Article 43


Wednesday, May 08, 2024

The Awakening Part 22 - New Radicals

image: weather underground
The Weather Underground is a 2002 documentary film based on the rise and fall of the American radical organization Weather Underground. Using much archive footage from the time as well as interviews with the Weathermen each at their current state, the film constructs a linear narrative of the organization and serves as a cautionary tale for current volatile times. The film, directed by Sam Green and Bill Siegel, won the audience choice award at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and went on to be nominated for an Academy Award in 2004.
- The Weather Underground Documentary, 2002
Middle Eastern opposition to the West is far from being a phenomenon invented by Osama bin Laden, or the Taliban, or for that matter Iran, Iraq or the Palestinians. It has grown consistently since the beginning of the 19th Century as an effective oppositional force both to the West and to local secular rulers… The Western nations have committed a litany of crimes against the Muslim world according to the Islamic opposition… All of this meddling only confirms the century-old assertion that the West was out to rob the people of the Middle East of their prerogatives and patrimony.
- Why Middle Eastern Terrorists Hate the United States, William O. Beeman, 2001
“People of America, you wake up today to a different world. One of your own nuclear weapons has been used against you. It will be days and weeks before you can measure the damage we have caused. But as you count your dead, remember why this has happened to you. You have no knowledge for the causes of the people you strike down or the nations you conquer. You choose to meddle in their affairs, without respect. You follow your government, unquestioningly, toward your own slaughter. Today, you pay the price for that ignorance. ... Unless you renounce your policies of imperialism and interventionist activities, this attack will be followed by another… and another after that.”
- 24, S04E19, Marwan
With an occupying army waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with military bases and corporate bullying in every part of the world, there is hardly a question any more of the existence of an AMERICAN EMPIRE.
The word “imperialism” now seemed a fitting one for U.S. actions. Indeed, that long, cruel war - treated quickly and superficially in the history books - gave rise to an Anti-Imperialist League, in which William James and Mark Twain were leading figures.
- Empire Or Humanity, Howard Zinn, April, 2008
Obama won the Democratic presidential nomination by presenting himself as the more consistent antiwar candidate, and the Democratic ticket in public pledges to end the war in Iraq and adopt a less militaristic stance. But behind closed doors, before select audiences of the financial and political elite, Biden has given a glimpse of the real perspective of the Democratic wing of American imperialism.
- Marvel At The Beast Part 3, 2008
Virtually every seized power justified over the last decade in the name of “terrorism” has been applied to a wide range of domestic dissent. The most significant civil liberties trend of the last decade, in my view, is the importation of “War on Terror” tactics onto US soil, applied to US citizens - from the sprawling Surveillance State and powers of indefinite detention to the para-militarization of domestic police forces and the rapidly emerging fleet of drones now being deployed in countless ways. As I’ve ARGUED PREVIOUSLY, the true purpose of this endless expansion of state power in the name of “terrorism” is control over anticipated domestic protest and unrest.
- Why Do They Hate Us, Glenn Greenwald, 2012
“The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naive and usually idiotic.  He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched.  He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.”
- H.L. Mencken
There are many shameful periods in American history. The genocide we carried out against indigenous peoples’ Slavery. The violent suppression of the labor movement that saw hundreds of workers killed. Lynching. Jim and Jane Crow. Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Libya… The genocide in Gaza, which we fund and support, is of such monstrous proportions that it will achieve a prominent place in this pantheon of crimes… History will not be kind to most of us. But it will bless and REVERE THESE STUDENTS.
- Revolt In The Universities, April 2024


What does it take to RADICALIZE someone?

In the 70s it was the Vietnam war and CIVIL RIGHTS. A DOCUMENTARY of the activists of the time - who may have been fighting the establishment for good reasons - but crossed a moral line when they turned militant, BUILT BOMBS, blew up public buildings, and hurt innocents is “The Weather Underground”.

The Counterterrorism website WRITES:

The Weather Underground was a radical, militant organization founded in 1969 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Emerging from opposition to the Vietnam War, the Weather Underground adhered to a communist and anti-war ideology, targeting what it saw as symbols of U.S. military power, authoritarianism, and racism. The Weather Underground was responsible for multiple bombings in the 1970s targeting police, military, government offices, and other symbols of authority.

The Weather Underground took a more violent approach than SDS as it sought to “dismember and dispose of US imperialism.” According to some who were present at that December 1969 meeting, there were discussions on the Weathermen’s tactics and willingness to kill in the name of the goals of targeting the U.S. war machine. Police and military became legitimate targets.

I can understand these people because they remind me of suicide bombers from other countries who give their lives in acts of selflessness against AMERICAN IMPERIALISM.  They HATE US for taking over their countries.

If only we had people as deeply COMMITTED TO A CAUSE here - LIKE ENDING POVERTY today.

After the 70s ended we learned violence doesn’t work.  After the peaceful protests of OCCUPY WALL STREET fizzled out, we learned pacifism don’t work either.

John Lennon said “Give peace a chance.” Good luck with that.  The MONSTERS in charge have too much LUST FOR CONQUEST AND POWER and not nearly enough love or compassion to CONSIDER ENDING POVERTY or working towards world peace.

A GENERAL STRIKE of everybody, everywhere may be just what we need. UAW leader SHAWN FEIN has an idea for all union contracts at all companies to end on the same day.  Imagine going global with an idea like that.

Governments will try to scare us talking about FOOD and gas shortages, economic collapse, and the moon falling out of its orbit, and order people back to work, or put them in jail.  But I’m confident we’ll FIND A WAY to help each other and get food and water to everyone else. 

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE may work, and there may not be much bloodshed if police and military WISE UP and join the rest of us.  It’s their world too.

If not, another round of hardcore activists, born from white middle-class antiwar student protesters may be in the making.

This guy may have HAVE SOME INSIGHT of what makes a terrorist:

Toynbee distinguished between “internal proletariats” what we might call the underclass - and “external proletariats,” by which he meant culturally less sophisticated military rivals.

It is a curious process. When a society is robust and self-confident, Toynbee suggested, the influence travels largely from the elites to the proletariats. The proletariats are “softened” (in Toynbees phrase) by their imitation of the manners and morals of a dominant elite.

But when a society begins to falter, the imitation proceeds largely in the opposite direction: the dominant elite is coarsened by its imitation of proletarian manners: Toynbee spoke in this context of a growing “sense of drift,” “truancy,” “promiscuity,” and “general vulgarization” of manners, morals, and the arts. The elites, instead of holding fast to their own standards, suddenly begin to “go native and adopt the dress, attitudes, and behavior of the lower classes.”

External proletariats are those living outside of the societal system that have become so alienated and disenfranchised from society that they become what we call terrorists. When society enters its decline phase, the number of external proletariats grow, as does their level of bitterness.

“The true hall-marks of the proletarian is neither poverty nor humble birth but a consciousness - and the resentment that this consciousness inspires - of being disinherited from his ancestral place in society.”

Today’s barbaric elites are ok with genocide in the middle east, like their predecessors were ok killing innocent Vietnamese in the 70s, that bred militant activists.

What the news is saying - and the PROPAGANDA government is spreading - about STUDENTS today isn’t true from what I see, but politicians and college leaders may be making them look violent to justify POLICE BRUTALITY.  These kids haven’t begun to get violent. But if they do morph into groups like the Black Panthers and Weather Underground - things may get a lot uglier. We don’t want the FBI assassinating another FRED HAMPTON, and we don’t want another 9/11.

The assassination of Fredrick Allen Hampton, better known as Fred Hampton, aimed to both kill a young prominent revolutionary of social change, while also aiming to kill the revolution itself. One could argue that Hampton was killed by the Cook County Chicago police, the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI), or William O’Neal, but the death of Hampton was the outcome of government corruption and prejudice.

Hampton’s death was also the outcome of his political associations, image, and efforts to assist the American people. The history of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s as well as the nature of race relations in the United States explain Fred Hampton’s involvement with the Black Panthers Party.

Hampton’s position as chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party (BPP), as well as his large presence in the media coverage of the BPP, underscore his political influence.

His death was meant to undermine a Civil Rights organization, while it also provided political or personal gain for the FBI informants, FBI agents, and police officers involved in Hampton’s killing. Hampton’s views and image may have also added a sense of revenge for certain individuals involved in his death. Finally, this assassination involved coercion, as documented in FBI memos, documentaries, and legal documents, specifically on the relationship between William O’Neal, the FBI, and the Black Panther Party.


 nypd confront student protesters may 7, 2024 

In Columbia University’s protests of 1968 and 2024, what’s similar - and different

By Bill Chappel
April 29, 2024

A takeover of Columbia University’s South Lawn by pro-Palestinian students last week is drawing comparisons to 1968 another time when police were called to clear protesting students from the campus.

There are parallels between the two high-profile events, most starkly the PROLIFERATION OF SIMILAR PROTESTS around the country, as students call for an end to the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

But there are also differences. Here’s a quick guide:

Several issues were at stake in 1968

For many Columbia students in 1968, their protest was motivated by anger over the Vietnam War - and changes to the military draft that were chipping away at students’ deferments, particularly in graduate schools.

The radical group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) also opposed Columbia’s links to the Institute for Defense Analyses - a think tank researching and analyzing weapons and strategies to use in Vietnam. They also wanted the CIA and military services barred from on-campus recruiting.

But others, especially the Society of Afro-American Students (SAS), were also upset that Columbia University was moving ahead with plans to take over part of a public park in Harlem, to build a gym that critics said would give only limited and second-class access to the local community.

“They were building it in Morningside Park, one of the few green spaces in Harlem,” former Columbia student and current SUNY law professor Eleanor Stein TOLD NPR’S MICHAEL MARTIN. “And we felt that it couldn’t be business as usual, that the university itself was engaging in an indefensible takeover of Harlem land and an indefensible participation and complicity with the Vietnam War effort.”

White and Black students coordinated a protest against the gym - and then hundreds of students moved from there to take over office and classroom buildings, enforcing a strike against the school.

The current president cited a “clear and present danger”

Pro-Palestinian students set up tents to hold a demonstration on campus on the same day that Columbia University President Minouche Shafik TESTIFIED IN CONGRESS about reports of antisemitism on Columbia’s campus - a session that school newspaper the COLUMBIA SPECTATOR followed with live coverage.

Her testimony followed months of DEBATE AND ARGUMENT OVER FREE SPEECH on campus. The school’s response to antisemitism is the subject of an investigation by the House Education Committee.

One day after the campus protesters took up their position on the South Lawn, Shafik asked police to remove them.

“I have determined that the encampment and related disruptions pose a clear and present danger to the substantial functioning of the University,” Shafik SAID LAST WEEK, asking the New York Police Department to remove protesters one day after.

“All University students participating in the encampment have been informed they are suspended. At this time, the participants in the encampment are not authorized to be on University property and are trespassing,” Shafik said.

“With great regret, we request the NYPD’s help to remove these individuals.”

When the police were called onto campus in 1968, officers were blamed for violently arresting hundreds of students, using nightsticks and horses in a chaotic scene.

In contrast police and city officials SAID LAST WEEK that the removal of the demonstrators from Columbia’s campus was peaceful, and no injuries were reported.

But after the wave of arrests, many students returned to the campus, setting up tents once again.

The 1968 protest occupied 5 buildings and included a hostage

Reporters for Columbia’s college radio station WKCR (including LONGTIME NPR HOST Robert Siegel), were present when Henry Coleman, acting dean of Columbia College, sought to confirm his status as he stood among a crowd of students in the lobby of Hamilton Hall.

“Am I to understand then, that I am not allowed to leave this building?” Coleman asked, IN AN ARCHIVAL RECORDING.

“Let me ask,” a male student replies. He then yells, “Is he to understand that he’s not going to leave this building?”

“Yes!” the crowd roars in response.

Why did the university delay calling police in 1968?

Part of the reason seems to be race.

The morning after students occupied Hamilton Hall, Black students aligned with SAS asked white students led by the SDS to leave.

“SAS leaders later explained that the spontaneous, participatory, and less-defined politics of SDS-led white students interfered” with the Black students’ goals that centered on racial justice and equity, ACCORDING TO AN ONLINE HISTORY EXHIBIT assembled by the Columbia’s library system.

Conditions inside Hamilton Hall were calm and quiet compared to the “boisterous” atmosphere elsewhere, the exhibit states. But university leaders viewed the Black-held hall as a powder keg - fearing that if police were called in against the students there, Harlem’s Black community would mount a violent reaction.

“In fact, when the police entered barricaded Hamilton Hall in the early hours of April 30, the occupying students avoided struggles with the police, calmly marched out the main entrance of the building to the police vans waiting on College Walk,” according to the library’s online exhibit.

What is the legacy of the 1968 campus protest?

“Although the war in Vietnam continued for seven more years, the protesters were, in many ways, successful,” WROTE HISTORIAN ROSALIND ROSENBERG of Columbia-affiliated Barnard College. “They persuaded Columbia to put an end to classified war research, cancel construction of the Morningside Park gym, ask ROTC to leave, and stop military and CIA recruitment.”

But some divisions emerged among the students: Black protesters asked their white counterparts to leave a building due to their different approach and focus, for instance. And women who were part of both groups cited their DISILLUSIONMENT WITH BEING LEFT OUT OF POSITIONS OF POWER, spurring their embrace of the FEMINIST movement.



9/11: Why suicide bombers blow themselves up

The Conversation
September 8, 2011

Ten years ago, nineteen young Muslims commandeered passenger jets and killed themselves, taking with them 2973 people to the inferno of fire. Since the 9/11 attacks, suicide bombings have become a staple of daily news.

A commonly accepted narrative frames these attacks as a modern phenomenon of self-destruction perpetrated by psychologically impaired, morally deficient, uneducated, improvised individuals and, most of all, religious fanatics.

But the analysis of information based on 1597 suicide attacks between 1981 and 2008 which killed over 21,000 people in 34 countries undermines this common perception that the psychopathology of suicide bombers and their religious beliefs are the principle causes.

Ten years ago, nineteen young Muslims commandeered passenger jets and killed themselves, taking with them 2973 people to the inferno of fire. Since the 9/11 attacks, suicide bombings have become a staple of daily news.

A commonly accepted narrative frames these attacks as a modern phenomenon of self-destruction perpetrated by psychologically impaired, morally deficient, uneducated, improvised individuals and, most of all, religious fanatics.

But the analysis of information based on 1597 suicide attacks between 1981 and 2008 which killed over 21,000 people in 34 countries undermines this common perception that the psychopathology of suicide bombers and their religious beliefs are the principle causes.

The findings published in my book Life as a Weapon present a detailed analysis of suicide bombings as a method of choice among terrorist groups around the world and the motivations.

Surprisingly, altruism emerges as major factor in the complex set of causes behind the suicide attacks.

In its most fundamental character altruism, following the seminal studies of economist Ernest Fehr and his colleagues, can be defined as being costly actions that confer benefits on other individuals.

Altruism is a fundamental condition accounting for human co-operation for organisation of society and its cohesiveness.

In the conceptual map of French sociologist Emile Durkheim, suicide bombings would fall in the category of altruistic suicidal actions.

These are distinct from other types of suicidal actions caused by personal catastrophes and feelings of hopelessness which lead people to believe that life is not worth living.

On the other hand, altruistic suicides involve, believing ones life is less worthy than the group’s honour, religion, or some other collective interests.

The genesis of suicide bombings is rooted in intractable asymmetrical conflicts over political entitlements, territorial occupation and dispossession between the state and non-state actors.

Invariably such conflicts instigate state sanctioned violence and repressive policies against the weaker non-state party or parties causing widespread outrage and large scale dislocation of people, many of whom become refugees in makeshift camps in or outside the ғwar zones.

Carolyn Nordstrom captures the mood in Sri Lanka during the recently ended civil war:

“In the war zones, violence and war permeated all aspect of daily life. It was not certain a person going for work would return in the evening. A home could be suddenly searched, someone brutally killed, a mother raped or father taken away. A shell could land anywhere destroying everything around… This kind of pervasive atmosphere of violence, rather than breaking down the resistance and spirit of population, in times creates resistance and defiance, particular in the youthԔ. Other contributing factors include incarceration and dehumanising treatments of insurgents in state custody and mutual demonisation of the “other”.

Suicide bombing, rarely the strategy of first choice, is selected by terrorist organisations after collective assessments, based on observations and experience, of relative effectiveness of different strategies to achieve their political goals.

The decision to participate in a suicide bombing is facilitated by the bombers internalised social identities, their exposure to asymmetric conflict and its costs, their exposure to the organisations that sponsor such attacks as well as membership in a larger community where sacrifice and martyrdom carry high symbolic significance.

In Sri Lanka, the BLACK TIGERS wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) attached importance to how the community would view their actions.

They were glorified in their burial rituals, and an eternal lamp adorned the tombstone of every Black Tiger grave to commemorate the sacrifice.

From sociological and economic perspectives suicide bombings can be linked to altruism as a form of intergenerational investment or an extreme form of saving in which the agent gives up current consumption for the sake of enhancing the probability of their descendants enjoying the benefit of the future public good.

Analysis of Hezbollah suicide bombers shows that incidents of suicide bombing attacks increase with current income and with the degree of altruism towards the next generation.

Hezbollah suicide bombers come from above-average wealthy families, and have an above average level of education. The willingness of more educated people to engage in suicide missions suggests that education affects deeply oneҒs view of the world, enhancing sensitivity to the future.

Altruism is also not antithetical to aggression. In war soldiers perform altruistic actions by risking their lives for their comrades and country and also killing the enemy.

The actions of KAMIKAZE PILOTS in World War II are examples of military sacrifice.

Altruism can also be socially constructed in communities which have endured massive social and economic dislocations as a result of long, violent and painful conflict with a more powerful enemy.

Under such conditions people react to perceived inferiority and the failure of other efforts by valuing and supporting ideals of self-sacrifice such as suicide bombing.

Religiously and nationalistically coded attitudes towards acceptance of death stemming from long periods of collective suffering, humiliation and powerlessness enable political organisations to give people suicide bombing as an outlet for their feelings of desperation, deprivation, hostility and injustice.

Suicide bombings invariably provoke a brutal response from the state authorities, because by injecting fear and mayhem into the ordinary rhythms of daily life, they threaten and undermine the state’s authority in providing security of life and property and in maintaining social order.

Under such conditions the state can legitimately impose altruistic punishments to deter future violation threatening security and social order. These include punishments meted out to the perpetrators and their supporters. The state-sanctioned military actions against the Palestinians, Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, Iraqi insurgents and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan are examples of these punishments.

But altruistic punishments are only effective when they do not violate the norms of fairness. Punishments and sanctions seen as unfair, hostile, selfish and vindictive by targeted groups tend to have detrimental effects and instead of promoting compliance they reinforce recipients’ resolve to non-compliance.

Counter-insurgency operations are aimed at increasing the cost of insurgency to the insurgents. They invariably involve eliminating leaders and supporters who plan suicide bombings and destroying insurgents’ capabilities for mounting future attacks, restrictions on mobility, security checks and other violations of civil liberties.

But there is mounting evidence that such harsh measures reinforce radical opposition and even intensify it. This is now happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. It has also been the case in Sri Lanka and Iraq and other conflict sites.



In defence of our new student radicals
The Columbia protestors are better equipped than their forebears

By Terry Eagleton
May 8, 2024

Back in the Sixties, it was easy enough for conservatives to take pot shots at radical students. Not only were they out to subvert the state, but their lifestyle seemed calculated to transgress all standards of decency. They were long-haired layabouts who prated of revolution while too smashed on dope to erect a tent pole, let alone a barricade. Freedom came down to free love, while staying in bed for a week wearing nothing but a headband was a critique of the bourgeois fetish of work. You could enrage the Establishment by doing absolutely nothing. Instead of contesting this or that middle-class value, you could negate the whole repressive set-up simply by dropping out. Passivity became a form of activism. Peace meant bone idleness. Utopia lay not in the distant future but in a spliff you were smoking right now.

Yet these laid-back types could also be political militants because their militancy lay in their laid-backness. For them, switching off and chilling out were quite as political as counting votes. What was at stake, as in many political crises, was the definition of politics itself. Did it begin and end at the ballot box, or did it include what you ate and the way you made love?

All of which is to say that the student revolt of the late-Sixties was aimed at cultural revolution, not simply political change. It was aware that genuine political transformation must be rooted in peoples lived experience, not just in their views on agriculture or foreign policy. Culture in the broad sense of customs, values and habits of feeling was the soil in which politics had to bed down. If bedding down in a different sense was so important, it was partly because sex was fun, but also because it belonged to the inner, personal sphere that any political change worthy of the name had to recreate.

In this, the hippies and yippies were taking their cue from the very middle classes they deplored, who had launched their own long cultural revolution in Europe a few centuries earlier. One of the finest achievements of this innovation in morals and manners was the realist novel, though even that rich resource pales in comparison with the mighty intellectual revolution we know as science. What was being transfigured was not only sense but sensibility, as the old aristocratic values of courtesy, hierarchy and lashing the odd peasant yielded ground to thrift, conscience, self-discipline, industriousness and marital fidelity. The Roundheads were gradually ousting the Cavaliers.

There aren’t many peace-and-love druggies among the students currently occupying their campuses. If they are clamouring for peace, it is for a ceasefire in Gaza right now, not for some future world which has transcended violence, and they have no delusions that an end to the slaughter will involve any kind of love-in. They are, in a word, more canny, pragmatic and less idealistic than their SixtiesҒ forebears, as well as more sceptical of the belief that getting stoned and having it off are the highroad to heaven. In this sense, they are like most other students today, except for sleeping in the cold and being beaten up by the police. Ever since the era of Thatcher and Reagan, students almost everywhere have become more cautious, self-interested and self-seeking, some of which can be attributed to the political times in general and some of it to changes in higher education in particular. Being hugely in debt, as almost all students are these days, inclines you to conservatism. It ties you to the status quo and makes you less likely to step out of line.

It’s therefore all the more impressive that in a bleak season for political radicals, dissent has broken out on a sizeable scale in those bastions of corporate capitalism and managerial gobbledygook which a few years ago were still dimly recognisable as universities. But though the demand for justice has slept, it isnt dead. In fact, of all human impulses it is one of the hardest to extinguish, however many police riots may try to crush it.

The students who are currently protesting against the massacre of the innocent in Gaza are essentially consumers. For eye-watering fees, they purchase a commodity known as education from institutions for which the value of learning has long since given way to the overriding criterion of value for money. As a former university professor, I used to take advantage of this monetisation of academia by offering students those of my insights into literary works which they could afford. For a mere fiver, for example, they could have one of my moderately interesting but hardly world-shaking comments on the character of Macbeth, while those who could afford to pay four or five times this amount would be treated to a stunningly original analysis of Wuthering Heights. I even ran a hire purchase scheme for those who couldnt pay for my critical remarks on the nail, allowing them to tip in a small amount each week or even to engage in a spot of barter, exchanging my ideas about Jane Austen for a chocolate cake or an Aran sweater.

Universities, in however privileged, aloof a fashion, were once centres of humane critique, subjecting the priorities of the social order to the test of long-accumulated wisdom and expertise; nowadays, they are almost as locked into the marketplace as Tesco, even if their product is rather less tangible. TodayҒs students are creatures of this system, and have known no alternative to it, apart from the protests around Iraq; the last large-scale political drama in which a good many British students took part was the miners strike of the early Eighties, now some 40 years behind us. Since then, the more politically minded among them have channelled their energies into either ecology or identity politics.

Even so, there are those among them who are reluctant to see their fees being used to prop up IsraelҒs war. There is, one should note, little or nothing in this for these students themselves. Altruism may not be politically fashionable, but for all the efforts of the rich it isnt quite extinct. If youҒre gay, disabled, a feminist or part of an ethnic minority, your political activity is largely in the service of others; but theres likely to be a personal dimension to it as well, which isnҒt so true of a white middle-class American who protests against the bombing of Palestinian hospitals.

There’s a danger, even so, of war in the Middle East becoming identity politics in New York and California, a danger to which some of the US pro-Palestinian protestors seem alert. In fact, there’s not much that postmodern America cant turn into a question of identity. A small minority of these dissenters are vile antisemites, so it becomes easy to pin this charge on the movement as a whole. It also becomes possible for some Jewish students to reframe whatҒs at stake in terms of Jewishness rather than the dismemberment of innocent civilians. Its known these days as controlling the narrative. If you canҒt morally defend Israels campaign of terror, then talk about something else such as your right to cross the street. Distraction and displacement are the order of the day. Crowds are redefined as mobs, while non-students who pitch in are branded as foreign agitators. Among some US politicians, the talk is not of starving children but of free speech and freedom of assembly. As American student activists are eager to point out, there’s a lot of discussion in the States about academic freedom at a time when universities in Gaza lie in ruins. Violence on the West Bank goes unmentioned, while violence at Columbia hits the headlines.

Meanwhile, the doublethink continues apace. Yes, the mass killing in Gaza is regrettable, but its the only way of rooting out Hamas. In violation of one of the most basic of all ethical principles, the end justifies the means. So, would annihilating a million Palestinians in order to exterminate the enemy be acceptable in principle? Yes, the Right-wing fanatics now running Israel are an embarrassment, but the Israeli state must be defended at all costs. Yes, champions of Palestine have the right to make their voices heard, but too many of them are pro-Hamas zealots in thin disguise, including the teachers and social workers who bring their children from Kennington and Walworth for marches in central London.

Traditionally, students bear the double burden of being both reviled and ridiculed. If they are smeared as social parasites, they are also mocked as idealists with their heads in the clouds. Yet the US student movement of the late Sixties was a power to be reckoned with in national politics, while its counterpart in France brought masses of working people out on the streets and almost unseated a government. Not bad going for a bunch of guys studying Plato or the pancreas.

About the author: Terry Eagleton is a critic, literary theorist, and UnHerd columnist.


Posted by Elvis on 05/08/24 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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