Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Can you spell T-W-I-T?
Lil Jessica Stern of Harvard
DON'T BREAK THE CHAIN. What would we do without academic experts? We'd probably motor along somehow, but without nearly as many laughs per gallon. Thanks to HughHewitt.com, I discovered one of the more humorous MSM essays of the week, written by Jessica Stern of Harvard and characterized by blogger Dean Barnett as a "shockingly ignorant op-ed piece." Here's an excerpt:
The only way to understand how this phenomenon works is to hang out with Muslim youths and talk to them. I have done quite a bit of that in various parts of the world in Western cities, in Palestinian slums, and in Pakistani madrassas. And what I've learned is this: Jihad has become a global fad, rather like gangsta rap. It is a fad that feeds on images of dead children.
Most of the youth attracted to the jihadi idea would never become terrorists, just as few of the youths who listen to gangsta rap would commit the kinds of lurid crimes the lyrics would seem to promote. But among many Muslim youths, especially in Europe, jihad is a cool way of expressing dissatisfaction with a power elite whether that elite is real or imagined; whether power is held by totalitarian monarchs or by liberal parliamentarians. And we should not assume jihad is a Middle Eastern or European problem. The idea is spreading here in America as well.
Jihad has become a millenarian movement with mass appeal, similar, in many ways, to earlier global movements such as the anarchists of the 19th century or even the peace movement of the 1960s and '70s.
Where to begin? How about with Ms. Stern's resume, which includes plenty of educational and power elite credentials. For example, her C.V. says she "received a bachelor's degree from Barnard College in chemistry, a master's of science degree from MIT, and a doctorate in public policy from Harvard." She also served on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration, where she was "responsible for national security policy toward Russia and the former Soviet states and for policies to reduce the threat of nuclear smuggling and terrorism." She's a member of the Trilateral Commission too. And here's my favorite quote from her resume: "From 1998 to 1999, she was the superterrorism Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations..." Cool.
There's more but you get the picture. A policy wonk, yes, a cultural anthropologist, no. If I were seeking someone to go "hang out with Muslim youths and talk to them...in Western cities, in Palestinian slums, and in Pakistani madrassas," I probably wouldn't select a Barnard chemistry major who's spent most of her adult life "hanging out" with the National Security Council, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Trlilateral Commission.
Still, she claims to have done it and we have to take her at her word. How do you suppose she went about it? Did she slip into her little burkha and sashay over to the nearest male-only cell meeting of Hamas suicide-bombers-in-training to sound them out about their taste in music, jeans, sneakers, bling, Bentleys, and all the other habiliments of a pop culture "fad"? Did she carry her urdu phrase book into madrassas accompanied by Musharaff's secret police and somehow bond with pubescent Jew-haters? Or did she take tea in university common rooms with English-speaking students who were intensely aware they were in a position to send messages to the world of American academia? Just asking.
After all her in-depth discussions with muslim homeys, she consulted her encyclopedic knowledge of the gangsta rap culture and determined that jihadism is just another fashion craze, a trend in young people's entertainment of which most adults predictably would not approve.
Sound plausible to you? For myself, I'm having a hard time imagining that Ms. Stern has done much "hanging out" with gangsta rappers in the hood, either, and I'm thinking it's likely their "culture' would have remained impenetrable to her if she had.
In his analysis, Dean Barnett opines, "I'm not sure that you can describe something that's been around for 14 centuries as a fad. But if gangsta rap is still popular in the 35th century, I'll eat my words."
He's right that jihadism is no fad. But just as damaging for Ms. Stern's credibility is the fact that gangsta rap isn't a fad either. Both of these cultural manifestations are profound pathologies, and her failure to recognize this invalidates any and every observation she might offer. It's as if her extremely limited real world experience has actually caused her to relish her little rendezvous with jihadists, and like a little girl in the big city, she's become star-struck by the air of excitement and energy she's encountered.
Too much to assume? Consider this quote from an interview she gave for a Harvard website called Ask the Experts or some damn thing. She was asked to describe the relationshop between terrorist leaders and their followers. She said:
Some of the leaders I’ve met are extremely charismatic. I have found myself feeling slightly mesmerized, even when these charismatic leaders espouse views I find abhorrent. I can readily imagine that young men from difficult backgrounds might feel hypnotized in the presence of these leaders, especially if the leaders have taken them into their homes, armed compounds, or schools.
Ooh, the magnetic masculinity of a Zarqawi!? Think about it. A highly educated American female academic "mesmerized" by the worst examplars of a society that has been described, by someone who is competent to judge, in these terms:
(I)n a typical shame culture (i.e., Arab/Islamic culture) what other people believe has a far more powerful impact on behavior than even what the individual believes. The desire to preserve honor and avoid shame to the exclusion of all else is one of the primary foundations of the culture. This desire has several side-effects, including granting the individual carte blanche to (1)engage in wrong-doing as long as no-one knows about it, or knows he is involved; and (2) engage in any necessary behavior, including wrong-doing (i.e., murder, beheading, etc.) in order to avoid shame and/or recover honor...
One of the ways that those who fear shame protect their fragile self is to subjugate those who he perceives as weaker. By doing so, he can rationalize that he is superior to the subjugated individual. In fact, this is the only way he can maximize his honor. In Arab/Islamic culture, women are one of the primary instruments of achieving honor. Hence the bizarre and distorted attitude that the culture has toward women and the exaggerated means by which "honor" must be maintained. So strong is the cultural pressure, even women buy into the delusion.
To equate this kind of socially embedded, and religion-supported, sickness with a fashion or fad is the purest of delusions. And for a western woman to so deceive herself in the presence of "extremely charismatic" barbarians is actually quite frightening.
Let's hope she doesn't believe her own superficial perceptions so much that she ventures into the slums of L.A., New York, or even Boston to encounter the exciting gangsta fad in person. If she's tempted, I certainly hope she'll take a look at this before she does anything rash:
What happened to the Black community between the Harlem Renaissance and the advent of N.W.A? Part of what happened was the growth and development of an entire bureaucracy devoted to the ongoing victim status of the American Black. There is no question that on an individual basis many poor Black Americans became materially better off with the Great Society programs, but what they lost was so much more significant. Victims have no dignity and no agency; they are helpless and weak, like children. Worse, the toxic combination of anti-male radical feminism that began to seep into the culture along with the growth of the nanny state, had horrendous consequences for the poor Black community; their men were devalued (after all, they were seen as incapable of supporting a family without assistance) and unnecessary. Since a young woman could raise a child (financially) without any input from "her baby's father" (in a locution that has become all too popular), the father's importance in the life of the child was diminished. Boys growing up without fathers have no fully human, three dimensional, role models for becoming men; as a result they have adopted a caricature of manhood which depends on demanding and coercing "respect". The results, stuck at the level of a Shame Culture, have been all too apparent in the destruction of the poor Black family.
Perhaps here, after all, we can see the reason for Ms. Stern's astonishing dim-wittedness (even if she can't). Rapper misogyny has evolved to resemble Islamic misogyny from the exact opposite direction -- from the cultural castration of males as opposed to the cultural priapism of males created by a religion that has always used women as appliances. Here, two different kinds of diseases meet and reflect one another, and they may do do so for some time, because there is no quick or easy way out of such an annihilating value system.
But Ms. Stern believes there must be a temporal limit to misogynistic jihadism precisely because she believes that the liberal policies which have re-enslaved black men are really going to work somehow in the long run. That affirmative action and the political correctness which refuses to identify a gangsta rapper as an animalistic thug will eventually lead to a happy result. So why shouldn't she believe the same about Islamic fascism? If we can only make sufficient reparations for their avowed grievances and treat them politely enough, they will outgrow the "fad" of beheading their enemies, employing women and babies as shields for their own murderous gangs, and binding their womenfolk in perpetuity like mummified stillborns. We just have to be smart enough to understand and tolerate their ways in the interim.
If Ms. Stern has close friends and family who care about her, my final words are to them. Don't let her go alone into any place where she can bask in the glow of the jihadist OR gangsta rap fads. She'll get hurt or killed. The women who choose to accommodate them are their most natural victims. Just ask Lil Kim.