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L'Ordre

L'Ordre

“Black Pride” vs. “White Pride”?

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Une société sans religion est comme un vaisseau sans boussole

A society without religion is like a ship without a compass

Napoleon Bonaparte


Should anti-racists condemn Black racism (where it can legitimately be proven to exist) against white people?

Above: historic defiance: an African American woman defies state authorities by taking down the Confederate flag

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My simplest answer is no, don’t bother.

This post continues from my previous foreign policy commentary on Third Worldism vs. neoconservative ideology.

It is absolutely not hypocritical that we condemn white racists while viewing Black racists (for example, America’s Malcolm X or Algeria’s Frantz Fanon himself) as liberators. Nor is it hypocritical that we spell white without a capital while we spell Black with a capital. It is not hypocritical if everyone will hate White Pride and love Black Pride. On the contrary, all symbols and rhetoric referring to Black liberation are emancipatory: these speak of a people that has been chained and oppressed and still languishes in the oppressive American prison system. All symbols and rhetoric referring to White nationalism or White Pride are displays of indulgent reactionary behavior by a culture that has enjoyed privilege and supremacy and tries desperately to sustain it. The rhetoric of liberation is right no matter how ugly or guttural it is, and the rhetoric of reaction is wrong no matter how attractive or sanitized it is.

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By the same token, feel free to celebrate the cause of indigenous Pakistani or Iranian nationalism, or Syrian nationalism, or Palestinian nationalism, and continue to separately condemn the vile and reactionary nationalism of settler regimes such as Israel or the United States. One category of nationalisms and power ideologies is absolved because these nationalisms and power ideologies are pursued in the causes of non-white or Third World liberation. The other category is intellectually vapid, false, and serves no cause of liberation but the perpetuation of misery and oppression.

To put it another way, there is no valid American or Western exceptionalism but the exceptionalism of the other – the exceptionalism of the oppressed and disenfranchised who are right no matter what evil they are accused of. That is an exceptionalism that I accept and help to cultivate with every fiber of my being.

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By Harry J. Bentham

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Third Worldists vs. Neoconservatives

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Le colonialisme n’est pas une machine à penser, n’est pas un corps doué de raison.

Colonialism is not a thinking machine, is not a body endowed with reason.

Frantz Fanon


Should antistatists and anti-nationalists in the West condemn, ignore or support small nationalist causes in the non-Western world?

Frantz Fanon: political theorist and key influence on countless Third World nationalist causes (including ones who fought against each other)

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This is an issue that has been on my mind recently because of a slight dispute that I had with a fellow political commentator whom I continue to have the utmost respect and admiration for. His view likened nationalists in Pakistan with the neoconservative movement in the United States, and basically put forward the view that someone who refuses to condemn Pakistani nationalists might as well support the neoconservatives in the US on the grounds that small imperialist or nationalist causes are as lethal as the bigger ones. This is a theory that was never unknown to me or a great many sociologists who are more qualified than I, and I had in fact been rejecting that very theory for years. As cold as it sounds, I don’t care if a theory is killing people: I am solely interested in whether it is effective in weakening hegemony.

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It is not an oversight by me that causes me to not bother condemning nationalism in Pakistan and countless other countries while I condemn it in my own country and more so in the US. It is a well-informed principle, as I shall explain.

The essay to go to on this subject would be Immanuel Wallerstein’s brilliant piece, “Culture as the Ideological Battleground of the Modern World-System”. I believe it repudiates everything that can be said against the diversity of causes – nationalist and anti-nationalist – that I and other combatants against hegemony have expressed support for.

One of the great thinkers who inspires much of the non-Western world is Frantz Fanon, the ideological father of postcolonial political theory and the concept of the national liberation struggles that shook the world in the post- World War 2 era. Without the aid of this man’s ink, there would probably have been no Palestine Liberation Organization, no Baath Parties, no Muammar Gaddafi, and possibly no cause of national liberation and pride in the majority of nations today labelled “Third World”. Many of these ideologies stemmed from Algerian national liberation from French colonialism, for which Fanon was a great agitator.

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I will not lie about small nationalist causes in the Third World. My own Western sensibilities and internationalist, hyper- modernist leanings mean that I personally find Third Worldist rhetoric inane, its causes often misguided. But in the rare junctures where their rhetoric aligns with true liberation struggles and confrontations with hegemony, they stand vindicated. It is in those moments that these regimes, often labelled tyrannies by Western states, become the knights so desperately needed by the world’s oppressed. Gaddafi may have been a monster to the nuanced political elites of the world, but to the peoples of Africa he was universally loved and viewed as an icon. Hence, the elimination of Gaddafi by NATO was in essence an act of racism, a rejection of the values and common destiny felt by the peoples of Africa at the hands of a dismissive and arrogant power.

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Were Bashar al-Assad not on the frontline against US aggression, he would likely not be endorsed and admired by so many millions of people throughout the world. He likely would not be in power today. The American government’s very obsession with eliminating al-Assad has made him more powerful than they could possibly have intended.

All of this has to do with the theory of the world-system as an ideological battlefield. Those who are perceived to triumph causes of national liberation, whose apparently reactionary slogans and statements align with actual liberation and the battle against hegemony, are only superficially reactionary: the actual cause they represent for a marginalized and oppressed country or people is surely not reactionary.

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Samir Amin presents almost exactly the same views in his conclusions that popular nationalism of the Cuban type is actually the most effective ideological vehicle for many oppressed people, and that power ideologies originating in the Third World simply cannot bear the same shame as rhetorically similar ideologies that influenced true imperialism as it was exported from Europe. In sum, Western liberals are not hypocrites to exclude the nationalists, religious extremists or even racists of the Third World from our condemnation of such ideology in the West itself.


By Harry J. Bentham

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Is “Internet” spelled with a capital “I”?

posted by Harry J. Bentham

La première maxime de votre politique doit être qu’on conduit le peuple par la raison, et les ennemis du peuple par la terreur

The first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people’s enemies by terror

Robespierre


Should we be capitalizing the word “Internet” in our writing?

Could the Internet be seen as a place, or even as a body of people?

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Wikipedia has an informative article on this subject, notably explaining that a number of noted publications including The New York Times capitalize the word.

In actual fact, as explained by the Wikipedia article, the word Internet used to be capitalized by everyone – which seems an odd fact in itself because the idea of a single global Internet must have arisen after the practice of using computers to create “an internet” emerged. The article states as its only comparative case study that the Internet is much like other popular communication media, such as “telephone”, which was once apparently capitalized in many publications.

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I believe the Internet is more significant than other technologies like the telephone, and I believe that whether or not we capitalize the word is a much deeper question than it at first appears to be. I began capitalizing the word Internet after reading two of Julian Assange’s books and following the drama of Edward Snowden’s disclosures. The idea that Edward Snowden was motivated by a perception of the Internet as his home – not as a mere utility but as a place (and a sacrosanct one) – and Julian Assange’s revolutionary claims that the Internet is giving rise to a new demos or body politic transcending national borders – raise, for me at least, the idea that we should address the Internet as a place, with at least the same respect that we might show towards a sovereign state.

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On this point, however, I should note that Julian Assange himself does not bother to capitalize the word Internet, and yet I consciously decided to start capitalizing the word based on what I read into a theory largely preached by him. In Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide, which talks at length about Edward Snowden’s philosophy and the ethos of the Internet, Greenwald does in fact capitalize the word Internet, all the while showing a reverent attitude towards it, much as I believe it deserves.

I would also like to point out while we are on Beliefnet, that similar ambiguities exist about spiritual or metaphysical spaces, as we find about the Internet or the “space” of (C)yberspace. Should heaven be spelled with a capital? The King James’ Bible would seem to disagree. Its very first verse claims that God created no Heaven, but “the heavens” (we now know that as space).

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In fact, the Bible is ambiguous about whether there is a heaven at all, often speaking of “heavens” or suggesting that the word is not a supernatural reference but purely a reference to the “skies” (should it be “sky”, or perhaps “the Sky” at that?) just as it often is in everyday discourse. Hell is similarly undefined. Whether there are hells, or a single physical realm known as Hell, has never really been confirmed within the Christian religion. It is also possible that hells does not refer to anything other than its everyday usage as the states of torment that we humans bring upon ourselves while we are still alive, or the torments of conscience that gnaw upon a guilty person.

In my own view, the Internet should be capitalized, and the word “the” should be placed before it wherever possible. The Internet should be capitalized because the people on the Internet are a polity or a body politic. They are “netizens” or citizens of the Internet. Many have spoken of citizens of the world, but  no technology has made such a notion more factual than the Internet. Save for “the World”, or “Humanity”, these terms being capitalized for the same reasons in this context of human wholeness, there is scarcely any other label that can be used to represent the people and their interests than making reference to the Internet, capitalized.

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Whether this reasoning is sufficient for us will be proven in whether or not others choose to capitalize the Internet themselves, or continue to risk trivializing the single greatest revolution in human communication and encounter by reducing it to a mere utility like the telephone. The Internet is a place, as real as any library or hall of power you have ever passed through.


By Harry J. Bentham

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My work at Press TV: the end?

posted by Harry J. Bentham

Il vaut mieux hasarder de sauver un coupable que de condamner un innocent.

It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.

Voltaire


To terminate any potential speculation about my reasons for no longer contributing monthly articles to Press TV’s website, I have decided to make the following post explaining my actual reasons.

My thumbnail from Press TV, more or less

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I continue to admire the work of the Iranian government-funded channel Press TV. My reasons for no longer contributing monthly op-eds there are personal and not political, and are connected with my career and oaths I have taken that are inappropriate to discuss in public via blog posts.

As a foreign government-funded outlet, Press TV is a less appropriate place for me to publish my opinions than this eminent space of mine, the L’Ordre blog, at Beliefnet. The degree of autonomy that I have as an author here, not subject to any editorial process, is liberating and more appropriate for my own purposes than a column at a particular news outlet associated with a particular government.

It is not that I hold anything against the Iranian government, indeed I still tune in to Press TV’s streams and I celebrate Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) efforts to amplify the voices of dissidents and targeted, maligned or marginalized thinkers and ethnic minorities in the morally and democratically stunted regimes of the Islamophobic West. However, I believe the Internet is a sufficient counterweight to hegemony in its own right, a kind of superpower. Hence, the same purpose of amplifying dissident voices in the West is adequately accomplished through the hub of existing Western-based dissident outlets, some of whom I have written for, albeit that in many cases they opportunistically cooperate and deal with foreign news agencies in order to amplify their message (who wouldn’t?).

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I confess that I now believe that Western-based dissident outlets, as well as other predominantly Western circles that I am helping to strengthen in my own online dealings, present an opportunity for grand campaigns against injustice within the West that will not be apparently contingent on Russian, Iranian or other external blessing (which fuels wild speculations about foreign plots). Too often, journalists and bloggers in the pay of Russian or Iranian outlets are simply dismissed as propagandists, hacks or professional liars by more respected and richer professional liars of the day. Those who are most resilient against such accusations are people like Glenn Greenwald, who actually hasn’t worked for foreign channels and yet is one of the most prominent journalistic critics of US and Western foreign policy. By that same advice, I as a blogger should avoid being seen to work for foreign or non-Western organizations, as such avoidance in fact amplifies my own message and credibility.

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Those who hurled the accusations that bloggers such as I were working for the Russians, the Iranians, the Chinese, the Martians, et cetera, will come to regret it. By driving me away from foreign outlets, they have only strengthened my own hand on the blogosphere. They might have been better advised to encourage their critics to associate themselves with foreign regimes and agents, rather than discouraging such association.

For some weeks now, I have been trying to depoliticize my trail on the Internet. As I did so, I began to realize that depoliticizing has its own merits that go beyond my mere career reasons to make such revisions. The bulk of commentary on the Internet is critical of all ideologies and states and it would be foolish to tie oneself to any one of them, as such association would only create avenues of vulnerability to what we call trolling.

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For years, I associated my contributions to online media outlets, including those addressing scientific, cultural, ethical and technological subjects, with a form of online activism or hacktivism, as some have called it. However, I now believe that such terms as “hacktivism” are not appropriate in themselves because, for all its alleged faults as a breeding ground for fringe political opinions, the Internet is essentially apolitical and should remain thus. Those who engage in “hacktivism” are not fanatics driven by ideology but simply angered netizens. They could be any one of us, perhaps working for any regime, including the regimes they are attacking.

Groups that have emerged from the culture of the Internet, the most notable of which is the collective known as Anonymous, have no political agenda, no ideology, and no plan to govern any state. Ubiquity is the only characteristic that such groups claim to possess, and any loyal devotee of the “cause” of the Internet would realize that this, rather than any form of partisanship, is an essential cultural and social attribute of the Internet as an emerging technology.

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So, to crush the conspiracy theories before they begin, I have not defected from supporting Iran. I still consider Iran to be a legitimate power and have no desire to harm them or undermine the dissident causes that they encourage sympathy for within the West. I simply do not write for them anymore, for my own professional reasons, although I encourage all to continue visiting their website presstv.ir.


By Harry J. Bentham

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Previous Posts

"Black Pride" vs. "White Pride"?
Une société sans religion est comme un vaisseau sans boussole A society without religion is like a ship without a compass Napoleon Bonaparte Should anti-racists condemn Black racism (where it can legitimately be proven to exist) ...

posted 11:00:30pm Jun. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Third Worldists vs. Neoconservatives
Le colonialisme n'est pas une machine à penser, n'est pas un corps doué de raison. Colonialism is not a thinking machine, is not a body endowed with reason. Frantz Fanon Should antistatists and anti-nationalists in the ...

posted 7:00:55pm Jun. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Is "Internet" spelled with a capital "I"?
La première maxime de votre politique doit être qu’on conduit le peuple par la raison, et les ennemis du peuple par la terreur The first maxim of your policy ought to be to lead the people by reason and the people's enemies by ...

posted 11:00:38pm Jun. 20, 2015 | read full post »

My work at Press TV: the end?
Il vaut mieux hasarder de sauver un coupable que de condamner un innocent. It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one. Voltaire To terminate any potential speculation about my reasons for no longer ...

posted 7:00:50pm Jun. 20, 2015 | read full post »

To master the Internet, to master nothing
Il n'appartient, qu'aux tyrans d'être toujours en crainte. None but tyrants have any business to be afraid. Hardouin de Péréfixe Has the US government managed to "master the Internet", their favorite way of referring to hoovering ...

posted 11:00:40pm Jun. 14, 2015 | read full post »

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