Muslims once again deal with terror’s fall-out

Twenty to thirty uniformed men arriving in SUVs attacked a Sufi Muslim mosque on the north coast of Egypt’s Sinai Desert during Friday prayers last week, killing over 300 worshippers, many of whom were children. In terms of scope, think of it as Las Vegas times six! It was a professional hit on a scale beyond anything we’ve witnessed in the past. Think of the outcry if, God forbid, something like this were to happen in a church here. And yet, we’ve already dismissed it – the press has already dismissed it – as irrelevant to living our holiday lives.

This was an especially heinous act of savagery by a group of men wearing the markings of Daesh (ISIS) and armed with bombs and automatic weapons. No group has formally claimed responsibility, but that hasn’t stopped Western journalists from describing the massacre as one sect of Islam versus another. This is the approved script that the press follows in trying to help Western minds understand the seeming chaos of the Middle East, to place it within an acceptable box labeled “Islamic Terrorism.” This narrative helps promote Islamophobia in the U.S., an acceptable fear depending on your political persuasion.

For example, Bloomberg View columnist Eli Lake describes it this way in an opinion piece “Muslims Are Often the First Victims of Muslim Terrorists.”

“The terror in Egypt on Friday is only the latest grim reminder that Muslims are often the first victims of Muslim fanatics…The West’s quarrel is with the extremists of political Islam, or the sect of the faith that seeks to impose Islamic law on others — not the entire religion.”

Well, no. The problem here – and with all who attempt to frame violence in the Middle East as a product of Islam – is that it’s not only deliberately – and conveniently – misleading; it’s totally false, and the West is not well-served by forcing the narrative into its version of history. There is no “political Islam” or “sect of the faith that wishes to impose Islamic law on others.” That is a myth, exacerbated by Zionists, Jews, and Christians who use the story of Isaac and Ishmael to paint a picture of nomadic wanderers constantly at war with each other. Islam, of course, didn’t come into existence until thousands of years later (to which comes the response, “Well, God knew that it was coming), and yet this “seems” true enough to the “extremists of political Christianity.” See how silly that sounds?

This false narrative is helped along by an Israeli agenda that garners propaganda points from the promotion of it. Much of the Israeli press is a conduit from Israel to the West, one that rarely speaks of Arabs in any voice other than condescension or a threat. Consider this article from The Jerusalem Post, a paper published only in English and French and that describes itself as “the leading news source for English speaking Jewry since 1932.” The story is headlined, ‘WESTERN CHRISTIANITY IN DENIAL ABOUT RADICAL ISLAM,’ specifically “radical Islam’s goal to eradicate Christianity.” The article refers to the thinking of Italian journalist and author Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio.

The Media Research Center found that US television devoted more than six times the amount of air time to the death of a gorilla in comparison to the air time given to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya in 2015.

“How is it possible that the killing of a gorilla moves the Western public more than 19 Yazidi girls burned alive in a cage?” he (Meotti) said. “Few people saw the photograph of Khaled al-Asaad, the brave archaeologist who refused to lead ISIS to the antiquities of Palmyra. The henchmen of ISIS beheaded him and hung him upside down. We turned away in horror.”

…The Unity Coalition for Israel, which monitors attacks against Western democracy and the State of Israel, echoed Meotti’s statements following the New York terrorist attack this month.

“Let’s be clear: radical Islamic terrorists have been launching attacks here in the United States for years, with the deadliest occurring on September 11, 2001,” the group’s Democracy Under Attack editorial said. “These attacks are not going to stop unless we first admit that we have been and are under attack and – finally – take strong steps to prevent further attacks.”

Again, the emphasis is that all these global acts of terrorism flow from Islam, which is painted as an archaic religion of intolerance and, especially violence, people who “want to take us back to the Seventh Century.” Nothing could be further from the truth, so then why are we so convinced of the opposite? Because the people writing today’s draft of history are telling us so. If you can bring yourself to step far enough away from current events, you’ll see that terrorism – whether committed by Arabs or Caucasians – is either an ongoing political statement or a desperate attempt at personal attention, neither of which are birthed in the religion of the people either claims to represent.

When it comes to the Middle East, Arabs who have roots in Palestine have another explanation. Zionism requires a constant threat in order justify its continuing existence, and such a narrative works better if that threat is against the religion that undergirds Israeli politics. After all, Hitler’s final solution to the “Jewish Question” in Europe – that people of Jewish descent refused to assimilate into the cultures around them – was the gas chambers, and there can be no more heinous threat. Modern Israel is portrayed as a response to the Holocaust, but Zionism as a political movement had been growing for fifty years prior to Hitler.

To be sure, Zionism must sustain the idea of a threat to Israel’s religion in order to continue to plead its case to global opinion, which it needs at core in order to survive. The U.S. gives $10.1 million in military and other aid to Israel every day of every year, and Americans wouldn’t be so eager to bless this, if they believed anything other than Israel using it defend the Holy Land. Beyond being a home for Jews, Israel also – and perhaps more importantly – serves as a bulwark in the protection of American business interests in the whole region. This means obvious and not-so-obvious stakes in our relationship with Zionist Israel.

I hate coincidences, especially in world events, because the truth is they rarely are coincidental. Disney built his whole empire on the concept of the “plausible impossible,” and that’s often the way I feel about coincidences. Was it a coincidence, for example, when ISIS burst on the scene in Hollywood style with Jihadi John on July 14, 2014? I don’t know. However, this was at the very height of global disdain being thrust upon Israel for its killing of over 2,000 Palestinians, including 500 children in Gaza during the weeks prior. The worldwide discussion pressured the UN, foreign governments, charitable organizations, and others into a position of citing Israel for war crimes, when all of the sudden, we had a whole new, highly-produced-for-television enemy that burst upon the scene with the heinous beheadings of Westerners. Certainly, we can’t blame world opinion for shifting from Gaza to ISIS, can we? Each subsequent ISIS event was more horrible than the previous. A Jordanian pilot was burned alive. Irreplaceable antiquities were destroyed. ISIS became public enemy number one, and the cries of atrocities in Gaza simply faded into the noise of history.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, because I have no evidence of the whos or hows of any of this. Were secret Western agencies involved in the Sinai massacre of over 300 innocents? How would anybody begin to investigate such wild theories anyway? Like I said, I just hate coincidences and especially those that seem to come out of nowhere to automatically strengthen the Zionist narrative of “everybody hates the Jews.” Zionism is not the helpless and blameless lamb that it wishes to portray to the world, historically persecuted people who’ve paid a horrible price for their submission to Almighty God. Zionist acts against people of Arab descent are generally bloodthirsty, brutal, and merciless, and they’re delivered with a shoot first, ask questions later mandate. What are the modern crimes of Zionism? How about ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and colonization. Knife attacks, for example, a Palestinian reaction against well-armed soldiers at border crossings, hardly require the extrajudicial execution of the attacker, but that is the self-justified response by the Israeli Defense Forces. Occasionally there are attacks against settlers who the original residents view as occupiers, but most of these knife attacks are done against soldiers as a reaction to their brutality. Palestinians are humiliated, forced into ghettos with no rights, cut off from their own land, and simply murdered for protesting the squalid and inhuman conditions forced upon them due to their birthright.

The truth of what happens between Israelis and Palestinians is kept from Western eyes and ears by highly skilled proclaimers of approved Hasbara.

Hasbara is a form of propaganda aimed at an international audience, primarily, but not exclusively, in western countries. It is meant to influence the conversation in a way that positively portrays Israeli political moves and policies, including actions undertaken by Israel in the past.

Israeli government eyes watch social media closely through special offices set up to monitor Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms for anything that – in their opinion – might “incite” others to violence against the state. The same is true with the BDS movement, which attempts to pressure the world into boycotting Israeli products in the name of drawing attention to its treatment of Arabs. If these sleuths find anything, they demand that it be taken down, and who’s to argue with the Zionist government? Narrative control that requires this degree of diligence isn’t natural; it’s artificial, and that, too, adds another layer of distrust to the hasbara mix.

My fellow journalists tell me that the Middle East is just too complicated to spend the time and effort necessary to get to the truth, but that’s just an excuse based in the deliberately confusing Zionist hasbara. It’s not complicated at all, if you can bring yourself to cut away all the crap. What may be upsetting about it is that it demands a willingness to deconstruct what you believe to be truth, and that takes more courage than most people have.

And that’s too bad, because the Middle East is a gold mine of material for real investigative journalism.

Resistance is the postmodern way

Up in Manitoba Canada, a Star Trek fan has had to give up his personalized Borg license plate ASIMIL8 because it was judged offensive to indigenous people. The Borg, of course, are a fictional evil species that force assimilation with the clever marketing phrase “Resistance is Futile.” It has absolutely nothing to do with indigenous Canadians, but the suggestion that it does isn’t frivolous in the least. It has broad ramifications for Western culture and bears a few words as a post-colonial gesture.

You could say that the Borg represent the very essence of Colonialism, the demand that those being colonized assimilate into the culture of the conquerors, the colonists. This means everything from adopting commercial, legal, and language norms to religious faith. The conquering merchants are happy, because the colonies produce profit. The conquering churches are happy, because it means more members and their tithes. This, of course, is all completely disguised as the betterment of those being colonized, but that’s mostly just hooey. Self-centered gain has always been the real motive of the “civilized” colonists, which was brilliantly played out in the Starz television series “Black Sails.”

There is, however, another critical form of assimilation in Western history and that is the requirement that those becoming new members of the colony from the outside be required to likewise assimilate. This is the birthplace of the thinking that all who wish to be American must speak English, fully embrace American customs, traditions, laws, commerce, and submit to all forms of government. This was the basis of “The Jewish Question” or “The Jewish Problem” in Europe that began in the Nineteenth Century and ended in Hitler’s “Final Solution.” The issue was the refusal of the Jews to fully assimilate into the cultures they called home, instead choosing to remain fully Jewish, with their own customs, traditions, and beliefs. This is arguably problematic for the home culture, yet it’s seldom discussed as relevant to the evil of the Holocaust and in its wake, the creation of the Zionist State, Israel. The irony of Israel’s assimilative demands of Palestinians is not lost on observers of conflict in the Middle East.

At home, assimilation is a major concern involving Muslims, for the government of Donald Trump is demanding a rising degree of assimilation than its predecessors ever imagined. The message to Muslims in America today is xenophobic: assimilate or go back to where your appearances and practices are the cultural norm. Join us or go home. The same mandate is placed upon refugees from Mexico and beyond. Speak our language. Join our society. Pay your taxes. Or go back home.

So this business of the fictional Borg versus the indigenous people of Canada is more than appears on the surface, for one must ask the question, “Where does it stop?” At what point is it proper to demand assimilation and at what point is it not? In the early part of the Twentieth Century, the demand was made that refugee Catholics be rejected, because they couldn’t fully assimilate into mostly Protestant America. Were the Catholics offended? Did it matter? Is the patriarchy right to demand assimilation of women? Do we care if women are offended by such? It would seem this question is of lasting importance to our Constitution and the very things that Mr. Trump assumes make America “great” again. It is a fundamental matter for anyone attempting to govern diversity. Do you take the hard road of encouraging diversity or the tried and true method of demanding assimilation? They cannot fully coexist.

Milton wrote the famous line, “License they mean when they cry Liberty.” Those who would fall on the side of liberty understand the value of voluntary assimilation just as they do the right of free people to function as a colorful thread in the tapestry that America has become. Those who fall on the side of license, however, demand assimilation and seek primarily the freedom to take anything and everything that benefits their own demands.

We are at a crossroads with this matter, my friends, and we’re each going to be asked to be counted for our own place along this spectrum.

War Propaganda as “Weaponized Narrative”

Weaponized Narrative Is the New Battlespace is a fascinating and highly perceptive take on the use of manipulating narrative to impact culture. The idea is that individuals, institutions, and nations are using disinformation campaigns to manipulate others to their bidding through the creation of easy-to-understand stories that support the interests of the storyteller. Technology is the bad guy.

Weaponized narrative seeks to undermine an opponent’s civilization, identity, and will by generating complexity, confusion, and political and social schisms. It can be used tactically, as part of explicit military or geopolitical conflict; or strategically, as a way to reduce, neutralize, and defeat a civilization, state, or organization. Done well, it limits or even eliminates the need for armed force to achieve political and military aims.

The efforts to muscle into the affairs of the American presidency, Brexit, the Ukraine, the Baltics, and NATO reflect a shift to a “post-factual” political and cultural environment that is vulnerable to weaponized narrative.

The writers, however, Brad Allenby and Joel Garreau, oo-directors of The Weaponized Narrative Initiative of the Center on the Future of War, a partnership of Arizona State University and the Washington think tank New America, make four critical errors in their own narrative.

  1. The most glaring is that the entire concept is framed within a modernist world view where top-down, one-to-many-communications is the operating mechanism for communicating deceit. This embraces the worship of order, the vision of a psychopath (benevolent or otherwise) seated at a command and control desk pushing levers this way and that with a sinister smile enveloping a cigarette that appears to have been there for at least a week. Elevating this to an act of war is old wine in new wineskins, because reality isn’t nearly as Orwellian as the fear-mongers would have us believe.
  2. The second error works with the first. It’s a blindness to the disruption created by the bottom of today’s communications pyramid being able to talk with each other and back “up” to the top. This ability turns mass marketing on its head, although you’d be hard-pressed to find any institution that will embrace it. Some political types are tapping the space, but it is always with the assumption that it can be used to get others to pass their narrative around. This is just more modernist thinking, and the future will include educating the bottom in such a way that fooling them will get more and more difficult. I realize some will call this utopian, because it’s too chaotic and we still live in a time where a disruption to order can only be dystopian. I reject this assumption. At best, therefore, this “weaponized narrative” is temporary and not systemic, as the writers believe.
  3. Thirdly, while presented as something new, it really isn’t. Controlling narrative has been around for centuries. It was practiced by the Roman Church until the printing press allowed the laity to access that which had been reserved for the priesthood, and everything changed. It was called “propaganda” by the father of public relations Edward Bernays, a social engineer who used a form of weaponized narrative on behalf of his clients, including the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Bernays was a member of the Creel Committee, organized by Woodrow Wilson to help America justify getting into World War I. If this isn’t “weaponized narrative,” I don’t know what it is.
  4. Finally, how does one pen an article about weaponized narrative without mentioning the real experts at the practice, Israel? The fear of being tagged antisemite blocks all reason when it comes to investigating this phenomenon, for not only is Israel writing the book on how to weaponize narrative, they are doing it in full view of everybody. Within the public information office of the State of Israel are special departments who work with companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to quash anything they view as “incitement” against the crimes they commit daily in the Middle East. This is a frightening reality, for Israel can turn any event into self-defense, regardless of the heinousness of crime. It truly boggles the mind that two highly intelligent people can publish an introductory article on a concept so important without even a mention of the successful efforts of hasbara.

The article also presents America as behind other players in the world in this skill, but the jury is still out on that one. It’s self-serving in the spirit of the Shirky Principle, for the effort the writers are leading attempts to understand weaponized narrative and present solutions. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt here, for the article really does present some brilliant thinking and prose:

Narrative is as old as tribes. Humans are pattern-seeking storytelling animals. We cannot endure an absence of meaning. Rather than look up at the distribution of lights in the night sky and deal with randomness, we will eagerly connect those dots and adorn them with the most elaborate – even poetic – tales of heroes and princesses and bears and dippers. We have a hard-wired need for myth. Narrative is basic to what it means to be human.

It’s easy to critical, but this is not nitpicking. The solution to any form of totalitarianism is along the bottom of the new communications pyramid, and I don’t think these manipulative storytellers can count on ignorance forever.

BONUS LINK:  U.S. To Build A “Weaponized Narrative” Into The Future Of War

Netanyahu’s ISIS claim

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Lieberman visit the scene of the truck-ramming in Jerusalem, January 8, 2017. RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s English language videos have long hinted (to Americans) that our shared enemy is ISIS, while almost all of the violence Israel experiences is brought about by its occupation of the West Bank, its dehumanizing behavior towards Palestinians, and the responding attacks by those being “occupied.” So when he claims a knowing form of solidarity with Western governments over attacks by ISIS, those claims ring hollow at core. The Israeli narrative needs an attack by ISIS to validate its position that their fight is against an enemy bigger than the occupation.

This is why it’s not surprising to read that Bibi is trying to connect the deaths of four IDF soldiers over the weekend to ISIS, although the similarity of someone using a truck to ram a crowd of people is much more likely to have been opportunistic. Here’s the way Haaretz put it.

As far as the prime minister is concerned, the ISIS theory is well suited to the message he tried to convey – which is that Jerusalem, like Berlin and Nice, is just another western city dealing with brutal, uncompromising terror committed by global Islamic operatives. As per this message, this force of absolute evil has no motive or rationale, and has nothing to do with the occupation or any other Israeli policy.

The apartheid state of Israel is a bubbling laboratory of narrative control by governing authorities attempting to justify as righteous their provocative behavior towards the indigenous residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The nationalist Netanyahu has found himself a staunch ally in our President-Elect, who has promised to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, to a spot not far from this weekend’s deadly truck ramming.

If you honestly think we’re helping the situation with such a provocation, you’re just not paying attention to what’s taking place.

 

Israeli soldier guilty…or not!

For the first time since 2004, a member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has been convicted of manslaughter in the death of a Palestinian who had earlier participated in the stabbing of another soldier in the West Bank community of Hebron last March. The conviction of sergeant Elor Azarya was applauded by military leaders who are trying to maintain discipline through a code of ethics, but the big story is the remarkable reaction of an Israeli public that thinks Azarya should not even have been charged. He wouldn’t have had another Palestinian not videotaped the shooting and made the video public. Watch for yourself as Azaria first helps put the slightly injured soldier into an ambulance, then pulls his rifle, and kills the helpless man on the ground.

Azarya’s supporters said he fired in self-defense. Right. Military commanders, however, said his actions were unbecoming of a soldier.

Azarya will be sentenced on January 15th, but he is likely to be pardoned, given the protests by Israelis and statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We have one army that is the basis for our existence. IDF soldiers are our sons and daughters, and they must remain above all disputes,” he said. But making no direct mention of the military court, he said: “I support granting a pardon to Elor Azaria.”

This incredible turn of events reveals the extent of anger and hatred towards Palestinians from people who honestly believe the man that Azarya killed “deserved to die” as a terrorist. That the execution was extrajudicial matters not one bit to this mob. But this also reveals how deeply Israeli hasbara has penetrated the very souls of the people who call Israel home and the impossibility of peace in the face of that narrative.

I repeat to my American journalist colleagues that Israel is home to the most remarkable laboratory for the study of human nature and the manufacture of consent that exists in the Twenty-First Century. It is a textbook case of the conflict between narratives in the quest for political advantage and historical validation, and the justified violence of such a conflict. It is not as simple – nor is it as complicated – as you might think, and I challenge reporters everywhere to do their jobs in covering the truth of the region.

Trust me; you have no idea based on what’s published in the American press.