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Thread: Viral Extremism?

  1. #21
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    I think that frames a fair question - what creates our values and what changes them? We sometimes say that an issue requires leadership - we're really substituting leadership for attention in that sense. In truth a leader leads regardless of the issue. This should certainly be true of political leadership which impacts us on so many levels.

    We can't approach social apathy (Individualism ??) from a mono-causal relationship. It is correct to point out social deficiencies in America's youth, but I don't think its written in stone. However, if we can say that society changed one way (for the worse), then we should be able to say that unless there is some physical impediment, we should be able to say society can change again (for the better). What is needed is the will to do so. This is where leadership is critical. The ability for a leader to recognize the problem and the causes of the problem, and then lead in finding and applying a solution is what leadership is all about.

    We have a diverse population. We must find a way to invigorate our national identity and build strength in that amongst our pluralism so that there is a valid, attractive alternative to individualism taken too far. We must re-build inclusive groups at the local and national level. Right now we are probably too exclusive - look at how we constrain ourselves to specific groups, parties, views, etc - we even name TV shows to express it - "The View" - and when we get mad at the other person's view - we quit. We have taken our pursuit of individual freedoms to a point where we have difficulty building consensus. We don't need to strip those freedoms, but we do need to convince ourselves its OK to both value your freedom and compromise on issues that must be addressed to perpetuate a cohesive society that groups like AQ and other threats seek to undermine. We must convince ourselves that a cohesive, pluralistic society is a benefit and not a burden, that it requires participation to function, and that it will not mend itself - its not a self-healing server.

  2. #22
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    Default CNN Special

    Gentlemen,

    The CNN special has been played several times over the past few weeks, and its initial showing was during prime time (2000hrs, or 8:00PM), but unfortunately I think Joe and Jane public at large aren't interested in real news stories, but will spend hours watching news of Paris Hilton's adventure in court and jail. Even she was surprised.

    We talk about our youth being lost, but who the hell is guiding them? I think our adult population is just as lost. What type of example do we really set for our kids and the world at large? The media moguls are not young wayward kids, but greedy individuals with incredible power to shape popular opinion. The fact that the music media CEOs support select criminal rappers who endorse cop killing, girlfriend beating, killing folks who talk to the police, and drug use for the higher purpose of profit is telling. Wouldn't a responsible adult say not on my watch?

    If I lived in a society that still had values, such as many Muslim societies (regardless if we agree with them), and I saw the type of culture that the West was promoting, I would be worried that if left unchallenged the West would corrupt my society, and my sense of identity. We tend to focus on the good that democracy, freedom, and free markets bring, and conveniently ignore the ugly side of it, but our enemies do not ignore it, and we need to address it honestly in our message if we're going to have credibility.

    Of course the question is how do you get the media, which will remain the largest opinion shaper, to support more "Chicken Soup for the Soul" type entertainment where values are demonstrated? There is no profit in this, why watch the Waltons if I can turn the channel and watch 24, sports, Fox Entertainment, etc. We tend to bottom feed, and if bottom feed is available there will be a large market for it. Step one, we need to get off our high horse and face reality about ourselves, and express that we're all concerned about the loss of values (a point in common). This isn't a war, it is a social revolution, and in many ways we're feeding it with our talk of war. Muslims in England just don't opt to drive a car into an airport and set it on fire, then pour gasoline on themselves. The message of extremist is powerful, and we won't counter it with simple red, white, and blue slogans. We must take a hard and honest look in the mirror and try to see what our enemy sees when he looks at us. Winning the IO war is more than messages, but demonstrated behavior.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 07-02-2007 at 08:31 PM.

  3. #23
    Council Member Dominique R. Poirier's Avatar
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    Default The missing enemy.

    Rob,
    like you perhaps, I see a considerable difference in the public’s mood between the months following September 11 and today. American sense of unity against the threat faded substantially.
    For, no significant and particularly threatening and dramatic event, except some tornadoes, happened since the terrible event.
    While trying to put the layman’s shoes it is not that difficult, in my own opinion, to imagine how strange it may be for him to see the government so concerned with Iraq--a far away country that has no historical record of particular friendship with the United States--whereas things definitely calmed down at home since September 11 and since the U.S. forces raided Afghanistan and Iraq. In this sense, the government, or the President, if you prefer, brilliantly accomplished its/his mission. Then, why sending our sons to Iraq?

    The problem was nearly identical until 1940 when public opinion knew a rapid shift. Until the fall of Paris in May 1940, isolationism prevailed. Why sending our sons in Europe? In which way are we supposed to feel concerned? Still said the layman.

    Isolationists warned that Roosevelt would get the nation into an unnecessary war with Germany. The argument was full of good sense from the layman point of view, but Roosevelt had slowly begun re-armament in 1938, already, because he wasn’t a layman.
    As Roosevelt took a firmer stance against the Axis Powers, American isolationists attacked the President as an irresponsible warmonger. Doesn’t sound familiar?

    Roosevelt felt obliged to promise American housewives that he wouldn’t send their sons to war. The attack on Pearl Harbor turned the general mood upside down. Suddenly, America had an enemy and this changed everything.

    Well, I stop here and let talk Samuel Huntington who expresses my opinion better than I would do myself in Who Are We? America’s Great Debate, page 25.

    “To define themselves, people need an other. Do they also need an enemy? Some people clearly do. 'Oh, how wonderful it is to hate,' said Joseph Goebbels. 'Oh, what a relief to fight, enemies who defend themselves, enemies who are awake,' said André Malraux.
    These are extreme articulations of a generally more subdued but widespread human need, as acknowledged by two of the twentieth century greatest minds. Writing to Sigmund Freud in 1933, Albert Einstein argued that every attempt to eliminate war had 'ended in a lamentable breakdown…man has within him a lust for hatred and destruction.'
    Freud agreed: people are like animals, he wrote back, they solve problems through the use of force and only an all-powerful world state could prevent this from happening. Humans, Freud argued, have only two types of instinct, 'those which seek to preserve and unite…and those which seek to destroy and kill.' Both are essential and they operate in conjunction with each other. Hence, 'there is no use trying to get rid of men’s aggressive inclination."


    The end of the Soviet threat, in 1989, eliminated one powerful reason for giving preeminence to national identity and thus this event opened the way for people to find greater salience in other identities. Perhaps shall you think that it is sad to say that, but the existence of enmity engenders nationalism, unity, and a sense of personal involvement.

    American national identity and unity peaked politically with the rallying of Americans to their country and its cause in WWII. It peaked symbolically with President Kennedy’s 1961 famous summons: “Ask not what your country can do or you; ask what you can do or your country,” as you rightly underline it at some point.

    We, who are talking on SWJ are able to identify the threat and the enemy because we use to look toward the future with the mind of a warrior. We trained ourselves to smell the enemy from distance. We are quick to see things coming. We have even a special hermetic jargon to design what we see. We reason in terms of “patterns,” “trends,” “cognitive consistency,” “alert fatigue,” etc. The layman does not. It’s none of his business and we retreated with a feeling a frustration each time we attempted to enlighten him; to get him seeing what we see, in vain, always.

    Rob, your wife just doesn’t see any enemy because she is unable to see one, exactly as my wife doesn’t and is. I agree with you on nearly each and every of your points in your third post you titled Base Lines, but, I am afraid, without immediate danger, without clearly defined enemy any layman can perceive we are unlikely to strengthen the social fabric the way you expect it. The layman is unable to see the future and, particularly, this kind of future. So, our task is to find a striking present danger to show him.

    Georgi Arbatov, a brilliant Soviet strategist we can somehow compare to the counterpart of Henry Kissinger understood very well all this. It is he who made this well known threathening statement when the Cold War ended: “We are going to do something terrible to you: you will no longer have an enemy.”

    Though Arbatov was our enemy, he was right, indeed.
    Last edited by Dominique R. Poirier; 07-02-2007 at 09:51 PM.

  4. #24
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Dominique, is that Jean-Paul Sarte?

  5. #25
    Council Member Tacitus's Avatar
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    From where I sit, the mood is not so much public apathy or ignorance. It is a pervasive sense of cynicism. If I was to ask neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers what they thought about the current state of affairs I would hear the following:

    "It is just a matter of when, not if, until the next terrorists attack here. The government is incompetent and corrupt. They have no idea what these terrorists are up to. Raising these alert levels and those stupid questions they ask you at the airport… just bureaucrats trying to protect their backsides for the next time around and make you think they are doing something. "

    "These folks in the Middle East have been killing each other since Biblical times. That'll never change, no matter what we do. Putting our fighting men in between them is just stupid. We're losing good men, and nothing good is gonna come out of it. I don't trust any of those people over there, calling some factions our "friends" is just P.C. nonsense. Who do they think they are fooling?"

    "This whole thing is really just about oil. We wouldn't be doing all this over there if there wasn't oil involved. This democracy talk is just to give it a high-minded cover, when really it is about oil and money. Everybody knows what this is really all about."

    People are just really cynical about the actions of our own government. It is difficult to make some call for service and sacrifice when people think this way. Particularly when they don't see any bigshots in our political establishment or society sacrificing anything.

    After the 9/11 attacks, we had a unified public, which lasted through the Afghan war. That ended with this Iraq war. That was controversial before it was launched, and has only gotten more so as the insurgency heated up. Our government chose to risk that unity for the Iraqi democracy project, which they presumably thought would be quick and easy. Back to the old public cynicism.

    I wouldn't blame our younger folks for the current state of affairs. They aren't the ones who've been calling the shots. Something tells me that things are going to have to get worse in this war with these terrorists before we can turn this ship around. Just a gut feeling.
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  6. #26
    Council Member Dominique R. Poirier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Dominique, is that Jean-Paul Sarte?
    Slapout9,
    not exactly. It's rather relevant to behaviorism, although I missed to present things under this angle.

    In other words, and to reduce my point to the simplest equation: for want of immediate danger there is no action or “combat behavior,” which allows survival by facing and fighting threats.

    For inormation, combat behavior originates in the first one of our three brains Paul McLean calls the “R-Complex,” (aka “Reptilian Brain.”)
    The term "Reptilian brain" came from the fact that a reptile's brain is dominated by the brain stem and cerebellum which controls instinctive survival behavior and thinking. This is similar in humans. This Reptilian Brain controls muscles, balance and autonomic functions (i.e. breathing and heartbeat); also, it triggers immediate survival responses without which no animal can survive. Drinking and eating, by which it preserves its structure; and copulation, by which it reproduces. (The Triune Brain in Evolution: Role in Paleocerebral Functions, by P.D. MacLean, New York : Plenum Press, - Jan 31, 1990)

    However, you may be right at some point since Jean Paul Sartre, as human being, would react exactly the same way as, say, John Fitzgerald Kennedy would do when facing threat.
    Actually, political opinion is of no relevance here. It is just what Henry Laborit calls “alibi,” when we are reasoning at the physiological level (L’agressivité détournée : Introduction à une biologie du comportement social, 1970; and, La Nouvelle grille, 1974; and also, L’Éloge de la fuite, 1976, by P.D. Henry Laborit.)

    Thus language only serves to hide the cause of dominance, to mask the mechanism that established it and to convince the individual that, in working for the group, he is gratifying himself. But usually all he is doing is preserving hierarchical situations, which hide behind linguistic alibis, alibis furnished by language, as an excuse.

    Of the three brains, the first two (the Reptilian Brain and the “memory brain”) function unconsciously beneath our level of awareness and drives socially-conditioned reactions. The third, the neocortex (aka “cerebral cortex”), furnishes an explanatory language which provides reasons, excuses, alibis for the unconscious working of the first two. We can compare the unconscious to a deep sea, and what we call consciousness is the foam that appears sporadically on the crest of the waves. It is the most superficial part of the sea, buffeted by the wind.

    Now, you agree or disagree with my explaination, depending whether your set of beliefs is based upon a creationist or a darwinist perception of things. Mine is based upon darwinism. Subsequently, here, and here only, may lie your possible disagreement.
    Last edited by Dominique R. Poirier; 07-03-2007 at 08:28 AM.

  7. #27
    Registered User JGalt's Avatar
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    Default Cynicism

    Tacitus,
    On national (youth or otherwise) cynicism.

    When I look at the cynicism today, I seldom spot much conviction. I would not call it ‘cynicism’ without caveat; perhaps cynicism of convenience or cynic boredom (what is most easily available to rebel against with the least effort required). While I am not a professional student of human behavior, I believe “the battle” calls everyone; it is only the subject and flavor of it that differs individually. So, when the 17 year-old in Seattle picks up a placard with the president’s image amid swastikas, the factual nature of what exactly they are ‘protesting’ is almost secondary to their marching in some sort of cause. You often see late-night talk show comic openings of questions posed to these protesters; the joke being more often than not that they can’t answer the most cursory question about what they protest. The case above only morphs at older ages into more intricate, but no less fictitious causes. I believe in total, they are still not the majority.

    Then there are those who have seen, experienced, or have otherwise come to understand that facts matter and neither politics nor fashion (for some it is fashionable to be the neo-bohemian throw-back 60’s protestor) do not change facts. These people would no more bang a placard down main street than throw a tantrum in Walmart; and so the placard bangers and more outrageous of the older versions who shout, wave fists into cameras, and make outrageous statements for shock value get the most press, and are often times knowingly and disingenuously represented as reflective of the majority in our country.

    I still have confidence they are not the majority. I am fully aware you may easily construct a ‘poll’ to get the answers you seek (i.e. a question of “How long do you believe the surge should be given: 2 months, 3 months.. etc”, becomes a front page statement that “80% of Americans believe we should only give the surge months to succeed”). I do not believe I’m unrealistically optimistic in feeling the majority of the country do fully understand what we are up against, but are ill represented in the media and by government representatives. The aptly named “silent majority” exist.

    I do not buy that this country is in the horrible state of angst and self-loathing often portrayed by the media. The fix is in getting that grounded, sane majority (dem or rep.. doesn’t matter) to, frankly, overrule the minority who treasure red cockaded woodpeckers having undisturbed sex over national defense competence. How many would truly care if we subtracted 1/10,000th of the wilderness available to Polar Bears in exchange for less reliance on foreign oil? Politics is catering, and unless the grounded public majority begin to make it clear that they exist, the catering will default to the bohemian with the bad excuse for a goatee on the front page of the Washington Post.

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