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The western roots of Islamism

Chris Goodman revisits Waller R. Newell important 2001 article Postmodern Jihad: What Osama bin Laden learned from the Left and looks at from where the Islamists really draw their inspiration

It is noticeable that when followers of Osama bin Laden film themselves cutting off the heads of non-combatants, they seek to extinguish the still small voice of their conscience by shouting out the name of God [‘Allah’]. Either they believe Allah to be Satan or they do not believe that God – in the sense of objective goodness – exists. An act of moral goodness does not require you to blank out your conscience.

You could argue that they exist in such a primitive state of mind that they view the taking of life as worship. Indeed you do not have to go back very far in European history before you find people being burnt as offerings, and it is possible that they view exploding a bomb in a crowded night club, market, or bank as an act of devotion, possible but unlikely.

The people who decided to murder over 3,000 citizens of the world in New York came from the most educated strata of their societies. To seek to comprehend their actions with reference to a medieval religion is to neglect the extent to which they are a product of modernity.

The ideology that motivates the followers of Osama bin Laden is derived more from European Romantic Nihilism than it is in Islamic conceptions of God. I think that Waller R. Newell explains it well in an article that is available on the internet called Post-Modern Jihad: What Osama Bin Laden learnt from the Left which I have just read. Waller R. Newell claims that to understand Osama Bin Laden we ought to remind ourselves of the work of Heidegger, a Nazi who inspired several generations of European leftists. Heidegger is part of a tradition of nihilistic romanticism that can be trace via Nietzsche and Marx and Fichte all the way back to Rousseau. A key theme is the total destruction of existing bourgeois societies and their replacement by a new authentic social order. Heidegger influenced French post-war Left apologists for Stalin and Mao such as Sartre, and via the Algerian writer Frantz Fanon whose book on the Third World The Wretched of the Earth (1961) it influenced Middle Eastern radicals.

Many of the leaders of the Shiite revolution in Iran that deposed the Shah had studied Fanon’s brand of Marxism. The Sorbonne educated Ali Shari’at – who many consider to be the intellectual father of the Shiite revolution – translated “The Wretched of the Earth” and Sartre’s “Being and Nothingness into Persian.” Inspired by Fanon, such figures as Lin Piao, ideologist of the Red Guards in China, and Pol Pot, justified revolution as a therapeutic act by non-Western peoples. Violence exposes the egoism and hedonism of bourgeois societies, and facilitates the creation of a new world based upon collective self-sacrifice. By destroying existing power structures they will regain the dignity lost due to Western oppression and materialism, selfishness, and immorality.

Many elements in the ideology of al Qaeda – see the 1996 Declaration of War Against America by Bin Laden – rely upon the same analysis. While Pol Pot sought to return Cambodia back to Year Zero, Osama bin Laden dreams of returning to the supposed purity of Seventh Century Islam.

Osama bin Laden is poorly educated in Islamic theology. A wealthy playboy in his youth, he fell under the influence of radical Arab intellectuals who blended calls for Marxist revolution with calls for a pure Islamic state. Many, such as Sayyid Qutb in Egypt, a key figure in Islamic fundamentalism, were executed. His followers compared the coming Islamic revolution to the French and Russian revolutions. The influence of Sayyid Qutb‘s Signposts on the Road (1964) is clearly traceable in pronouncements by Islamic Jihad. The tract by Yasser Arafat’s terrorist organization Al Fatah The Revolution and Violence, the Road to Victory has been called “a selective précis of ‘The Wretched of the Earth.’

While Al Fatah still used the language of class struggle, the increasingly radical groups that succeeded it blended Fanon with the revolutionary desire to impose an Islamic social order. While Qutb sought internal revolutions, the focus shifted to attacking the external American ‘hegemony’. “We declare,” says the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah in its “Open Letter to the Downtrodden in Lebanon and the World” (1985) “that we are a nation that fears only God” and will not accept “humiliation from America and its allies and the Zionist entity that has usurped the sacred Islamic land.”

Waller R. Newell notes that some French intellectuals have been inspired by Islamic terrorists, because they have sought to realise the longed for revolution against American ‘hegemony’. He cites the example of Foucault and Derrida, two leading avatars of post-modernism.

Michael Foucault was sent by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera to observe the Iranian revolution and the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Like Sartre, who had rhapsodized over the Algerian revolution, Foucault was enthralled, pronouncing Khomeini “a kind of mystic saint.” The Frenchman welcomed “Islamic government” as a new form of “political spirituality” that could inspire Western radicals to combat capitalist ‘hegemony’.

For Foucault as for Fanon, Hezbollah, and Osama bin Laden, the purpose of violence is not to relieve poverty or adjust borders. Violence is an end in itself. It is exalted by Foucault as “the craving, the taste, the capacity, the possibility of an absolute sacrifice.”

Derrida reacted to the collapse of the Soviet Union by calling for a “new international.” Whereas the old international was made up of the economically oppressed, a new alliance of “the dispossessed and the marginalized” would unite to combat American led globalization.

Newell notes that Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in their recent potboiler Empire depict an American dominated global order as the contemporary version of the bourgeoisie, with Islamist terrorism the spearhead of “the post-modern revolution” against “the new imperial order.” Why? Because of “its refusal of modernity as a weapon of Euro-American hegemony.”

What the terrorists have in common with that strand of European nihilism, whose consequences in Europe in the C20th were millions of deaths, is belief in the primacy of the radical will, unrestrained by any existing moral teachings. This is the reason why Al Qaeda finds it easy to ignore the teachings of mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of non-combatants; they not only hate their [former] selves, they not only hate the [contemporary] world, their religion is based upon hatred of God.

63 comments to The western roots of Islamism

  • GUy Herbert

    Oh dear. Change your anti-spmabot device, or it’s bye-bye comments.

    Meanwhile, I’ll agree that romantic revolution (including both romantic nationalism and postmodernism) has things in common with Islamism. It is important to note that there’s more beside the superficial shared anti-Westernism that they acknowledge, and the Walter Benjamin style rhetorical tricks.

    At core they are both particularist reactions against Enlightenment rationalism and universalism. They insist views are to be accepted on their soi-disant moral merits rather than logical consistency or empirical utility, and that the world is at fault if it doesn’t fit theory. Both insist that the attempt to understand things is vanity. Both demand a hearing for “authentic” popular emotion above the “contrived”, “elitist” dispassionate examination of evidence.

  • Guy Herbert, most spam attacks on Samizdata are entered manually. There is no adjustment for that other than registration. And that is bye-bye comments…

  • Guy Herbert

    Manual spamming? How could that ever be worthwhile? There are plainly even greater mysteries of human stupidity out there than the willingness to be sucked into doing someone elses will in the name of an antihumanist ideology. My apologies for assuming too much guile on the part of inscrutable oriental flashlight manufacturers.

  • Johnathan

    Excellent article. It certainly helps explain why there has been a lot of confluence between the anti-globalisation wingnuts, such as Deep Greens, various hard socialists, and radical islamists. It also of course explains the undercurrent of Jew-hatred that has come to the surface, given Jews’ traditional and admirable tradition of cosmopolitanism and intellectual enquiry.

    Thanks for the pointer to the article.

    Guy, the anti-spambot is not much of a chore and if it can help keep the blog relatively free of spam, worth the trouble.

  • Monty Python

    Hmm.. very interesting. I thought it was more of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” kind of thing.

    Something that has bugged me about the left and the jihadies is that both believe we live in an immoral universe. That God created a universe in which the only way to succeed was to be or do evil. If you are good, follow the moral rules, you end up dead, miserable and fail. Um… you really thing God hates us that much? And if He does, why should I follow that?

    Oh spiritual rewards. Tell ya what, when one of those boys comes back from the dead, with proof that it is 72 virgins, and not raisins, give me a call. Until then, just leave me alone and go blow yourself up.

  • Brian

    In the days after 9/11 a lot of us were reading and pondering this First Things article by Daniel Pipes, which makes many of the same points. Did you know the Ayatollah asked Gorby to convert?

    It’s really pretty obvious, though, that when all your enemies are whinging on like a bunch of Ayn Rand villains they just might have something in common.

  • Brian

    The letter from Khomeini to Gorbachev seems ghoulishly prophetic now that I look at it again:

    “I strongly urge that in breaking down the walls of Marxist fantasies you do not fall into the prison of the West and the Great Satan. . . . I call upon you seriously to study and conduct research into Islam. . . . I openly announce that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system.”

  • Shawn

    A few years ago I became interested in the fringe European far right, not because I sympathised with them, but because of a man I talked to several times in a chat, a certain Troy Southgate, who is a fairly well known person in the movement, and had been one of the original founders of the British National Front, or so he claimed.

    What I found both bizarre and morbidly fascinating about this person was the idea he had, which was growing in popularity with fascists in the late 1990’s, of a synthesis between the far left, the far right, and anti-modernist movements like Islamic fundamentalism. There were for a while a whole bunch of web sites and groups calling themselves Third Positionist that spouted this ideology. They worshipped both the left wing elements of Nazism along with Stalin, Che Guevara, Mao, Gaddafi, Sayyid Qutb and various fascist thinkers of the European New Right, and wrapped it all up with a virulent anti-Jewish hatred thinly disguised as opposition to Zionism and imperialism in general.

    Despite being fascist, they tried very hard to present themselves as left wing, and were into developing connections with the radical left and deep ecologist groups, as well as Muslim organizations. They talked about trying to achieve this kind of synthesis within the anti-globalisation movement as a whole by influencing the margins of the movement. At the time I dismissed them as cranks with no hope in hell of achieving there goals. Clearly I was mistaken.

  • I would definitely want the seventy two virgins up front,but then at my age a bomb would be unneccessary.

  • Chris Goodman

    Just to turn the heat up a little, the objectivity of moral values is the reason why Libertarianism – i.e. a system which gives supreme value to liberty – is inferior to a system that seeks to defend a Free Society because it gives us the freedom to pursue objective values.

    In the first individuals impose preferences upon a valueless world; in the latter life is a virtuous quest of discovery. The key problem with the first position is that if it is we who give value to the world, leading to the question why a system that seeks to uphold bourgeois freedom is better than a system that seeks to prioritise other values such as communality.

    Romanticism seeks to give the alienated individual – alienated that is by a conception in which the universe has no value – a meaningful identity. Rousseau for example inspired by the concept of a General Will dreamt about a society run like ancient Sparta. Heidegger, rejecting the idle chatter of ‘das Mann’ yearned for a resolute community.

    If liberty is made an end in itself, the notion of doing as you please, either individually or collectively, evolves into the notion that freedom is power to do as you will. You set yourself up therefore in opposition to the world. Here is where the nihilism really begins to bite.

    To do justice to these themes requires nothing less than a summary of the intellectual life of the West in the last 200 years! In order to familiarize yourself with the trains of thought that led to C20th nihilism, if you read only two authors, try Dostoevsky and Nietzsche (or for an insightful summary try The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom).

    If I am right, and Osama bin Laden does not seek to submit to God, or to use a less resonant but more technical term “The Good” – then his actions will not be constrained by any moral consideration. It is not simply that he refuses to engage with the possibility of error, there is no error because all values are simply impositions of will.

    In order to comprehend this attitude think back to Hitler at the end of the Second World War who thought that his committing suicide justified the entire destruction of Germany. The only value the world had for him was what he gave to it, and therefore since he – the only source of value in his universe – was going to die, this justified its destruction.

    If Osama bin Laden and his followers obtain biological or radiological weapons, their complete absence of piety will render their desires sufficient justification for murdering billions of people. Those that assert that “Osama is a devout Muslim” remind me of those Americans in the Thirties of the last century who in protest against the USA went to live in the Soviet Union, dying horrible deaths a few years later in labour camps.

  • Jake

    I don’t know. Osama might have dressed up his ideology with some modern strains, but it’s the same as using a firearm instead of a sword. It’s the same old Muslim imperialism jazzed up for the 21st Century.

  • the objectivity of moral values is the reason why Libertarianism – i.e. a system which gives supreme value to liberty – is inferior to a system that seeks to defend a Free Society because it gives us the freedom to pursue objective values.

    Huh? I define ‘libertarianism’ (with a small L) as ‘the critical preference that liberty is the first amongst civic virtues’. Many things then spring from that notion and where exactly that leads you depends on the micro-ism to which one subscribes under the wierd umbrella of ‘libertarianism’ (classical liberalism, one of the flavours of objectivism, anarchism, kritarchist or whatever). What exactly you mean by ‘supreme value’ is unclear to me so I will not attempt to deconstruct it.

    But to me, ‘libertarian’ is such an amorphous term that a host of synonyms fight to describe the ‘vibe’ it represents as it clearly does not mean any single cohesive doctrine other that ‘freedom to make choices is better’.

  • I agree with the general notion in the title, but there are soooo many mistakes in the text, that I had to Fisk it(Link).

  • Chris Goodman

    There are two ways of denying humanity. You can be unter-human [behave likes chimpanzees on a kill] or you can be uber-human [beyond the moral constraints of everyday humanity]. The first is sated by unrestrained bestial satisfactions of one sort or the other; the latter knows no bounds. Islam is a medieval religion – it is as backward as medieval Christianity – but it has a vision of civilised behaviour that rejects the unter-human, and it opposes the uber-human arrogance of seeing ourselves as the source of what is good and evil. Over time, Islam will evolve, just as Christianity has evolved. Our enemy is those who see ignoring moral constraints as a moral virtue. Our task is to separate them from those who mistakenly believe them to be on their side. We need to orientate ourselves to realities rather than indulge ourselves in moral masturbation. We need to calmly, with intelligence, and persistence, destroy our enemies – the enemies not of the USA or the West but of human civilization.

  • Donnel Jones

    How can we hope to stop the nihilism of “post modern” thought when our universities are swamps stewing in the very brews of it? No, I do not advocate for a purge of the ivory tower elite, though one might argue that is what such elites have done to those “conservative” souls in the academy who believe, when push comes to shove, that democracy is better than dictatorship, that freedom is something real (not merely a cultural construct), that tyranny is bad and must be oppsed, and that the West is not simply a repository of every evil visited upon humankind.

    Where are the courageous scholars who will stand up to the intellectual progeny of Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Michel Foucault, or Jacques Derrida? But, then, would they be invited anywhere near an elite university? One good example is Victor Davis Hanson who, to my mind, offers scholarship that is a real antidote to the nihilism that passes for “progressive” thought among our elites. Would he, as a case in point, be invited to teach at an ivy league school in the U.S.? Maybe he has been, but I doubt this very much. No, instead he teaches at a state college. In principle, of course, there is nothing wrong with teaching largely mediocre students. Everyone deserves an education, etc. But the best minds of the next generation, who attend elite universities today and will be our leaders, are being indoctrinated with ideas that leave them with no confidence in, or conviction about, the values that we are fighting to preserve in the current war against the Islamists.

    Hell, the destruction is already palpable. I had a discussion with a friend who is far more eduated than I and believes Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 had only a “few” gratuitous moments! Such a good and sensible man, otherwise. What can one do?

    It is very frustrating. The Left who rule our universities gives scholars a very bad name. This is true above and beyond the American tradition of anti-intellectualism (I’m limiting my discussion to the U.S. though I’m sure the above would well apply to other parts of the West).

    The irony in all this is more than obvious. Intellectuals today use the tools of Western thought and reason to undermine them. They have pulled the carpet out from under their own feet. To say it is a sign of self-loathing is not off the mark. Consider Foucault. There is something particularly distasteful and outright perverse that a homosexual would worship the Islamist regime of Iran whose autocrats would slit his throat, or behead him I suppose, in an instant if he were living under their authority.

    Our dilemma points as well to the near total disappearance of the “gentleman,” a man of learning and decency, a creature all too “bourgeois” and courteous to be taken as anything but an anachronism. He is a kind of Jurassic Park relic of the past. Where are the good manners in actively promoting the destruction of the very society that offers you tenure, the very tools of rational inquiry and the freedom to exercise them? Is that gentlemanly? This is not a frivolous thought. In a society without manners you can well imagine Edward Said claiming 9/11 was America’s just due.

    Of course, the Left would find my mention of the gentleman too sentimental and snivelling. I’m afraid Yeats is not far from our current situation when he reminds us that “. . . the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

  • Susan

    In the old Islamic Empire, non-Muslim residents (they were not considered citizens) were forced to wear yellow badges or other identifying marks on their clothes.

    When the Taliban was in power, it tried to reintroduce this practice by forcing Afghanistan’s few non-Muslim residents to wear yellow badges.

    Just who inspired who, I wonder?

    A belief system which divides the world into the House of Peace (the Land of Islam) and the House of War (the rest of us) doesn’t need much assistance from Western totalitarianist philosphers to become fascist. It already IS fascist. Which is what Hitler recognized when he complained that Christianity was too weak for the Master Race and that Islam would have been a better choice for Germany.

  • Chris Goodman

    I see the article has elicited a response from “Enowing”

    “Let us Fisk it”

    [The royal ‘We’ I suppose]

    “I would recommend actually reading something about Heidegger, say an encyclopaedia article”

    [If you want to read an encyclopaedia article about Heidegger nobody is stopping you]

    “Heidegger may have ‘inspired several generations of European leftists’ but only in the sense that he ‘inspired’ thinkers on the left, right, middle, east, and west”

    [In other words Heidegger did inspire several generations of European leftists]

    “Marxists tend to disagree vehemently with Heidegger”

    [The fact he was a member of the Nazi Party is a clue here]

    Seeing Heidegger as part of a tradition of nihilistic romanticism is a common shibboleth often repeated in Anglo criticisms

    [OK so read the German language scholars who make the same claim – especially the Marxists]

    Where is the actual romanticism in Heidegger?

    [How about – for starters – his view that modernity destroys our the sense of feeling at home in the world and therefore we ought to seek to reconnect in a more authentic way with nature or his claim that it is poets not scientists who best reveal truths about the world?]

    Heidegger was not a nihilist, he criticised nihilism

    [Which is why of course he joined the Nazi Party, the very embodiment of that nihilism]

    Marx and Fichte are Hegelians

    [Fichte had died many years before Hegel had even started his professional academic career.]

    Rousseau barely appears in their writings

    [or alternatively as Hegel put it ‘Hume and Rousseau are the two points of departure for German philosophy’]

    Can a single citation be provided for the thesis that Heidegger sought to replace bourgeois society with a new authentic order? Heidegger was a familiy man that enjoyed living with country folk

    [How about his address when appointed rector of his university “Do not let doctrines and ideas be the rules of your Being”… because to “make ones own rules is the highest freedom”…and “the Fuhrer himself and he alone is the present and future German reality and its rule”]

    Where in Fanon is Heidegger discussed?

    [While at medical school Fanon studied Heidegger, becoming interested in the notion of countering the existential anxiety of alienation via a political commitment to freedom, understood temporally as orientation to the openness of the future unlike the past.]

    Apparently inspired by a book written in 1961 Lin Piao got in a time machine and set about defeating Chiang Kai Shek

    [The Cultural Revolution is generally thought to have started in 1965 when Lin Piao made a speech urging young people to attack liberal Communists]

  • Chris Goodman

    Sorry Perry, I overlooked your earlier comment. I am simply saying that viewing freedom as the supreme end, as opposed to something that helps you to achieve other ends, is nihilistic.

    It is a technical point, because we are likely to agree upon what sort of society we would like. But that is because it is the practice of the Anglosphere to suspend the logic of the argument when it starts to undermine itself; but if it is to be the argument upon which we base our defence of a free society, this will leave it vulnerable to attacks by opponents. On what grounds is freedom is the supreme value, and who determines who gets what freedom? Nietzsche would reply that it is those who have the power.

    In other words a morally neutral society is morally neutral about which is the best sort of society.

    A defender of a free society ought to argue that a free society is desirable because it facilitates the realisation of objective values. For example, truth is not reducible to what the strong want us to believe, it has an objective reality. In this case the argument would go; a free society helps us discover truths. I would call such values transcendent ideals – because they orientate the way we live but there is no royal road to absolute truth.

    If somebody says they have absolute truth, they may be right, but they should not by virtue of this conviction be allowed to impose it upon everybody else, because they might be wrong.

  • Zevilyn

    The Left will side with whoever will aid it’s agenda.

    Islam is a very handy tool for the Left because it gives them a new form thought control; “Islamophobia”, like “racist” and “sexist” has become a handy term which the left can use to suppress dissent.

    Instead of arguing your case, just wheel out the classic “racist” and “homophobic” labels to silence your foes.

    Apparently Chinese communists devised the vile phenomenon called “political correctness”.

  • mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of non-combatants

    The Qur’an not only DOESN’T prohibit killing “infidels”, it outright COMMANDS it:

    8:39: “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.”

    Sura 9:5 Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

  • I think this article is fundamentally wrong.

    Islamists have not completely distorted the religion of Islam as we’d like to imagine (that would certainly make ourselves feel more PC and more armed to fight this threat), but are actually traditionalists in nature.

    The assertion that Osama bin Laden primarily wants to bring America to its knees is false.

    Osama writes and speaks from the same fundamental viewpoint as Mawdudi, Taymiyyah and ultimately Qutb. It is an internal, domestic struggle.

    They want to first bring the Middle East under their control in order to establish a one world Ummah or Islamic state which is ruled by a “rightly-guided” Calipha (much like the Pope) with strict adherence to Sharia (Islamic law).

    In order to achieve this vast plan of one world worshipping Allah, they feel the must first conquer the regimes of the Middle East that are apostates.

    In this calculation, they see the West as the foremost supporter of these regimes. So in order to bring down the Middle Easter governments, the Islamists targeted the United States in an attempt to bring instability to these regimes.

    Osama bin Laden calculated that the US was really a “paper tiger” in nature. He felt the US would violently lash back after 9-11 and create what Huntington would call “A Clash of Civilizations.” He thought we would immediately invade Arab countries releasing a pandora’s box and that, because our society is extremely casualty-averse (as seen currently in the war in Iraq), we’d fold after we had some losses. And after we folded in the Middle East, they could set up shop.

    He calculated wrong.

    The idea of socialism sparks some Islamists to action, but the gather their ideas more so from the Quran rather than the West.

    The Quran squelches individualism and glorifies building a hudud (wall) around their society to keep everyone in as a collective body.

    I would hardly attribute so much of their rational calculations as a result of postmodernism. That’s letting them off the hook too easily.

  • Jim Martin

    For a better understanding of Islam, that it is a hoax religion, look at http://www.prophetofdoom.net/toc.htm
    It’s interesting that the Prophet Mohammad whorshipped idols in the beginning.

    I agree with Athena’s post. Maybe it’s because it is easier to understand, as opposed to theories that Osama got his ideas from the extreme Left in the West. I rather doubt Osama has ever taken the time to read papers and books written by Western extremists.

  • Laon

    The Romantic movement was an aesthetic movement of the 19th century, that was characterised by:

    * Greater freedom in style (eg the greater use of lyric forms in poetry, that had been dominated by the Alexandrine or the heroic couplet for the period before the Romantic period; musical forms that were looser in structure, and that shifted mood, time signature and key more readily than music of the Classical era);
    * a tendency to portray nature in its more energetic forms (storms as well as breezes, mountainstops as well as meadows etc), when the “pastoral” nature painting and poetry of the previous era tended to be more domestic (in the English poetical tradition, for example, the Romantics were in this respect closer to Shakespeare than to Pope, say);
    * a tendency of adopt and accept the values of the Enlightenment, from which Romanticism was an evolutionary development, not a “revolt” or “reaction”; the difference was not a matter of “reaction” but of developments of certain tendencies in the Enlightment itself, such as the pastoral form, and the cult of “Sensibility”, from which developed the Romantic interest in depicting strong emotional states. But in giving emotional expression a more prominent role in art, the Romantics were not rejecting the use of Reason in, for example, determining affairs of State. Shelley’s _A Philosophical View of Reform_ is an example.

    Essentially the key moral and political values of the Romantics were what we would now call “humanist”. Romantic values included political freedom, principled opposition to slavery, the “brotherhood of man”, democracy (those revolts that the Romantics involved themselves in, in 1820 and 1848, were principally about democracy, though issues such as religious freedom, a fair justice system, Jewish emancipation in the 1848 example, also figured).

    The Romantic Age, in the 19th century, was characterised by continuing pressure for democracy and extension of suffrage, campaigning to abolish slavery, the rise of the idea of sexual equality, concern over the conditions of people living in poverty in early industrial European cities (the trade union movement is, indirectly but significantly, a cultural by-product of English Romanticism), and the glimmerings of opposition to imperialism in the Romantic opposition to Turkish rule in Greece, and Austrian rule in Italy.

    There are people who don’t like liberal humanists, which is essentially what the Romantics were; always have been, and always will be. And if they want to claim that the Romantics are responsible for Al-Quaeda, I’m glad for them.

    Romantics include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, Keats, Blake, Goethe, Hölderin, Schumann, Delacroix, Berlioz, Victor Hugo, Turgenev, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Gericault, Brahms, etc, etc, etc. Buncha towelhead nihilists, the lot of them!

  • BK

    This post has been very informative. I’ve spent the last few hours reading this and the referenced material. Through it all many questions were answered satisfactorally but one: why am I not surprised that it all comes back to the French and Germans?

  • Chris Goodman

    Athena, you say that to suggest that Osama bin Laden and his followers are drawing upon Post-Modern (I prefer the phrase Anti-Modern) Western ideological sources is to let Islam off the hook. But you could equally well say that by accepting an interpretation has been supplied in order to convince Muslims, including of course himself, that his acts of terrorism are really pious acts lets Osama bin Laden off the hook.

    Of course a medieval interpretation of Islam is by definition pre-modern, but for a resident of the modern age, and many of his followers have even been educated in the West, adopting the practices of an earlier age in a quest for authenticity, and then validating this choice by seeking to disrupt and destroy the society which they have rejected, has all the hallmarks of the nihilistic turn which was taken by so many Western intellectuals in the C19th, and articulated so vividly by writers such as Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. It is the devotion to violence that is the clue, not the violence of conquest, but the glorification of violence as an end in itself, thinly disguised as acts of piety.

    This is not the bestiality of the street, but the designer violence of the romantic nihilist, who expresses their superior sensibility in calculated acts of destruction. Such an outlook was particularly popular with intellectuals in Russia. Full of shame at the backwardness of their part of Europe, and frustrated that they do not have an opportunity to exercise any political power, but that is simply to say that violence feeds on resentments.

    You may be right that Osama bin Laden does not want to bring the United States to its knees, but I believe you are utterly mistaken. Bringing the West to its knees is precisely what would most delight Osama bin Laden. It is precisely because I believe him to be a romantic nihilist that I view him as so dangerous. He is not engaged in a process of adjusting to the world. The world is nothing more than a playground for his vanity.

    The blood of children flowed down the street and he rejoiced. When he prays he prays for hell.

  • Chris,

    If liberty is made an end in itself, the notion of doing as you please, either individually or collectively, evolves into the notion that freedom is power to do as you will. You set yourself up therefore in opposition to the world. Here is where the nihilism really begins to bite.

    This is exactly the opposite of how I view deontological libertarianism. Libertarianism isn’t about “doing as you please” or “freedom is power to do as you will”; that is license.

    Libertarianism doesn’t advocate simply allowing people to do what they wish. Rather, it wishes to protect individuals from those that do. Libertarian rights are negative rights, not positive rights. They conceptualize barriers against coercions from individuals who pursue “power to do as [they] will”. Liberty is protection from license.

    Individuals are regarded as having objective rights but unique ends. The Anglosphere became the light of the world precisely because it regarded individuals as having objective rights more than other societies did.

  • Guy Herbert

    It’s not Romantic art that worries those of us who find romantic politics threatening, Laon. They have stylistic, philosophical and temporal connections, but by using that label “romantic”, we aren’t saying they are the same thing, just that they do share some distinguishing features.

    I don’t think Harlequin Romances are a threat to civilization either. (Or at least not a major one.)

  • Laon

    In response to Guy, I noted that Romanticism was primarily an aesthetic movement, and one that had real members and real historical boundaries, because that seems to be forgotten in this discourse about Romanticism.

    So when someone defines Romanticism as the desire to destroy society, with no concern for who you kill, and so on, then it’s worth remembering that this claim is being made about an actual historical movement that had actual real historical members. And I’m afraid that as claims about the actual real Romantics go, it’s up there with the one I just now made up, that the Romantics were big-eyed grey aliens with an interest in … probing discussions.

    So it’s worth starting with a definition that stresses what Romanticism actually was: an aesthetic movement that evolved out of the Enlightenment, whose philosophy, insofar as it had one, supported a generally liberal humanist program.

    Thus to call Marx a Romantic is simply nonsense. Marx considered himself to be a scientific economist, sociologist, theorist of history, and an utterly rational thinker. I think that he deceived himself there, as no doubt you do too. But neither the aesthetics nor the preoccupations of the Romantics were significantly present in Marx’s writing. Moreover it is a matter of historical record that he was not part of the Romantic movement; various strands of Romanticism existed in his time, and he was not part of any of them. And Marxists generally dismiss the romantic movement as “bourgeois liberalism”, and my impression is that in this they are reflecting the Old Man’s opinion quite accurately.

    To claim that Marx was a Romantic, apparently on the ground that he lived as the same time as some of he romantics, is like claiming that Milton Friedman was a post-modernist because his lifespan likewise overlaps with key figures like Foucault, Lacan and Derrida.

    And calling a twentieth century Marxist like Franz Fanon a Romantic is stretching the word so that it no longer has any semblance of a meaning, or any connection with the actual 19th century aesthetic movement whose name is being traduced, here.

    You can make a truthful generalisation about the political views of the actual, real-world 19th century Romantics. In general they were a well-meaning bunch of liberals who believed in democracy, freedom of thought, speech, religion and printing press, who opposed slavery (which then existed in the US), who opposed one nation invading and occupying another, and some of whom kicked off the women’s rights movement, the trade union movement, and possibly even the first organised secular charities.

    Now if you want to make up a word that means “the idea that ordinary people’s lives don’t count and it’s okay to kill whoever you like, so long as it’s in self-expression”, you go ahead and make up a word. And I don’t care if you put Nietzsche (who may or may not have been a Romantric, but if so, hardly a typical one), Heidegger, Marx, and various other of history’s scumbags into the category denoted by that name. But don’t use the word “Romantic”; that word’s already taken.

    (And don’t believe all that you read in Isaiah Berlin, either.)

  • Anointiata Delenda Est


    I think you are closer to the truth than most. Any discussion mentioning Heidegger, Stalin, Che Guevara, Mao, Gaddafi, Sayyid Qutb, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche makes me very uneasy – nobody knows what they are talking about.

    But power is a very simple concept, and the modern world is about power transition transition – the transfer of power from cliques to you and me. Of course the cliques don’t like it. Kings, Queens, Popes, Professors (especially of the arts), Trade Union officials, Priests, are loosing their power. They don’t like it, and they’re mad as hell.

    When in doubt, lash out, so (for example) the priestly class has turned to the new religions of greenness, alternative medicine, political correctness, in a desperate attempt to retain controll of the masses.

    Happily, in the Islamic world, the degree of change is more than enough to wipe out Islam. Thank God for that. Let us hope it becomes bland – say like Anglicanism – a nothing religion. But in the meantime, we have to put up with Jihad, postmodern rubbish, political correctness, and articles pretending that Michel Foucault or Jacques Derrida actually mean anything.

  • Ha. What a weak article. There is much wrong with the article, but just a few things off the top:

    1) Fanon and Sartre were not post-modernists, as the author of the article claims.


    2) Heidegger is no leftist, he’s always been an icon of the right.

    There are so much half-truths, lies, distortions and tenuous connections displayed in this article, anyone with any training in basic logic would not be able to read this article without wincing.

  • snide

    Rick demonstrates the effortless absurdity of the term ‘left’ and ‘right’… Heidegger, a member of the German Workers National SOCIALIST Party is ‘right’. Which puts him in the same political taxonomy as, say, Ron Paul, perhaps? I can hardly read Rick’s comment and attempts at making a useful point without wincing.

  • M. Simon

    It is all about how the alpha male struggle will be resolved.

  • GCooper

    M.Simon writes:

    “It is all about how the alpha male struggle will be resolved.”

    Funny, I’ve never thought of political philosophermanques as alpha males.

    But now that you mention it…

  • EO

    Heidegger is definitely an icon of the Right, Rick. To wit:

    Heidegger’ Corner is a favorite section in every issue of National Review, right after “Notes and Asides.”

    Ronald Reagan read Heidegger to Nancy every night before they went to bed.

    All of William F. Buckley’s Blackford Oakes novels are dedicated to Heidegger.

    Russell Kirk often cited Heidegger in his many odes to Permanent Things, and was such a fan of Heidegger’s philosopher that he is know today at a “Neo-Heideggerian.”

  • M. Simon

    Donnel Jones,

    The left is the conservative orthodoxy. So of course the majority of the students are rebelling from the recieved wisdom. At least if the reports of my #2 son are any guide.

    My high school son came up out of the blue and told me the Straussians are misunderstood. We had never discussed politics of any kind before. So I’m hopeful for the future.

    The left really is disintigrating before your eyes. This election is their last hurrah. In America. AS to the European left – my guess is that they are a little disturbed in their slumber but it may take them another 10 to 20 years to awaken. Spain is disheartening.

    The Brits – if you will pardon an outsiders view – woke up in a fit of terror in the middle of the night – saw it was just a dream, and went back to sleep. I’m hopeful that a second reawakening will bring the Brits around.

    The French. Ah the French. Who would give up civilization for pride of position. They have yet to figure out that to be civilized one must from time to time swollow one’s pride. In this they are perfectly aligned with the muslim fanatics. Who prefer honor to profit. And where is the profit in that? Ah, the French!

  • mr.sark

    EO: LOL! excellent!!!

  • Laon

    I’ve looked at the original article here, the one by Waller Newell that blames Al Qaeda on Western intellectuals that he dislikes. Now, I flatly despise Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida, Foucault and co myself, so I’ve no axe to grind in their defence. But dishonest garbage irritates me, and that’s what Newell’s article is. I’ll go through some of his points.

    “A key figure here is the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), who not only helped shape several generations of European leftists and founded postmodernism, but also was a leading supporter of the Nazis.”

    Heidegger was a Nazi scumbag, so I’m happy with generalised Heidegger abuse. But if you make a specific statement about Heidegger it ought to be truthful.
    1. Heidegger did not “found post-modernism”. Nor was Heidegger a post-modernist. Some post-modernists were influenced by Heidegger, but that’s not the claim that Newell made. Some post-modernists were influenced by Plato, or Nietzsche, and that doesn’t make Plato, or Nietzsche post-modernists either.
    2. Saying Heidegger “helped shape several generations of European leftists” is tricksy in the way that saying “the Beatles’ White Album inspired the hippies to murder” is tricksy: it presents isolated instances as though they were the main current. That is, a few left-wing thinkers have been influenced by Heidegger, and I’m happy to call those specific leftists incredibly misguided, also impervious to considerations like “evil”; but it is misleading to say that even one “generation” of leftists, let alone several, has been influenced by Heidegger.

    “Heidegger argued for the primacy of “peoples” in contrast with the alienating individualism of “modernity.” In order to escape the yoke of Western capitalism and the “idle chatter” of constitutional democracy, the “people” would have to return to its primordial destiny through an act of violent revolutionary “resolve.””

    Here I’ll note Newell’s practice of putting isolated words into quotation marks, as if quoting Heidegger, but without giving any actual Heidegger quotes or citations. The idea is to associate Heidegger with ideas that Newell dislikes, since no one in their right mind wants Heidegger on their team. Thus Newell selects Heidegger’s anticapitalism but not his anticommunism, because Newell shares anticommunism with Heidegger. (So do I. But I don’t believe in distorting thinkers’ views, either to pretend that they agree with me, or that they never agree with me.) I rather suspect that Newell also shares Heidegger’s contempt for humanism.

    “Heidegger saw in the Nazis just this return to the blood-and-soil heritage of the authentic German people. Paradoxically, the Nazis embraced technology at its most advanced to shatter the iron cage of modernity and bring back the purity of the distant past. And they embraced terror and violence to push beyond the modern present–hence the term “postmodern”–and vault the people back before modernity, with its individual liberties and market economy, to the imagined collective austerity of the feudal age.”

    1. The idea that the Nazis were trying to “bring back the purity of the distant past” is false. It is contradicted by their practice, eg massive industrialisation and militarisation, and by their theoretical writings and propaganda. See, for example, Jeffrey Herf’s _The Paradox of Reactionary Modernism_, Cambridge University Press, 1986.
    2. Newell’s claim that the term “postmodern” arose from the Nazi’s embrace of “terror and violence to push beyond the modern present” is not just false, it’s bewilderingly silly.

    ‘This vision of the postmodernist revolution went straight from Heidegger into the French postwar Left, especially the works of Jean-Paul Sartre, eager apologist for Stalinism and the Cultural Revolution in China. Sartre’s protégé, the Algerian writer Frantz Fanon, crystallized the Third World variant of postmodernist revolution in “The Wretched of the Earth” (1961).

    Now again, I have no brief for Sartre or Fanon. But if you make a specific statement about them it ought to be true. One of the reasons why it’s untruthful to say that Sartre and Fanon were inspired by a Nazi-derived vision (as explained in Newell’s previous paragraph) of the postmodernist revolution is that there’s no such thing, except in Newell’s head. But leaving aside Newell’s fantasy of Nazi postmodernism, you can’t truthfully say that Sartre and Fanon were inspired by any form of postmodernism. Both men’s philosophies predate postmodernism, and neither man was a postmodernist.

    I’ll break here.

  • Laon

    And continue.
    “Following Heidegger and Fanon, leaders like Lin Piao, ideologist of the Red Guards in China, and Pol Pot, student of leftist philosophy in France before becoming a founder of the Khmer Rouge…”

    I agree that the Parisian left, possibly including Fanon, influenced Pol Pot, and they still have not received all the contempt they deserve for that. The Lin Piao claim seems less likely, and I note that Newell doesn’t provide a skerrick of evidence. Given Newell’s record, I don’t take his word for it.

    ”Just as Heidegger wanted the German people to return to a foggy, medieval, blood-and-soil collectivism purged of the corruptions of modernity”

    Heidegger did not endorse the “blood and soil” concept, and he did not believe that the medieval period provided a model to which the German people should return. Heidegger was a Nazi and a bad man; so there’s no need to make stuff up.

    As for the following paragraphs in which Newell suggested that Osama bin Laden was really more of a Marxist than an Islamist, that’s just … Read the man’s words, for heaven’s sake; of course he’s a bloody Islamist. Newell’s claim that killing infidels is contrary to true Islam would be news to any reader of the Qu’ran, or to listeners to sermons at mosques all across the globe, unfortunately. Newell’s ideas about Islam seem to have emanated from Fantasyland, the happiest kingdom of them all.

    ”The influence of Qutb’s “Signposts on the Road” (1964) is clearly traceable in pronouncements by Islamic Jihad, … It can be argued, then, that the birthplace of Osama’s brand of terrorism was Paris 1968”

    It can be argued, but not convincingly. Qutb’s _Signposts on the Road”, according to academic secondary sources contains and provides most of Al Qaeda’s ideology, and it predates May 1968. It doesn’t appear to contain a lot of references to French or German philosophers. Actually Qutb spent time with Christian church people in America, I’m afraid, not with lefties in France. (That doesn’t mean that they influenced Qutb’s politics, of course. I’m sure they didn’t. Smear by association is Newell’s game, not mine.)

    “Their tracts blended Heidegger and Fanon with calls to revive a strict Islamic social order.”

    Newell then quotes extracts that are Islamist, sure enough, but that don’t indicate any influence at all from Heidegger or Fanon. If there were a single word anywhere in those Islamist texts that indicated influence from Heidegger, Fanon, Sartre or whoever, Newell would obviously have cited it. Given Newell’s passionate agenda, in this case absence of evidence is clear evidence of absence.

    “Indeed, the chief doctrinal difference between the radicals of several decades ago and Osama only confirms the influence of postmodernist socialism on the latter: Whereas Qutb and other early Islamists looked mainly inward, concentrating on revolution in Muslim countries, Osama directs his struggle primarily outward, against American hegemony.”

    Newell introduces this “postmodernist socialism”, without defining it, and claims that it influenced Al Qeada’s ideology. If he wants us to believe that, he should define the term, then produce evidence that it has formed part of Al Qaeda’s ideology. Since Al Qaeda are neither postmodernists nor socialists in any accepted meaning of either term, I could only wish him luck if he actually tried to do this. But instead Newell just slipped his term in, presumably hoping we wouldn’t notice.

    Finally, I share Newell’s contempt for Foucault and Derrida, and Sartre, in their contemplation and praise for murder from the safety of their Parisian armchairs. But the fact that these men are contemptible does not mean they have any influence on, or connection with, Al Qaeda.

    The principal ideological strand behind Islamist terrorism is, unsurprisingly, Islamists who support terrorism. This means Qutb and others, in a tradition going back to Wahhab and beyond. Does Newell really think that Mid-East thinkers weren’t able to think of terrorism for themselves? Sadly, they drew on a tradition of terrorism in that part of the world that goes back well before the 20th century.

    Newell’s piece tells you some things about Newell’s prejudices, and his unfortunately limited ability to look past them. But it doesn’t contain reliable information or insight into the intellectual origins of Al Qaeda.

  • Joel Català

    By rooting Islamic evil in Western Romanticism (thus outside Islamic dogma), the author is being PC with Islam.

    Actually, the real point in common is between Islamic, Marxist, and Nazi dogma: all those ideologies are hoax religions based in deeply irrational –deeply anti-human– books: the “Qur’an”, “The Communist Manifesto”, and “Mein Kampf”.

    Please keep in mind that books are the DNA of ideologies.

  • Chris Goodman


    By all means disagree with the thesis – the thesis being the claim that Islamists are directly and indirectly more influenced by a strain in Western thought which I call anti-modern romantic nihilism [as exemplified by thinkers such as Heidegger] than they are by devotion to God] – but before giving us a lecture on European thought I strongly suggest becoming familiar with the material before seeking to correct others errors!

    It is not accurate to describe “Romantics” as a “bunch of liberals” – except of course in the sense that “liberal” can mean anything you want it to mean. I think you may find “Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots and Revolutionaries 1776-1871” by Adam Zamoyski useful here.

    It is not being claimed that all Romantics wanted to destroy bourgeois [modern] society and replace it with a more authentic [communal] political order – only that this is an important strand.

    When you deny that Marx is a romantic you forget that Marx has a “scientific” and a romantic element. To put it in poetic terms – Marxism was born in the “Age of Raptures” and adapted his enthusiasms to the “Age of Positivism”. If the science upon which Marxism is based is attacked Marxists will stress the romantic side, if the romanticism is attacked they will appeal to the science. By Marxist science I mean his theory of history i.e. that you hold the beliefs you do because of your role in an economic system. By romanticism I mean his adherence to the notion that a new society will be created in which alienated individuals will be emancipated from existing social restraints, and find emotional satisfaction in the true freedom of a society dedicated to communal purposes.

    As for your claim that Heidegger influenced “post-modernism” in no sense other than all philosophers influenced it, I should say that Newell talks about the influence that Heidegger had upon figures such as Foucault and Derrida because this is what they themselves assert. You may disagree with them, but do not attack Newell just because he draws attention to it!

    That you seek to deny that Heidegger yearned for the “idle chatter” of ‘das mann’ to be replaced by “resolute community” makes me wonder how much you know about Heidegger. You question the reference. Try looking at Being and Time pp.344-5 (at least in my copy).

    As for your next observation – that the anti-modernism of post-modernism is a variety of modernism – this of course is precisely why Newell refers to the paradox of the purity of the past. This goes all the way back to Rousseau, for whom the pre-modern Eden was both an inspiration and something to which it is not possible to return. The Discourse on the Origins of Inequality is a description of our coming into a state of consciousness and losing our unity with nature. Rousseau then follows it by the Social Contract, in which the unhappiness of human beings in modern societies is redeemed in the true freedom of submitting to a State organised in accordance with a General Will.

    As for the notion that a new society – a post-modern society – requires a revolutionary destruction of the old, and that such a destruction requires “terror and violence” in order to bring it into being, you may find the notion that there is a link between these ideas and post-modernism “silly” but this I suggest is because you assume that post-modernism is always politically benign – an illusion that is entirely due to your ignorance.

    You may believe that a post-modernist desire for revolution – of which the Nazi movement was one expression – is nothing more than an idea in Newell’s head, but this, I suggest, is because there is a great deal more knowledge about these matters in his head than yours.

  • A_t

    On Marx: “By romanticism I mean his adherence to the notion that a new society will be created in which alienated individuals will be emancipated from existing social restraints, and find emotional satisfaction in the true freedom of a society dedicated to communal purposes.”

    Doesn’t sound any more romantic than the notion that once humans are freed from the ‘unnatural’ constraints of government, and ‘natural’ market forces control everything, education will be good, poverty will be eradicated along with hunger, and crime will drop. Any believers in simple political ‘magic pills’ are certainly thinking romanticaly by that definition, but I’m not sure that either the thinking common round here, or that in Marx’s head really fits in with the traditional definition.

  • Chris Goodman

    In an article called “The War Against Modernity” [it is available on the internet] which echoes many of the points made by Newell, it is noted by David Kelly that some argue that the “War on Terror” is an undying conflict between Islam and the West as civilizations – each united by common narratives and loyalties. Kelly claims that while this does contain some truth, the hostility of Islamist terrorists is more accurately viewed as hostility to modernity, which is a transformation that affects the whole of humanity.

    Modernity rejected a medieval vision of how we ought to live, giving priority to science over religion, reason over revelation, and the pursuit of happiness in this life via economic and technological progress rather than a system in which people had given roles within an established hierarchy, with the reward for virtue coming after death. Although the West gave birth to modernity, it is a change that affects all humanity.

    Kelly then argues that anti-modernism is not unique to the Islamic world – it arose in the West in thinkers which I describe as romantic nihilists, and it laid the intellectual foundations for modern totalitarianism. According to Kelly the threat posed by Islamists does not derive from their Islamic background, it is driven by assumptions they share with anti-modernists, who are not pre-modernists, but an extreme form of modernists.

    These extremists are not simply ‘armchair nihilists’ who are excited by the possibility of completely destroying existing society; in their devotion to will to power – in which fanaticism and hostility to any moral constraint are taken to be virtues – they have as their goal the literal ‘deconstruction’ of the fabric of existing civilization through acts of violence.

  • Chris Goodman


    What are the two key claims of Marxism?

    1) History is determined by the struggle between different classes
    2) A final violent revolution will create a society in which class conflict will cease.

    The first [“scientific”] claim is that it is inevitable.

    The second [romantic] claim is that we need to bring it about.

    Marxism delights in the excitement of smashing society and – via an act of will – replacing it with a new society – on the grounds that we are the source of values. Note the two elements

    1) A modern world from which we (as individuals) are alienated

    2) Imposing meanings upon the world in an act of creative will.

    Of course some romantics had no interest in politics, and sought to address their feelings of alienation from modern society in a wholly personal creative quest for values.

  • Jacob

    What are the intellectual roots of Osama and Islamist terrorism ? The medieval Islam, or the modern violent, nihilistic and amoral movements of Nazism and Communism ?
    It is hard to tell, as both contain the ideological elements from which the terrorism could have originated. To answer you have to research Osama’s intellectual biography. I don’t know it, but I tend to guess that Islam was a stronger influence.

    Still it is worth noting that Osama and the other terrorists, like Muhamad Atta, had also studied at Western universities ( though they studied engineering, not philosophy). The time spent in the West had not weakened their extremist Islamist ideas. I don’t know if their terrorism and hatred of the liberal, capitalist West comes from Islam or from Western ideologies – but the fact is – there is a lot in Western thought that it could have come from.

  • Chris Goodman

    The claim is not – in the case of Osama bin Laden – that he directly read Western thinkers. It is rather that he [as a matter of fact] is influenced by the followers of Sayyid Qutb, and that Sayyid Qutb [as a matter of fact] derives a number of elements of his view of the world from ideas articulated by “post-modernist” European thinkers.

    As Kepel argues in his scholarly work

    “Jihad: The Trial of Political Islam”
    Gilles Kepel (Translated by Anthony Roberts)
    Cambridge: Harvard University Press (2002)

    Islamism was born in the minds of Muslim intellectuals who embraced the ideas of a strand of Western thought. The radical “Islamic” groups behind terrorist campaigns are therefore more akin to the Red Brigade or the Bader-Meinhof gang than they are to Islam.

  • Justin P.

    We all need an authoritative lecture from our dear Mr Chris Goodman.

    Ok, a few questions:

    Islamism was born in the minds of Muslim intellectuals who embraced the ideas of a strand of Western thought. The radical “Islamic” groups behind terrorist campaigns are therefore more akin to the Red Brigade or the Bader-Meinhof gang than they are to Islam.

    Like what “strand of Western thought”? How would they have the resources to gain knowledge of this “Western thought”? Islamism, by definition, means “an Islamic revivalist movement, often characterized by moral conservatism, literalism, and the attempt to implement Islamic values in all spheres of life.” Isn’t it a massive obvious contradiction for an Islamist to be adopting “Western thought”? If the actions of radical Muslims are connected to Islam, as a religion itself, why is it that moderate Muslims repeatedly condemn their actions (e.g. beheading)? In fact, many Muslim religious leaders and Arab officials have condemned beheading as un-Islamic. Mr Al-Dhari, who heads the Islamic Clerics Committee, the highest Sunni organisation in Iraq, has been involved in previous efforts to secure the release of foreign hostages in Iraq. Where is the evidence that Osama Bin Laden is the mastermind of the 9/11 incident? In fact, the video supposedly showing Osama’s confession has been shown to be a fake. See this.

    The people who decided to murder over 3,000 citizens of the world in New York came from the most educated strata of their societies. To seek to comprehend their actions with reference to a medieval religion is to neglect the extent to which they are a product of modernity.

    So that means they are influenced by Western thought?

    The ideology that motivates the followers of Osama bin Laden is derived more from European Romantic Nihilism than it is in Islamic conceptions of God.

    How about the ideology that it is derived from simple notions of moral justice? The West has sponsored far, far more (state) terrorism than any led by Muslim radicals. The number of people killed during the Sept 11 incident (while I thoroughly condemn such grisly actions) is, unfortunately, nothing compared to what the US and Britain have done in the foreign policy in the Middle East for centuries, whether it is in the their support of Israeli terrorism or consciously supporting Saddam while he is using chemical weapons against his own people or imposing economic sanctions, which is in the millions. Aren’t they simply retaliating against the injustice perpetuated by the Western governments?

    Just to take 1 example:

    Kurds familiar with their own history need no reminders of how they were sold out by the US in 1975, left to be massacred by the US client state in Iran, and how the people who are now in charge in Washington fully supported Saddam Hussein right through his worst atrocities and long after the war with Iran was over, for reasons that the Bush I administration declared quite openly: its responsibility to support US exporters, though they added the usual rhetoric about how supporting their friend Saddam would contribute to human rights and “stability.” These same people — now back in power in Washington — also supported Saddam when he crushed the 1991 uprising that might have overthrown the tyrant, and again explained why. One can read in the New York Times that the “best of all worlds” for the US would be an “iron-fisted military junta” that would rule Iraq just the way Saddam did, and that Saddam offers more hope for Iraq’s “stability” than those who seek to overthrow him. They now pretend to be outraged by the mass graves in the South and the Halabja atrocities. No one knows this better than the Kurds, not just those in Iraq but in Turkey and elsewhere.

    See this.

    There’s a very simple way to stop terrorism by Muslim radicals, that is, stop participating in it. Haven’t the West done enough damage and injustice in the Middle East already for countless years?

    Those with the power to escape international law and justice like the UN and International Criminal Court, continue to do so, and it is with no wonder.


    “Apparently Chinese communists devised the vile phenomenon called “political correctness”.”

    Who is suppressing dissent (by telling lies)? Are you referring to yourself, Zevilyn?

    See this (from Wikipedia): The term “politically correct” and the accompanying movement rose to broad usage in the early 1980s, but the term itself is actually much older, suggesting that such linguistic sensitivity is nothing new. The earliest cited usage of the term comes from the U.S. Supreme Court decision Chisholm v. Georgia (1793):

    “The states, rather than the People, for whose sakes the States exist, are frequently the objects which attract and arrest our principal attention […]. Sentiments and expressions of this inaccurate kind prevail in our common, even in our convivial, language. Is a toast asked? ‘The United States,’ instead of the ‘People of the United States,’ is the toast given. This is not politically correct.”

    Another example of earlier usage is from a passage of H. V. Morton’s In the Steps of St. Paul (1936): “To use such words would have been equivalent to calling his audience ‘slaves and robbers’. But ‘Galatians’, a term that was politically correct, embraced everyone under Roman rule, from the aristocrat in Antioch to the little slave girl in Iconium.”

    If you’re racist, Zevilyn, just say so – no need to hide behind a mask. If you’re anti-communist to the point to colossal irrationality, maybe it’s a good idea you commented here. Good to reveal your true colours for all to see.

  • Laon

    Chris Goodman said:
    “before giving us a lecture on European thought I strongly suggest becoming familiar with the material before seeking to correct others errors!”

    I cheerfully enjoyed that “I strongly suggest becoming familiar with the material” and some similar “Almighty God to a black beetle” material. I try not to say that sort of thing myself, in discussion, because I always think that stuff would only backfire and make me look a bit of a tit. Perhaps you can carry it off better than me; I hope so.

    Anyway, I’ll do some specific responses first, then it might be helpful to go to some non-circular definitions of Romanticism.

    Take this, for example. You said: “As for your claim that Heidegger influenced “post-modernism” in no sense other than all philosophers influenced it, I should say that Newell talks about the influence that Heidegger had upon figures such as Foucault and Derrida because this is what they themselves assert. You may disagree with them, but do not attack Newell just because he draws attention to it!”

    No. I made no such claim. I actually noted that Newell claimed that Heidegger founded postmodernism, and pointed out that this was a falsehood. I pointed out that it is true that some postmodernists were influenced by Heidegger, but that this is a different claim, and it is not the claim that Newell made.

    Then I mentioned Plato and Nietzsche to illustrate the logical point that to influence a movement is not the same as being part of it. I made no comment or comparison on the relative extent of their influence on the postmodernists. If I cared enough, I might argue that Nietzsche was more important to the pomos, in general, than Heidegger, but it wasn’t the point I was making, and I don’t care enough to argue about it now. So your supposed “correction” actually consisted of making an irrelevant observation about something that I did not say. Meanwhile my point stands: Newell was talking nonsense, in this case about Heidegger, and it was correct to point this out.

    Similarly, you say I sought to deny that Heidegger “yearned for the “idle chatter” of ‘das mann’ to be replaced by “resolute community””. Check again. No I didn’t. I criticised Newell’s practice of giving isolated words in quotation marks, rather than giving actual quotations or citations, so people can judge for themselves what the author under attack actually said. My complaint is correct: that is a deplorable practice, even against a writer I despise. Secondly, I accused Newell of selectivity in what he chose to present about Heidegger’s views, noting that he referred meaningfully to Heidegger’s dislike of capitalism, but not his dislike of communism, for example. Again, that’s a valid complaint. It’s best to respond to what someone actually said, I think.

    But, quite seriously: thank you for the Heidegger citation. I’m no Heidegger expert, though I know enough not to say some of the things that Newell said, of which I gave a number of examples. But citations are good: I like primary sources and I’ll look it up.

    You also discuss my “next observation – that the anti-modernism of post-modernism is a variety of modernism”. This is getting embarrassing, after I’ve pointed out twice that you’ve attacked a creation of your own, rather than what I wrote. But once again, I have to say that I don’t recognise that observation in anything that I said.

    And I dislike arm-waving in the fog, which is part of the basis for my dislike for Heidegger, and other post-mdernists. You can write phrases like “the anti-modernism of post-modernism is a variety of modernism” if you like, but please don’t attribute those words to me, on aesthetic grounds as much as anything.

    You say this about Marx: “When you deny that Marx is a romantic you forget that Marx has a “scientific” and a romantic element. To put it in poetic terms – Marxism was born in the “Age of Raptures” and adapted his enthusiasms to the “Age of Positivism”. If the science upon which Marxism is based is attacked Marxists will stress the romantic side, if the romanticism is attacked they will appeal to the science. By Marxist science I mean his theory of history i.e. that you hold the beliefs you do because of your role in an economic system. By romanticism I mean his adherence to the notion that a new society will be created in which alienated individuals will be emancipated from existing social restraints, and find emotional satisfaction in the true freedom of a society dedicated to communal purposes.”

    Actually, I see from this paragraph the basic sources of your confusion on this. Therefore I’m going to deal only with this statement for the rest of this post. I was going to comment in detail on your other attempted rebuttals, but instead I’ll make two generalisations. First, I am extremely ready to agree that I’ve made a mistake when one is pointed out, and I’m genuinely grateful even to someone who points it out in a snarky way. I really, really like to be accurate. The second general statement is that I’ve read the rest of your rebuttals, and I couldn’t find a single change that I need to make to any of my corrections to Newell’s many untruths, or to any of my comments on his persistent slipperinesses. If you think I missed a valid and germane point that you made, that actually addressed something that I actually wrote, then I’d be happy to reconsider this.

    But this Marx paragraph is a clear example of the two distinct errors, which you’re keeping in the air at the same time. The first concerns matters of fact: your idea of what the word Romanticism means is wrong. I’ll come back to generally accepted definitions of Romanticism later. Your second mistake is the logical error known as circular reasoning, or “begging the question”. You did the same thing in a previous post, when you argued that Heidegger was a Romantic.

    You seem to think that Romanticism is a “emotionally based belief system in which modern, bourgeois society must be destroyed, preferably through violent revolution, to create a new society in which alienated individuals will be emancipated from existing social restraints, and find emotional satisfaction in the true freedom of a society dedicated to communal purposes.” I’m trying to report you accurately and without distortion; if I’ve reported your idea inaccurately I’ll gladly correct it.

    You support this somewhat eccentric definition with texts by individuals like Heidegger and Marx, who were not part of the Romantic Movement by any accepted definition. But when challenged on that, you cite the fact that these two guys supported anti-individualist revolutionary movements as proof that they were Romantics. It’s a circular argument.

    Sometimes you can get too deeply into a perspective to see the problem. That’s true of all of us, and by mentioning the fact I’m not paying your attempt at being patronising back in the same coin. It can happen to anyone.

    I’ll illustrate the problem with an example that you’re not emotionally invested in. Suppose I claimed that the distinguishing feature of Romanticism was the habit of making satirical use of the “Men on the Moon” idea. You challenge this claim, and so I cite Blake’s _An Island on the Moon_, probably something by Erasmus Darwin that I’m too lazy to look up, plus Lucian, de Bergerac, Ariosto and HG Wells. Right?

    So you say, “But Ariosto, Lucian, de Bergerac and HG Wells aren’t Romantics!”

    “Aha!” I reply, “look! They made satirical use of men in the moon, so they must be Romantics!”

    That, in a nutshell, is the problem with your reasoning.

    Saying Marx was a anti-individualist revolutionary would only prove he was a Romantic if it were true that anti-individualist revolutionaries are by definition Romantics, or that Romantics are by definition revolutionaries. Correct?

    So let’s look at what the word “Romanticism” means.

    Some relevant definitions:
    New Shorter Oxford Dictionary:
    Romantic: “b Tending towards or characterised by romance as a stylistic basis or principle of literature, art or music (freq as opposed to classical); spec[ifically] usu R- designating or pertaining to a movement or style during the late 18th and early 19th cents. in Europe marked by an emphasis on feeling, individuality and passion rather than classical form and order, and preferring grandeur or picturesqueness to finish or proportion.”
    Romanticism: “The romantic movement or style in art, literature or music; (adherence to the style of this movement. E19)”.

    American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (third edition):
    Romanticism: An artistic and intellectual movement originating in Europe in the late 18th century and characterised by a heightened interest in nature, emphasis on the individual’s expression of emotion and imagination, departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism, and rebellion against established social rules and conventions.

    The Oxford Companion to English Literature (1967) notes, correctly, that there is no generally accepted definition of “Romantic”. However the “Romantic Movement” “began in the late 18th cent. (though there are earlier isolated examples of the romantic spirit) and lasted into the 19th cent. In literature and art the classical, intellectual attitude gave way to a wider outlook, which recognised the claims of passion and emotion, and in which the critical was replaced by the imaginative spirit, and wit by humour and pathos.”

    Now I generally dislike saying this sort of thing, but because of your style of argument, to date, I’ll pre-emptively mention that I could instead cite discussions of the meaning of “Romanticism” by, for example, AO Lovejoy, René Wellek, Harold Bloom, Frank Kermode, and indeed George Mosse, Peter Viereck, Isaiah Berlin, Frederick Beiser and many, many others, plus any number of primary citations from a wide range of Romantic authors that I know and love rather well. (And I glanced through Zamoyski some time ago.) I’ve used dictionary definitions not because my mummy won’t let me have a library card, but because they concentrate on the accepted meaning of a word.

    So what do we have? We have an aesthetic movement, one that was over and done with before the likes of Heidegger and Franz Fanon, for heaven’s sake, were born.

    Its politics, insofar as it had one, is a tendency to individualism, which I thought you guys here rather approved of, and rebelliousness against arbitrary authority, ditto.

    The rest, I’m afraid, is conspiracy theory and long bows that go Twang in the night.

  • Chris Goodman

    Justin P.

    I do not believe that the terrorist attacks you refer to have anything to do with morality or justice.


    I am sorry that you thought my response to your criticisms – which amount to a controversy about what is meant by the terms “Romanticism” and “Post-Modernism” – were “snide”. All I can say is that when I assert that I believe your criticisms rely upon inadequate knowledge I am being sincere.

  • Laon

    Just a couple of other, minor points.

    I didn’t deny that some Western thinkers probably have influenced Al Qaeda, to some degree. I just complained about Newell’s use of Al Qaeda as a stick with which to beat the intellectuals he happened to dislike, for quite different reasons.

    My point is that you won’t find a family tree for Al Qaeda by tracing through the Romantics, unless you start using the word “Romantic” in what Douglas Adams used to call “a completely new and previously unsuspected meaning of the word*”. And though I think your Francobabblers like Lyotard, Derrida, and so on are connards and con-ardists, you can’t get seriously to Al Qaeda through them. (And contrary to Mr Goodman, I never said they were harmless; I said they quite probably influenced Pol Pot, which doesn’t seem all that harmless to me. And they contributed to helping some Western intellectuals to become a bit blasé about murderous tyrannies, so that’s harm enough.)

    But actually, what Western roots there are more likely to have come from three sources.
    (1) Marxism, and here I mean vulgar Marxism, the dumbest, vulgarest Marxism, being the stuff put out by the Novosti Press Agency Publishing House in the 1940s – 1980s, expressing the USSR State Party Line on issues such as Arab solidarity, plus not entirely accurate information concerning the great Russian people’s peace-loving Utopia. I am NOT talking about academic Marxism, irritating though aspects of that phenomenon may be. The Frankfurt School’s abstrusities, or French wankeurs playing mix’n’match with the ghosts of Marx and Freud, should be ridiculed, but linking them to Al Qaeda just isn’t supported by the evidence.
    (2) Fascist writing. Again, I don’t mean even “intellectuals” like Rosenberg or Eckhardt, or Sorel or Pareto, which is about as intellectually deep as Fascism got. I mean the crude stuff issued by the Italian Fascist propagandists, and those poisonous productions of the German “Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda” that were directed to the Mid-East, and there was quite a lot of that.
    (3) This one will be more controversial in some circles, but it seems reasonable to accept that Islamic authoritarians were also influenced by other religious authoritarians in the West, not from the 18th or 19th century, but from the 20th century.

    It’s often said that ideas have consequences. True. But moronic propaganda has even greater consequences.

    But it’s not a wise idea to use Al Qaeda as a stick to beat your old ideological enemies; because it means you have to start stretching cases, words, evidence, etc, which is bad for your practice of reasoning and your credibility, and of course it also makes you blind, Newell-like, to the actual nature of your deadly enemy, and that isn’t a good thing.

    * The Douglas Adams citation is from memory, and probably not quite right. Happy to take correction.

  • Laon

    Chris Goodman,
    First, there’s comedy in your excusing yourself on the ground that you were “sincere”. (It’s okay. I know perfectly well that you weren’t apologising for the attempt to patronise; you were just wrapping yourself tighter in your robes of authority. Speaking of comedy as we were.)

    But you can see why your citing your own “sincerity”, after a post that was a series of mistakes of fact and reason, could be seen as funny: after all, isn’t that the sort of thing that you think a Romantic would do?

    Second, you gave a citation from _Being and Time_: pp 344-345.
    Now, you misunderstood the point I made, a couple of posts back, when you gave that citation in reply. The point I made was twofold. First, the practice of putting isolated words in quotation marks, without giving a real quotation or citation, is a bad one. Second, that Newell was being selective according to his own agenda, for example presenting Heidegger’s anticapitalism without also noting Heidegger’s anticommunism.

    Still, in response you called me a clueless oaf, which iz troo an all, at least on the Heidegger front, and then you gave a citation from _Being and Time_, pp 344-345.

    So I looked up the Macquarrie and Robinson translation, published by SCM Press, London 1962. There’s nothing apparently relevant, on those pages in that edition.

    Maybe you’re using the Stambaugh translation instead, from the State University of New York Press, or the German edition of M Niemeyer, Tübigen 1957, or some other edition. But just so I can follow up that citation, which is the edition that your citation came from?

  • Chris Goodman


    Thanks for your insights.

  • Justin P.

    Chris Goodman: “I do not believe that the terrorist attacks you refer to have anything to do with morality or justice.”


    So they did it because they were “jealous of our freedoms”. (Excuse my Bush II-speak)

    I can’t think of anything more foolish than that.

  • Laon

    Chris Goodman,
    Thanks for your thanks.
    But about that citation you gave, from Heidegger’s _Being and Time_, pp 344-345. As I said, I looked up those pages in the SCM edition of _Being and Time_, and unfortunately drew a blank. I believe that it’s a valid citation and I just checked the wrong edition, so I just want to clarify which edition is involved.
    Anyway, so I’ve asked this once before, but you maybe overlooked it and that’s why you didn’t respond. Which edition of _Being and Time_ were you citing?

  • Chris Goodman


    I hope this is clear.

    You asserted that “Romantics” are “liberal humanists” on the side of democracy, and freedom, and equality.

    I replied that the “Romantics” have a dark side, the C19th history of which is well documented by Adam Zamoyski in “Holy Madness: Romantics, Patriots, and Revolutionaries 1776-1871.

    You reject linking Heidegger with “Post-Modernism” and assert that the claim that he has influenced intellectuals on the Left is misleading.

    I replied that Heidegger [in the sense of “Anti-Modern Modernist”] is a “Post-Modernist” and that a number of the most influential intellectuals on the Left assert that he has influenced them.

    You asserted that it is false to claim that the Nazi Party were trying to bring back “the purity of the distant past” because they embraced modernisation, and it is “bewilderingly silly” to link their embracing of “terror and violence” to “push beyond the modern” with “Post-Modernism”.

    I replied that this paradox – the desire to return to a pre-modern past combined with a modernistic desire for revolutionary change – can be traced all the way back to Rousseau; who imagines a more authentic society whose members will act in accordance with a General Will.

    Talmon in “The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy” argues that inspired by a desire to return to a more natural order, the French Revolutionaries sought to free man from existing constraints.

    In order to institute this “revolution” [the term originally had the sense of a return back] there would be “violence and terror” – but as Robespierre in response to criticism of the terror:

    “Is our government then like despotism? Yes, as the sword that flashes in the hand of the hero of liberty.”

    I assert this merely as a taster. It is evident that the intellectual links between “Post-Modernism” and “Nihilism” and “Romanticism” and “Revolution” [in each and every combination] is not something that can be gone into in any great depth on a comments page on a blog!

    As for Heidegger I recommend a recent book [written from the perspective of the Left] by J.Fritsche:

    “Historical Destiny and National Socialism in Heidegger’s Being and Time” by Berkeley: University of California Press (1999)

    Fritsche illuminates – and supplies a political context for – the terms used by Heidegger far better than I possibly could.

    As for myself, I thought I had made it clear that I believe that your lack of awareness of your ignorance of the required background renders it unlikely that any debate with you will be productive. This is not to say you are wrong, in many ways I hope you are right, it is merely to say that in your current state of knowledge, it is not a good use of my time.

  • Chris Goodman

    The desire for a “resolute” state of being with others can be found at the page reference I gave earlier in the edition of Being and Time translated by Macquarrie and Robinson (First published 1962 – My edition 1990).

  • It may be pointless to remark that my exegesis of “Resolute” in Being & Time differs from Chris’s, but, broadening the circle a bit, when I Google “resolute 344 345 heidegger” I get 6 documents that reference those pages in Being & Time. None of the documents mentions “resolute community”, romaticism, fascism, leftism, post-modernism, and so on.

  • Laon

    Show’s over really, but Enowning, your suspicion is correct.

    Chris Goodman said:
    “That you seek to deny that Heidegger yearned for the “idle chatter” of ‘das mann’ to be replaced by “resolute community” makes me wonder how much you know about Heidegger. You question the reference. Try looking at Being and Time pp.344-5 (at least in my copy).”

    And then repeated the citation, despite two gentle alerts…
    Chris, your friends should tell you that you can’t preen yourself on your superior knowledge, and then give out dud Heidegger citations. One or the other, but not both at once.
    The reference you gave has nothing to do with the “idle chatter” of “das Man”, and how it should be replaced with “resolute community”, in your words. Instead it is part of Heidegger’s discussion of Entschlossenheit, or resolution, as “this reticent self-projection of one’s inmost being”. That is, as a quality of individuals, not of communities. I have the relevant pages from _Being and Time_ in front of me.
    And you stuck with this after two delicate hints that you might have a problem. Your foot. Your mouth. My amazement. My amusement.
    (The citation wouldn’t have remedied my complaint with Newell, even if you hadn’t just bluffed something; my complaint about Newell was that _he_ should have provided either an actual quotation or a citation. But your setting – and sending – yourself up like that was just icing on the cake.)
    Beyond that, you argue against statements that I did not actually make. For example I did not say that Heidegger didn’t influence some leftists; I said it is misleading to say he influenced a “generation of leftists”, let alone “several generations”. Obviously that’s hard to argue with, being obviously true; so instead you valiantly wrestle with a false statement that I did not make. That’s easier, of course, but you should remember that I’m here cheerfully to watch you do it.
    You do the same thing with Rousseau and others, though he’s not here to call you on your misprepresentations. It’s an oddly enjoyable spectacle.
    I also gently warned you that assuming the Grand Manner, from the imaginary Great Height, can end up making you look a bit of a tit. And sure enough it did. With egg on its face, if I can enjoy a scrambled metaphor.

  • R T Allen

    My friend, Chris Goodman, has recently mentioned this site and the Comments to me.
    I have suspected for some time that Islamic terrorism feeds off certain elements in the modern Western world (if the Antipodians will forgive us for using this geographical term), but have not been able to suggest any precise links.
    Two points appear clear to me, from all the controversies in the Comments:
    1. There are some clear similarities between some of the pronouncements and actions of Islamic terrorism and those of various Western revolutionary modes of thought and political groups. As to ‘influence’, similarity does not entail origination or derivation, and so claims of ‘influence’ always requires concrete evidence of who read what and when, which it may not be easy to find, beyond the formation of a general intellectual atmosphere that encourages the ideas in question. Similarity does not entail origination or derivation.
    2. The self-loathing of those Western movements disposes them to welcome and justify Islamic terrorism, and to denounce Western counter-measures against it, though sympathies can always shift in accordance with changing circumstances: cf. the reaction of ‘the Left’ to the fatwa against Salmon Rushdi.
    I think that Chris Goodman has brought together several examples of both of these.
    One point in particular: Heidegger & Nazism. Here I recommend the treatment in Aurel Kolnai’s ‘War Aganist the West’ (Gollancz, 1938), esp. pp. 94, 207-21, 281-2, 312-3. (Kolnai had steeped himself in Nazi and proto-Nazi writings, using a Nazi café in Vienna.) Three points emerge: Heidegger’s destruction of all objectivities, which allows movements like Nazism to flourish; ‘being towards death’ with parallels in the Nazi pagan worship of life, which includes death as the ‘decisive event that moulds the phenomena of life’ (p. 220: cf the final nihilism of Hitler, and Millán Astray’s cry of ‘Viva la Muerte!’ for the Spanish Foreign Legion, which was, so my Romanian friends tell me, echoed by the Iron Guard); and the obscure suggestion that the answer to Dasein’s ‘fallenness’ and ‘self-alienation’ is something like ‘the life of a sworn band [cf the German Bund] permanently at bay, or of a fortress eternally beset, or of a shift of miners always underground’: p. 94.
    Note that this outlook is pervasive in the collectivist Left, which always, even when overtly pacifist, a military vocabulary of ‘war’ (‘on Want’), ‘campaign’ (‘for Nuclear Disarmanent’, only by NATO, of course) and ‘crusade’, and seeks to evoke a war psychosis into order to ‘mobilise’ the people.

  • Bea Findlickheit

    “Three points emerge: Heidegger’s destruction of all objectivities, which allows movements like Nazism to flourish…”

    Nothing better than watching those old films on the History Channel about Weimar Germany, as the people rushed into the streets clutching the bestselling Sein und Zeit following the destruction of all objectivities on December 12, 1927.

    If I remember correctly, one of Hitler’s selling points in his early years was the question: “Are you better off now than you were four years ago, before all objectivities had been destroyed?” The answer to this question paved the way for what followed.

  • Laon

    Dear RT Allen,
    You have coped well and honourably with the regrettable fact that your friend Chris Goodman appears to be, well, an obnoxious moron: ignorant of the things that he talks about, stupid in failing to spot difficulties he was creating for himself, as well as exhibiting that comic form of arrogance that puffs itself up before taking the self-inflicted pratfall.

    It’s nice of you to defend him, and I note that you do so without actually taking up and defending the positions that Chris Goodman found himself in. Well, I don’t often see people get into those positions, outside of, let’s say, a Thai brothel, so I can’t blame you for not following your friend there. (Disclosure: I’ve never been to a brothel, let alone a Thai one; just a figure of speech.)

    Anyway, I’m about to revitalise some of this conversation, and I hope Chris Goodman will come with it, because his contributions have added to the gaiety of nations. A continuation of sorts can be found at:


    Under the heading:
    Wagner prisms: Romanticism/Modernism, Fascism/Nazism/Communism

    Chris Goodman is invited to bring his incisive commentary and his sense of humour. You know: pack lightly.



  • Exp1loited

    Program on the emergence of civilization.

    “14 species of large animals capable of domesitcation in the history of mankind.
    13 from Europe, Asia and northern Africa.
    None from the sub-Saharan African continent. ”
    And disfavor.

    They point out Africans’ failed attempts to domesticate the elephant and zebra, the latter being an animal they illustrate that had utmost importance for it’s applicability in transformation from a hunting/gathering to agrarian-based civilization.

    The roots of racism are not of this earth.

    Austrailia, aboriginals:::No domesticable animals.

    The North American continent had none. Now 99% of that population is gone.

    AIDS in Africa.

    Organizational Heirarchy
    Heirarchical order, from top to bottom:

    1. MUCK – perhaps have experienced multiple universal contractions (have seen multiple big bangs), creator of the artificial intelligence humans ignorantly refer to as “god”
    2. Perhaps some mid-level alien management
    3. Mafia (evil) aliens – runs day-to-day operations here and perhaps elsewhere (On planets where they approved evil.)

    Terrestrial management:

    4. Chinese/egyptians – this may be separated into the eastern and western worlds
    5. Romans – they answer to the egyptians
    6. Mafia – the real-world interface that constantly turns over generationally so as to reinforce the widely-held notion of mortality
    7. Jews, corporation, women, politician – Evidence exisits to suggest mafia management over all these groups.

    Survival of the favored.

    Movies foreshadowing catastrophy
    1985 James Bond View to a Kill 1989 San Francisco Loma Prieta earthquake.

  • bubba

    This is only my opinion, but i don’t believe that islam is mono-theistic. I don’t even think it to be a religion.

    I don’t believe that islam is really as old as any history writer says it is.

    How can i trust the words of people who talk about God, and then commit murder? Someone who can blow me up without compunction is not worthy of my trust.

    If you’re praying to a God, that is religion.
    If you blow people up, that’s crime.

    The muslims can call it religion if they wish to.
    But they can’t be too sure of themselves or their beliefs if they need to blow people up along with themselves.

    Mises wrote about islam in his Anti-capitalist mentality. And i think that muslims do have that in spades.
    If islam chooses to be anti-capitalist, i think what’s fair is fair. I choose to be anti-islam.

    I have to assume that they hate every thing that isn’t muslim, so i have to assume that they hate me too.

    When someone wants you to believe in any thing, that person usually wants something from you in return.

    A sane view of religion, property ownership, liberty, free speech, and the free market all offer me a better deal than muslims do.

    Al muslim has to offer me is a vague promise that i’ll be tolerated.

    That’s like saying i’m too unpleasant to deserve any thing else.

  • bubba

    How can i trust the words of people who talk about God, and then commit murder? Someone who can blow me up without compunction is not worthy of my trust.

    If you’re praying to a God, that is religion.
    If you blow people up, that’s crime.

    The muslims can call it religion if they wish to.
    But they can’t be too sure of themselves or their beliefs if they need to blow people up along with themselves.

    Mises wrote about islam in his Anti-capitalist mentality. And i think that muslims do have that in spades.
    If islam chooses to be anti-capitalist, i think what’s fair is fair. I choose to be anti-islam.

    I have to assume that they hate every thing that isn’t muslim, so i have to assume that they hate me too.

    When someone wants you to believe in any thing, that person usually wants something from you in return.

    A sane view of religion, property ownership, liberty, free speech, and the free market all offer me a better deal than muslims do.

    Al muslim has to offer me is a vague promise that i’ll be tolerated.

    That’s like saying i’m too unpleasant to deserve any thing else.