and is practically Reagan himself.

OTOH, if you live in a universe that includes actual breathing Republicans with whom you talk about things, you find out that *really* Everyone Knows the president is driven by his socialist ideology, as evidenced by his failure to drop HCR legislation as soon as its approval rating dropped.

I've found that people sufficiently entrenched on an issue as to join a group about it (although I'd not want to assume Jewish identity in the form of Hillel membership equates to an entrenched position on Israel) are often pretty shut off to what the folks entrenched on the other side think. They live in bubbles where all the sane people Know the same thing and their opponents are madmen.

PG said...

And, to get concrete, I wonder what some good examples of constructive public college campus dialogues consist of. Certainly all the famous examples I can think of sound quite negative.

Selection bias much? Unsurprisingly, the dialogues from which people walk away saying, "Huh, that was sort of interesting. I'll have to look up whether it's really true that some colleges have capped the number of Asians they'll admit," don't get as much attention as the ones at which an audience member declares that affirmative action supporters want to enslave the white race. Reasonableness has an inverse proportion to email-forwardability.

joe said...

I admit there's an element of selection bias, but there's also an element of "we presumably all have plenty of experience with higher education and have seen how student groups 'debate' each other." That's not even a point of contention, I think, since David concedes "important norms of discursive respect and consideration [...] often aren't followed in these sorts of dialogues."

So my question is simple: Given how common it is, what's the safeguard against it? When does that safeguard actually work? I am not convinced this is a bug we are talking about rather than a feature.

David Schraub said...

One thing I've been meeting to note is that a debate is hardly the only possible event in which Hillel and a PSC could share a stage. Joe's one-track mind is revealing here. Regardless, though I've experienced catastrophically bad campus debates, I've also seen really good events whose aim is to bring together opposing views. I fail to see an alternative to trying -- particularly since the alternative (solely private discussions or refusal to speak at all) is, in my experience and as argued, considerably worse.

I'm also not sure what world you live in where a campus gay rights group isn't eager to throw down with opponents over DADT. My read is that they'd love to have that debate, because they're confident they'd win, and opponents are terrified to have it, because they're scared they'll get their asses kicked. That's the dynamic you'd expect to see where an issue really is simple. The major exception -- where the position at issue is (a) a question of fact and/or (b) solely held by cranks -- isn't at issue here, as even a PSC has to admit that the position Hillel takes is hardly something kooky or marginal in US (indeed, it is committed to holding that, insofar as it's crucial to their "speaking truth to power [then plugging our ears and singing LALALA]" meme).

This also militates against your straw man "but what if it really isn't complicated and Hillel is just throwing sand in our face?!?1!" (I feel like this move -- opposing dealing with all manifestations of claim X because of the specter that somewhere X might be deployed disingenuously -- is a classic Joe move). I don't see why false claims of "it's complicated" are particularly hard to knock down -- the reason it'd be resilient in the case of Israel/Palestine is because it's an exceptionally complicated controversy, not some categorical fortitude possessed by the assertion. False claims of "it's simple", by contrast, are extremely easy to maintain -- particularly if one can recast failing to grapple with the other's claims as an example of moral clarity.

joe said...

(I was happy to keep it at how groups have different tactics and it's not their job to conform to standards that others want to set for them. For example, invitations to debate are themselves quite tactical. Various College Republicans and FedSoc chapters have quite a reputation for issuing disingenuous joint event invitations framed in ways they know will be turned down. But since David is so insistent we particularize this talk to Israeli/Palestinian issues, here we go...)

On the DADT example: Who knows why they wouldn't jump at the chance? I'm just saying it's not their obligation to do so. Maybe they refuse to deal with anyone who they see as denying what they see as the basic equality of LGBT folks. Plenty of feminist activist blogs, for example, have such a commenting policy and indeed don't see direct dialogue as a primary concern. And for all the Debate Link's feminist bloggy cred, I don't really remember that being a major source of discomfort around here.

In fact, I would have to say all the big talk about people defining their own experience and their own reality and deciding what is best for themselves except when you disagree with their assessments is classic David. I suppose I must look like I have a one-track mind when viewed from a postmodern viewpoint that constantly adjusts the standards of evaluation. I guess I have to be one-track to fail to grasp the subtle nuance that makes, say, Israel's border and immigration policy something outsiders don't have a helluva a lot of business scrutinizing while if a Palestinian group asks people to show "solidarity" by voluntarily not holding a joint event with some other group, well then, it's time to shine a spotlight on the temerity of peaceful protest. (One wonders, if peaceful protest is to be viewed as so illegitimate, what is left? Then again, some of our more traditional First Amendment notions of freedom might be seen as pernicious if we're in Republic.com territory... in which case words are just another kind of force to be regulated.)

That's what's really creepy about the tenor of much Debate link commentary on the Middle East. Sure, the occupation or Cast Lead sucks, but just LOOK AT WHAT THOSE DAMN ACTIVISTS ARE UP TO! Trying to vote with their pocketbooks in a boycott? How extreme can you get!

And all that in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen, is what people mean when they talk about unbalanced narratives. Thanks to the magic of "kyriarchy" a boycott becomes exactly as bad as forty years of occupation. And any attempt to say otherwise, well, that would be "Oppression Olympics."

PG said...

Shrug -- I've been to some quite good discussions of contentious issues, even ones that affect all the people in the audience directly (such as a university discussion of affirmative action in college admissions). Even debates where one debater is wholly convinced of his own moral righteousness (the attitude one sees from anyone who debates John Yoo on U.S. interrogation techniques) have value for audience members if not for the main attractions.

PG said...

Plenty of feminist activist blogs, for example, have such a commenting policy and indeed don't see direct dialogue as a primary concern.

Such blogs are explicitly focused on providing a forum for discussion where feminists themselves feel safe and not constantly in a position to explain 101-level concepts to people who have done no self-educating. Discussions on issues that are heavily debated within the feminist community, such as use and regulation of assisted reproduction technologies including surrogacy, thus can avoid being derailed by someone who either doesn't know or doesn't agree to basic tenets of feminism such as legal equality of the sexes.

In contrast, unless this Palestinian solidarity group bears no resemblance to most of the other organizations on Columbia's campus, the group is not trying to create a forum in which internal differences can be discussed without having to engage in basic education of others. Indeed, having spent rather a lot of time on Columbia's campus, I can tell you that pro-Palestinian groups are very focused on outreach and education -- so long as it's to people whom they believe to be undecided on or indifferent to the issue currently. The more salient comparison would be to the Campus Crusade for Christ (also, in my experience, having minimal interest in promoting internal debate).

joe said...

PG, I saw your previous post before it got eaten, for what it's worth. Blogger is apparently doing that to all comments with links embedded.

Now, just so we're clear about what solidarity means, I see that the writer of the piece David linked to explained in the comments section that the "understanding" of what solidarity means does indeed come from actual Palestinian counterpart student groups, not a bunch of privileged Columbia kids doing some 'propriating (or whatever other red herrings one might try):

I want to make this very, very clear: CSJP members are fine with dialoging with people on a personal level (it's not a matter of being scared; in fact, I'd venture most of them are pretty confident they'll win any debate). They have gotten dinner/lunch with members of Hillel so they're perfectly fine to meet and talk in person. The issue for them as an organization is that they are a solidarity group with Palestinian students, and the anti-norm. policy was a call put out by palestinian students for all groups in solidarity with them to join in. According to Yasmeen, although questions of what is the best use of their resources are important (to hold a debate or publicize abuses?) for them, signing onto the policy has more to do with the fact that they work in solidarity with Palestinian students and less to do with what they believe is most efficient.

I'm not going to call it an individual failure on David's part, though, when this so clearly displays one of the weaknesses of blogs as a newsform-- we have all these "roundups" and explanations that often fail to go the extra mile, explore what's really going on. Because that might not fit what we really want to say. (The Goldberg "Arabs WANT us to bomb Iran!" flap from last week is a great example.) Good thing these details can be hashed out in the comments sections, even by readers some would write off as gadflies.

joe said...

Indeed, having spent rather a lot of time on Columbia's campus, I can tell you that pro-Palestinian groups are very focused on outreach and education -- so long as it's to people whom they believe to be undecided on or indifferent to the issue currently.


Okay, so it sounds like there is no shortage of pro-Palestinian groups around which to "establish dialogue," and one group for whom anti-normalization means no dialogue as a comment on the severity of Palestinian suffering and the power dynamics of occupation. And futhermore, that one group only refuses to hold joint events, but the membership of that group and the groups it doesn't officially engage (and any interested third parties, one assumes) chat frequently enough, in point of fact.

In that case I fail to see how the Columbia student body is being shortchanged in the market of ideas. What I do see is a cheap attempt to score points off of a Palestinian attempt at peaceful protest. The kind, they are constantly explained to, is the only way this independent statehood thing will ever go anywhere. How can they deserve a state if they won't "dialogue"?

Excuse me, let me be more fair: I see a cheap attempt to take the focus off those Palestinians altogether by focusing criticism on a proxy group that probably happens to have its share of rich white kids in it.

David Schraub said...

What PG said re: feminist fora (though I have indeed expressed some leeriness about such spaces, although my views have tempered since 2005, and I think AAB has in the end struck a very good balance). And every time Joe gets on about postmodernism he sounds like someone took a nap-deprived toddler and placed him in a philosophy seminar, so we'll skate on by that.

Instead, we'll divert a bit into my apparent hypocrisy, which mostly relies on a misunderstanding of my normative commitments regarding the public and private spheres. It isn't haphazard where I think intervention is warranted and where I think deference is, though it is (shudder) complicated.

Caricatured, the "private" sphere is autonomous, self-governing, and world-creative. It is paideic. The public is other-regarding, deliberative, and imperial (both paideic and imperial being used as per Robert Cover in Nomos and Narrative). The private sphere is where we make our own decisions and control our own destiny ("defining their own experience and their own reality and deciding what is best for themselves"). The public sphere is where we seek to persuade (or coerce) others into adapting or changing their behavior. I think both are valuable -- indeed, essential.

A deliberation can be public within a group yet private vis-a-vis outsiders. The question of whether Townsville, USA, ought to increase taxes to finance a new school is public with respect to the citizens of Townsville but private vis-a-vis residents of Chile (I should clarify that saying something is "private" doesn't mean it's impenetrable, only that we place significantly higher value on deferential values). Hence, there is a significant qualitative distinction between a Townsville citizen condemning the decision to raise taxes, and some random outsider doing it.

To the outsider, we might legitimately say that Townsville has the right to determine its own political destiny, and can choose to follow a path with higher taxes and better public schools if it wishes, and we should respect its autonomy to make that decision. But it would be facile to level the same critique at the Townsville citizen, who is participating in the public deliberation on the question. The private is about respecting pluralistic development, the public is about merging discordant views into operative policy.

David Schraub said...

So yes, my standards shift with respect to whether the context is a public or private forum. As PG notes, when feminist blogs are operating as "private", that is, conceptualize themselves and behave as internal ordering of a self-contained community, then it makes perfect sense to respect (or at least defer to) their decisions (including decisions to exclude). And I would never argue that a PSC has an obligation to, say, include Hillel in its private deliberations over how to best advocate on behalf of the Palestinians, or even what they mean by "pro-Palestinian".

But when such groups step into the public -- begin embarking on an endeavor to change the paths of other normative communities and persuade (or coerce) others to follow their nomos -- then the rules change. Now I become considerably less Robert Cover and considerably more Iris Marion Young -- democratic politics is most legitimate and most likely to reach just results when all affected perspectives are given a voice and due consideration. And the vast majority of what a PSC is doing is public, not private. It isn't about "defining their own reality", and it isn't about being paideic. It's decidedly imperial -- it's about changing other normative communities. It is highly jurispathic.

Obviously, this is too simplistic, and the borders between "public" and "private" are exceptionally blurry. Nomos and Narrative is fantastic, but very complex. And lest you think I've forgotten, complexity remains the real monster here. Convoluted articles like Nomos and Narrative and big words like "kyriarchy", they're just obstacles standing in Joe's way as he marches to crush evil under his heel. Sweep them aside, keep it simple. Who needs words -- we're men of action. We need hear no voices but the praises of the liberated and the wails of the fallen tyrants.

Forgive me if I don't play along. I find your kind dangerous when in power, and tiring when you're not. So I'm going to bed.

joe said...

And of course there is no room for abuse and bias in determining just what is "private" and what is "public." No sirreebob. Such classifications are inherently reliable, and done by reliable men. (As long as, once again, we like the results.)


Convoluted articles like Nomos and Narrative and big words like "kyriarchy", they're just obstacles standing in Joe's way as he marches to crush evil under his heel.

Right, I'm just a dumb bumpkin in the mold of Dubya because I call bullshit.

I'm willing to make allowances for the stress of life and finals and whatever. But come the heck on.


Sweep them aside, keep it simple. Who needs words -- we're men of action.

And yet, only one of us makes the censorship noise by (oh-so-non-pretentiously) namedropping Republic.com.

But it's "my kind" that's "dangerous" when in power. I do my bit to document the intellectual shortfalls of others, the many ways in which very public thinkers tell us what's what and never look back, and it's "my kind" that is the problem.

We need hear no voices but the praises of the liberated and the wails of the fallen tyrants.


Heh. I thought you wanted to put the Iraq war issue behind us...

But okay, let's shatter the illusion that someone's "voice" isn't being heard in all this. We're talking about a single student group that in fact does engage with those it deems opponents, just not in big overt events, as a symbolic gesture. A normative statement. Just as calls for events are also normative statements reflecting a tactical judgment. In other words, all part of the activist game.

And (I pointed this out earlier in a response to PG that Blogger seems to have eaten) if I understand PG correctly there are plenty of "pro-Palestinian groups" out there at Columbia. So I don't see how the "public" is being shortchanged of an exchange of ideas when just one of them decides against dialogues. (Not that it has even does that, since, as noted, informal dialogues seem to be going strong and any member of the "public" can no doubt find out about them.) So to bring this all back to the central issue instead of chickenscratch slams on people's supposed intellectual ineptitude, what's the big problem? It seems more like an opportunity to wail on a few undoubtedly privileged rich kid proxies for the Palestinians (while trivializing Palestinian suffering) than anything else.


Forgive me if I don't play along.

If by that, you mean doing the wonderful "dialoging" (and I guess you see blogs as "private conversations" that "nobody cares about" so you get pissed when you're really challenged, and are highly dismissive of any opposing points?) it seems you're already playing along. But the "you're too tiring to bother with" routine is a little rich seeing the amount of jargon you just saw fit to drop on us. Duck out if you want, and as you often do when backed into a logical corner (as we saw last week), but no need to make a production out of it. Unless I misunderstand and you're actually still in this and the sleeping thing is a temporary time out.


As for "rules changing," you do it a whole lot, and I call you on it a whole lot. Not that you even could resist misconstruing it in this one instance instead of responding to the thing you wanted to.

joe said...

As long as we're dropping all these posting critiques I think it's also worth mentioning that if you want to try to dazzle us all with your knowledge of (by my count) the agora, Iris Young, John Stuart Mill, Cass Sunstein, and Robert Cover, you maybe shouldn't showcase a post where you barely knew what Radical Feminism.

A hint to the readers still with us: it ain't "really, really intense feminism" or whatever Rush Limbaugh and/or college kids looking to make a counter-Rush Limbaugh type statement (no doubt in between establishing dialogues) think it is...

(Not that you're full of yourself, mind you, because hey, we all love Toby from TWW! I know I liked that he would call BS instead of just deferring to Bartlett's Nobel Prize in browbeating smartness...)

joe said...

And of course there is no room for abuse and bias in determining just what is "private" and what is "public." No sirreebob. Such classifications are inherently reliable, and done by reliable men. (As long as, once again, we like the results.)


Convoluted articles like Nomos and Narrative and big words like "kyriarchy", they're just obstacles standing in Joe's way as he marches to crush evil under his heel.

Right, I'm just a dumb bumpkin in the mold of Dubya because I call bullshit.

I'm willing to make allowances for the stress of life and finals and whatever. But come the heck on.


Sweep them aside, keep it simple. Who needs words -- we're men of action.

And yet, only one of us makes the censorship noise by (oh-so-non-pretentiously) namedropping Republic.com.

But it's "my kind" that's "dangerous" when in power. I do my bit to document the intellectual shortfalls of others, the many ways in which very public thinkers tell us what's what and never look back, and it's "my kind" that is the problem.

We need hear no voices but the praises of the liberated and the wails of the fallen tyrants.


Heh. I thought you wanted to put the Iraq war issue behind us...

But okay, let's shatter the illusion that someone's "voice" isn't being heard in all this. We're talking about a single student group that in fact does engage with those it deems opponents, just not in big overt events, as a symbolic gesture. A normative statement. Just as calls for events are also normative statements reflecting a tactical judgment. In other words, all part of the activist game.

And (I pointed this out earlier in a response to PG that Blogger seems to have eaten) if I understand PG correctly there are plenty of "pro-Palestinian groups" out there at Columbia. So I don't see how the "public" is being shortchanged of an exchange of ideas when just one of them decides against dialogues. (Not that it has even does that, since, as noted, informal dialogues seem to be going strong and any member of the "public" can no doubt find out about them.) So to bring this all back to the central issue instead of chickenscratch slams on people's supposed intellectual ineptitude, what's the big problem? It seems more like an opportunity to wail on a few undoubtedly privileged rich kid proxies for the Palestinians (while trivializing Palestinian suffering) than anything else.


Forgive me if I don't play along.

If by that, you mean doing the wonderful "dialoging" (and I guess you see blogs as "private conversations" that "nobody cares about" so you get pissed when you're really challenged, and are highly dismissive of any opposing points?) it seems you're already playing along. But the "you're too tiring to bother with" routine is a little rich seeing the amount of jargon you just saw fit to drop on us. Duck out if you want, and as you often do when backed into a logical corner (as we saw last week), but no need to make a production out of it. Unless I misunderstand and you're actually still in this and the sleeping thing is a temporary time out.


As for "rules changing," you do it a whole lot, and I call you on it a whole lot. Not that you even could resist misconstruing it in this one instance instead of responding to the thing you wanted to.

joe said...

(Will blogger eat the above post? Who knows?! Blog-comment-roulette!)

N. Friedman said...

I've looked to see if my silence on this discussion has changed anything other than leaving my voice out. It would appear not. In fact, even when I do not appear, my appearance is read into things, as in David's "Hell, you and NF are the epitomes of partisan grandstanders on the more or less private forum of my blog comments"

As for a comment to the discussion, if people do not want to talk, they do so because they see a political advantage from not talking. That, not the BS claims made by its proponents.

Further, we have a rather rich interpretation of reality from those who refuse normal debate, claiming that they cannot show sympathy or connection to Zionism because, as they see it, Zionism is allegedly racist, as if the PA and Hamas's position were religious or ethnically neutral and not overtly bigoted. That argument, frankly, is a pretty embarrassing one to assert in opposition to normal dialogue.

Note also the scare terms about Israel and South Africa - as if Arab society has ever, in its entire history, accepted anything akin to equality among religions or ethnic groups or, for that matter, race.

Columbia should be pretty embarrassed, over all.

joe said...

Eh. Knock yourself out, NF. I've concluded I have better things to do than field what, in intellectual terms, boils down to an angry "Nuh uh, you big dummy!" and various red herrings from the management. (I think my favorite was the time I was told I was "appropriating" from Palestinians by pointing out that they certainly feel they are the victims of racism, which David essentially claimed was merely playing the race card. No double standards 'round here, now move right along, folks...)

I look forward to the reading fun of future comment threads consisting of folks who give David what he feels is the proper amount of intellectual deference and NF. (NF should stick around no matter what, though, as a crucial dissenting voice. Because otherwise we'd need Cass Sunstein to come in and decree that "intervention is warranted.")

N. Friedman said...

joe,

I think your point is (or ought to be) that real debate requires people who disagree with each other, not a chorus of like-minded "yes" saying types.

joe said...

David has perhaps lost all interest in this discussion, but I want to go back to the merits without some of this personal bickering:


The conflict between Jews and Arabs, insofar as it is enacted on a global scale and implicates rights, privileges, stereotypes, and histories of people across time and space, is highly kyriarchical and doesn't accord to a simplistic casting whereby we can simply Listen To The Oppressed (TM) and all will be better.

Now, let's say there was a group that was dedicated to fighting and educating against anti-semitism in the U.S. I don't buy that such a group has some obligation to "dialogue" on the issue of the Arab/Israeli dispute when that's not it's mission in the first place. So, by a similar token, it's patently offensive to say that Palestinians always need to hear a big lecture about the global issues dealing with all Arabs and whether a bunch of other Arab countries (plus Iran) are not fair to Israel.

Now, David tries to do an end run around all of this by whining that the group isn't real Palestinians (not that we know what the real makeup is, for a fact). But that is bull. If there is a crucial failure to listen here in an issue with "global" and "public" significance, it is shared across the PS movement, and no one should get a pass. (I just do not buy that a symbolic refusal to hold joint events represents such a failure.) I think David instinctively knows this, but also knows Palestinians are more sympathetic, so instead we have this proxy meta-complaining about affiliated American activist groups, even though (and this is why it's important to read the linked story carefully instead of just shooting off a half-baked opinion) they're just following a Palestinian call for "anti-normalization."

I also don't give a whole lot of truck to the "but there are so many worthy issues! ... what makes you choose to be an activist on this one?" argument. People always are selective in picking out pet issues. Many straight people who are active on gay rights no doubt are aided in their choice by it being the Hot Thing that all their friends are talking about, and the issues being all over the media landscape. I think complaining that they didn't have some super-rational formula and overlooked some other, arguably more worthy, cause is a derailing tactic used by folks who don't want to directly engage on the issue that's, well, at issue.

Now, I'm sure David will find all of this a stupid argument fit for a toddler and everything else, but that's his problem. If he really doesn't need it he can certainly delete it instead of replying with disgusted animosity. (I'll copy-paste to overcome Blogger's bugs, but not someone holding the admin stick.)

I just ask that if he does respond, he not paper over important aspects in the case at hand, namely that these groups do "talk about it," and we're dealing with a symbolic protest involving just one of many, many activist groups, and there is no evidence Columbia students have a shortage of avenues to compare arguments and draw conclusions. (The fact that they do talk unofficially is dispositive even of David's argument taken at face value, since it shows that in fact, the PS folks have not insulated themselves from the perspectives of Jewish students who wish to engage them.)

Those are the facts in the present case that David finds so outrageous, and they need to be addressed in any intelligent discussion of it. For anyone interested in honing their writing or hashing out thoughts, I'll note no fair judge is interested in advocates whose response memoranda ignore major parts of the arguments they purport to rebut.

joe said...

Peter Beinart puts the "someone else has it worse, worry about that" argument in its place better than I could in a recent open letter to Netanyahu: "[W]hen you've been occupying another people for 43 years, confiscating more and more of their land and denying them citizenship while providing it to your own settlers, it doesn't do much good to insist that things are worse in Burma."

In other words, that's a legitimate complaint for people in Burma to bring up, that their plight deserves more attention, but it's frankly a dubious argument (and one frought with undertones of appropriation) for calling concerns for Palestinians illegitimate.

N. Friedman said...

joe,

There is no obligation to dialogue. However, the unwillingness to do so may say something about those who refuse dialogue. That tactic is necessary if one is to demonize Israel - which is, if you read the Columbia article, the substance of these anti-Israel bigots. By contrast, Israel's friends strategy is to show the unwillingness of the friends of the Palestinian side to dialogue, underlining that the Palestinian position amounts to a smear.

You cite to Beinart, who is a know-nothing on the topic. He mouths fashionable views. Yes. Israel is controlling land which Palestinian Arabs claim and has done so for a long time. He would have it that the Israelis are merely acting to deflect from the facts at hand - i.e. occupation. That, however, is, on its best rendition, less than a half-truth.

The misunderstandings here are so profound and based on such confused thinking that I feel the need to point you somewhere. Benny Morris, who is no apologist for Israel, has written a rather brilliant article. Several lines strike me as key to understanding the dispute as he does - and, frankly, as I do - and thus why I reject your analysis as dangerously wrongheaded. First, he writes:

The first, the one that American and European officials never express and—if impolitely mentioned in their presence—turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called “secular” and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should.

These are, I think, facts which you have to take into consideration. Demonizing the "occupation," with the above facts in view, is simply nonsense. Second, writing with respect to the greater war between the West and the Islamic world:

In this connection, our age, it may turn out, resembles the classic age of appeasement, the 1930s, when the Western democracies (and the Soviet Union) were ranged against, but preferred not to confront, Nazi Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy, and expansionist Japan. During that decade, Hitler’s inexorable martial, racist, and uncompromising mindset was misread by Western leaders, officials, and intellectuals—and for much the same reasons. Living in unideological societies, they could not fathom the minds and politics of their ideologically driven antagonists. The leaders and intellectuals of the Western democracies, educated and suffused with liberal and relativist values, by and large were unable to comprehend the essential “otherness” of Hitler and ended up fighting him, to the finish, after negotiation and compromise had proved useless.

This, of course, is conjecture on his part about our world. However, it has the virtue of being plausible while what Beinart writes is mere pablum.

N. Friedman said...

joe,

I see that my latest post vaporized, presumably because it included a link. I fortunately saved it and am posting it below sans the link.

_________________________

joe,

There is no obligation to dialogue. However, the unwillingness to do so may say something about those who refuse dialogue. That tactic is necessary if one is to demonize Israel - which is, if you read the Columbia article, the substance of these anti-Israel bigots. By contrast, Israel's friends strategy is to show the unwillingness of the friends of the Palestinian side to dialogue, underlining that the Palestinian position amounts to a smear.

You cite to Beinart, who is a know-nothing on the topic. He mouths fashionable views. Yes. Israel is controlling land which Palestinian Arabs claim and has done so for a long time. He would have it that the Israelis are merely acting to deflect from the facts at hand - i.e. occupation. That, however, is, on its best rendition, less than a half-truth.

The misunderstandings here are so profound and based on such confused thinking that I feel the need to point you somewhere. Benny Morris, who is no apologist for Israel, has written a rather brilliant article recently published on the Tablet magazine website. Several lines strike me as key to understanding the dispute as he does - and, frankly, as I do - and thus why I reject your analysis as dangerously wrongheaded. First, he writes:

The first, the one that American and European officials never express and—if impolitely mentioned in their presence—turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called “secular” and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews. They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should.

These are, I think, facts which you have to take into consideration. Demonizing the "occupation," with the above facts in view, is simply nonsense. Second, writing with respect to the greater war between the West and the Islamic world:

In this connection, our age, it may turn out, resembles the classic age of appeasement, the 1930s, when the Western democracies (and the Soviet Union) were ranged against, but preferred not to confront, Nazi Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy, and expansionist Japan. During that decade, Hitler’s inexorable martial, racist, and uncompromising mindset was misread by Western leaders, officials, and intellectuals—and for much the same reasons. Living in unideological societies, they could not fathom the minds and politics of their ideologically driven antagonists. The leaders and intellectuals of the Western democracies, educated and suffused with liberal and relativist values, by and large were unable to comprehend the essential “otherness” of Hitler and ended up fighting him, to the finish, after negotiation and compromise had proved useless.

This, of course, is conjecture on his part about our world. However, it has the virtue of being plausible while what Beinart writes is mere pablum.

N. Friedman said...

Here is the link, in the hope that it will work.

joe said...

NF, it's nothing personal, but since I find arguing with you gets really circular and repetitive, I'm not going to respond to these things. I don't see the point anymore, and David obviously hates it in any amount.

It's your choice whether it's still worth writing if you find something I say objectionable, but I don't have the energy to reciprocate.

N. Friedman said...

joe,

I was not looking for a response. I was, given your intelligence but, in this circumstance, relative ignorance, merely looking for you to read an article by the most knowledgeable scholar in the field.