An Avalanche of Scholarship – Flood tide at the Augean Stables, more on the dialectic of “culture counts” and the revolution in civil polity in medieval Europe


A torrent of scholarship cleanses the Augean Stables [The Twelve Labors of Hercules, 1808, colorized by Atani]

Turn your back for one moment and you find yourself three or four posts behind the power curve.

It seems in the last week since my previous post,  Landes, Landes, Taleb and MemeMerchants, that there has been an avalanche of scholarship over at TheAugeanStables.  My previous post noted the recent congruencies between this blog and Prof. Richard Landes and his blog TheAugeanStables, regarding some ideas about the dialectic of “cultural capital” and “societies that make things vs societies that take things”, the current bit torrent over at TheAugeanStables greatly expands the previous enterprise into interesting and new dimensions about the origin of civil polity in the West.

Two days ago I noticed that Prof. Richard Landes had posted a second in a series of articles at his blog, regarding the fallout from the recent “culture counts” controversy surrounding US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney over remarks he made during a recent visit to Israel, for which he received wide spread criticism, especially from Palestinians who felt slighted by Mr. Romney’s remarks.

Yesterday I posted a comment there and then set to working that idea up into a new post here.  As I was getting set to post that article here, I noticed that I had in missed the real second article in the series over at Landes’ blog and I had actually read article number three, and that as I was typing he had posted two new articles.

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Landes, Landes, Taleb and the Meme Merchants Consortium – congruence on the culture of generativity vs the culture of piracy


There has been an interesting congruence this week between the workings of the Meme Merchants Consortium and Richard Landes’s, blog the Augean Stables, which has been cited here before on several occasions, most recently: Poison in the Well of Culture.  Landes’s latest article, Romney Cites Landes, Offends Palestinians is a discussion of the recent controversy surrounding US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s suggestion that key differences in Palestinian and Israeli culture are responsible for the stark divide between the two societies economic productivity.

In reading Landes’s article I was struck by the congruence between our separate conclusions about two ostensibly different societies, in Landes’s case the Palestinians of the 21st century, and in the Meme Merchants case the Barbary Corsairs of the 16th to 19th centuries.  Landes concludes [emphasis mine]:

On the other hand, Arab political culture, amply embodied by the Palestinian variety, promotes a cultue of  contempt for hard work by leisured elites, widespread commitment to zero-sum games of dominance, an distrust of intellectual openness and external influences, a strong emphasis on rote learning and respecting those older and more powerful, hostility to women in the public sphere, ubiquitous protection rackets (e.g., Arafat the PA), a violent repression of public criticism… in a phrase, a culture dedicated to taking, not making.

I reached a similar conclusion in my article, Hostis Humani Generis – reflections on the enemies of mankind… over the weekend, that pirate culture is a kind of kleptoparasitism and that a key distinguishing characteristic pirate society and civil society is that, “…it produces nothing.”

I found the congruence of the timing and analyses of our two articles interesting.

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Poison in the Well of Culture-slightly off topic reflection on Collective Guilt


The Fifth Labor of Heracles, cleansing the Augean Stables – [The Twelve Labors of Hercules, 1808, colorized by Atani]

I’m a little OT today.

Richard Landes, who is a professor of history, particularly millennialism, at Boston University wrote recently at his blog The Augean Stables on the phenomenon of lethal narratives in the reporting of the conflicts between Israel and her neighbors, particularly the Palestinians in a post Poison in the Middle East Conflict.  Richard seems to have been touched off in this case by two cartoons by Chappatte, which you can find at the top of his post or at Chappette’s website.

Landes, in my opinion, though his research and scholarship are impeccable, can be a little touchy about these sorts of things, understandably being a Jew, and deeply concerned about how Jews, Jewishness and Israel are portrayed in the media [meaning often neither fairly nor accurately].  Personally I found the first cartoon which referenced the [absurd] allegation that Yasser Arafat was poisoned with Polonium by Israel [“we have found traces of poison… in the Israeli Palastinian relationship”] ironic, but not particularly lethal.  The second cartoon, which referenced the talks between Hamas and Fatah, I found a bit of an eye-roller, neither funny, nor instructive in any way.  I didn’t find either of them particularly malicious, though Landes took some umbrage at Chappette over them.

Landes proceeds to elaborate on the nature of lethal narratives within the context of the Israel Palestinian conflict, most notably the Al Durah Affair, one of the seminal events of the Second [Al Aqsa] Intifada.  Landes has made a formal investigation of the circumstances of the September 30, 2000 death of Muhammed Al Durah and subsequent media depictions which he describes as, “The first blood libel of the 21st century,” at his more scholarly website The Second Draft.  Which, by the way, if you think you know anything about what happened during the Second Infitada, have never heard the term Pallywood, or accept at face value anything coming out of the main stream news media from that part of the world you need to check out The Second Draft.

On any other day I would have followed the topic more closely as Landes continued [my bold].

The most powerful lethal narrative, the Muhammad al Durah story, was a nuclear bomb of cognitive warfare. It aroused Muslims throughout the world; it filled Israelis with horror and sapped their ability to defend themselves against accusations; and it thrilled various groups, primarily Europeans and Leftists, who saw it as a “get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free” card, which freed them from any commitment to be fair to Israel.

However, the “’get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free’ card” bit nearly tipped me out of my chair laughing.  I commented:

I absolutely loved your, “’get-out-of-holocaust-guilt-free’ card…” comment – I would pay for the copyright to that one – and so true.

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Liberal Cognative Egocentrism on The Augean Stables – A day late again


Hussam Abdu at the Hawara checkpoint March 24, 2004

Richard Landesover at the Augean Stables, who is my go-to-guy for all issues millenarian, Israeli/Palestinian media bias, and such hip new nomenclature as “liberal cognitive egocentrism” and “demopathy”.  Richard had a post up Oct 31st  [yes I’m that far behind the power curve]  entitled LCE and the Arab-Israeli conflict: Arab mothers are just like everyone.  I’m going to use this as a way to broach the subject of Cognitive Egocentrism here at Meme Merchants.

In an article in Ha-Aretz, where he [Paul Halsall] argues a stylish pomo-poco case that the prisoner exchange reveals Israel’s racism, Alon Idan makes a number of statements that reveal the counter-empirical assertions that necessarily underly his argument:

Yet behind this feeling of superiority [at how much Israelis value life more than Palestinians] lurked a murky, inverted truth. The fact is, the release of one Israeli soldier for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners is not normal; certainly it does not represent an inferior love felt by a Palestinian mother for her son compared to an Israeli mother…. This equation derives from the way we, not Hamas, view reality: 1,027 Palestinians are worth one Jewish life not because the Palestinians minimize the importance of their own lives, but because we diminish the value of their lives.

Certainly. I remember hearing the same from Ted Koppel at the outbreak of the intifada. Hosting a program in which he had to have the Israelis separated from the Palestinians – on the insistence of the Palestinians – he responded to one Israeli claiming that the Palestinians wanted war: “I don’t believe that for a minute. A Palestinian mother cares about her children every bit as much as an Israeli mother.”

It was indeed these dogmatic kinds of politically correct statements that led me to formulate the expression “liberal cognitive egocentrism.” This kind of thinking, which Edward Saïd insisted we – not the Arabs – adopt, is a major element in the cognitive war that Islam wages against us, and creates an extensive epistemological confusion in which we cannot identify the problems or analyze how to resolve them. The editors of the NYT, and their major columnists like Friedman, Kristof, and Cohen, all participate in this liberal, PC dogma, and accordingly, find themselves constantly ignoring reality and coming up with ludicrous solutions. (As Pierre Taguieff pointed out long ago, when all the fishes swim in the same direction it’s because they’re dead.”)

This is a pretty difficult thread in that Richard is taking a position that there may be some real differences between Palestinian culture and modern society, at least presently, that are tangible even in such sacrosanct institutions as motherhood that need to be faithfully and accurately analyzed, especially in terms of what he refers to as Cognitive Egocentrism and how that reflects in the Western media and society.

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