Moderates and Radicals

A new BuzzFeed article on “a homeschooled, evangelical Christian from Chattanooga” who went on to join the Islamic State has this to offer on her life before the Islamic State:

When she wasn’t working, she was active in many social justice groups in Chattanooga, protesting and raising awareness of issues facing the city’s working poor and often traveling out of state to march in rallies for teachers’ rights or protests against America’s overseas military actions.

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Chattanooga: The World is a Battlefield

Four marines have reportedly been killed in attacks on two military centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The gunman has been identified by law enforcement officials as Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez. The FBI is supposedly treating this, in contrast to the white supremacist massacre in Charleston, South Carolina as a terrorist act—“until it can be determined that it is not.”

There is little doubt that this will be recorded as another instance of domestic or homegrown terrorism, though there is little information available about the gunman. The reaction of the media should also be predictable.  There will be considerable bewilderment about how the gunman was “radicalized,” a reliance on discredited theories and absurd psychological theorizing. There will be even more hysteria than usual about the pernicious influence of radical Islamists. U.S. policies and precedences will remain absent.

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No Church in the Wild

“As a boy, I believed in God by believing in His Church. Now that my faith in communal Catholicism is so changed, my faith in God is without certain foundation. It occurs to me to ask that profound question of modern agnosticism: Is God dead?

“I would cry into the void. . . . If I should lose my faith in God, I would have no place to go to where I could feel myself a man. The Catholic Church of my youth mediated with special grace between the public and private realms of my life, such was the extent of its faith in itself. That Church is no longer mine. I cling to the new Catholic Church. Though it leaves me unsatisfied, I fear giving it up, falling through space. Even in today’s Catholic Church, it is possible for me to feel myself in the eye of God, while I kneel in the presence of others.

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Mindless in Gaza

An editor at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz bemoans how the Israeli media covers violence in and from Gaza as “two unrelated chronicles.” Oded Even Or writes: ” The overall ‘hostilities match’ is divided into separate narratives – one is devoted to listing incidents of violence directed at Israel, and receives page one placement, and the other tracks Israeli violence directed at Gaza – which, if reported at all, is buried somewhere deep in the newspaper and far from public attention.” This distorts the public’s views about Gaza and leaves Israelis unable to make much sense of violence originating from the territory, which Or accurately characterizes as “blowback.” The Israeli public ends up thinking “the Palestinian militant factions in Gaza are the embodiment of primal evil, and that their actions are motivated by hatred of Israelis and are unrelated to Israel’s actions.”

Or is right of course but it’s obvious that even he doesn’t know just how right he is. Israelis are, for the most part, oblivious to what happens in Gaza and Or is no exception.

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Gunboat Diplomacy: Greece and Europe

It is important to remember exactly what is at stake in the Greek referendum. As Jerome Roos reminds us, austerity has decimated Greek society:

Greece has by now lost a quarter of its total economic output since the start of the crisis. Unemployment is still higher than it was in the United States during the Great Depression. Public health and other public services have completely imploded. Almost 1 million Greeks are without health insurance; 11.000 people are estimated to have committed suicide as a result of economic hardship.

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The Charleston Massacre is not Terrorism

At the moment there are few details about the massacre of nine people in a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina. A white gunman in his early 20s entered the church and opened fire. Police are calling the shooting a hate crime.

The routine murder of black people in this country only happens due to the historical devaluing of black life, the legal sanction behind much of that killing, and the impunity all too often granted to the murderers. This is precisely why we need #BlackLivesMatter.

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Is Neoliberalism a Failure?

Last week Guardian reported on new research conducted by economists at Cambridge University concluding that economic policies pursued since 1979 have failed to “boost growth.” The policies are described as “lower tariffs and income taxes, free movement of labour, limited legal immunity for trade unions, privatisation and light-touch business regulation.” The last item in the list follows the neoliberal mythology of the small state which gives the impression that regulation is curbed under neoliberalism when, in fact, state regulation of markets has steadily increased since the late 70s. In any case, this analysis seems to rest on a profound misunderstanding of what neoliberalism was meant to achieve.

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“Radicalization” and Media Narratives

By now there is a familiar, ritualistic quality to media coverage of homegrown terrorist attacks. Journalists, pundits, and terrorism “experts” pontificate on the religiosity of the perpetrators, explore their background, and wonder in total bewilderment as to how all-American boys could have been responsible for such ghastly acts. The more intrepid journalists try to identify the points at which their subjects transformed into callous terrorists willing to turn against their own country. Sometimes, the terrorists are put on a therapist’s couch while pundits reach into their stockpile of outdated Freudisms and explain their mindsets, taking care to mention one or another personal crisis. The pathological ideology of global Islamism is invoked, the government is blamed for not doing enough, and demands are raised for a strong response. The enemy, in these narratives, is shrewd and he is among us. We must be more vigilant.

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New Article: The Cost of Secrecy

I have a new article on on the implications of secrecy in US military operations in the targeted areas. An excerpt:

Over the past thirteen years the U.S. has been involved in a perpetual war that includes covert operations spanning the globe, at times pursued unilaterally and other times in collaboration with local regimes. These operations require extreme secrecy, preclude all attempts to redress grievances, and ultimately uproot any semblance of democratic accountability. The intimidation, torture, and even murder of journalists and activists seeking to document and publicize these policies are crucial components of an embedded imperative to secrecy. While legal and human rights groups in the United States argue for more transparency on covert operations and drone strikes, it is usually forgotten that challenging secrecy in targeted areas involve much deadlier stakes.

Read more here.