What I want to suggest to you, though, in the next couple of minutesis that there’s also a hopeful response to this.And the hopeful response derives from recognizingthat Islam and democracy are technologies.And by virtue of being technologies, they’re manipulable.And they’re manipulable in waysthat can produce some extremely positive outcomes.What do I have in mind?Well, all over the Muslim world there are peoplewho take Islam deeply seriously, people who care about Islam,for whom it’s a source either of faith, or of civilization, or of deep values,or just a source of powerful personal identity,who think and are saying loudly that Islam and democracyare in fact not in conflict, but are in fact deeply compatible.
And these Muslims — and it’s the vast majority of Muslims —disagree profoundly with bin Laden’s approach, profoundly.And they furthermore think overwhelmingly —again one can’t speak of every person, but overwhelmingly,and one can find this by reading any of the sourcesthat they have produced, and they’re all over the Internetand in all sorts of languages — one can see that they’re sayingthat their concern in their own countries is primarily to free up themselvesto have choice in the spheres of personal life,in the sphere of economics, in the sphere of politics,and, yes, in the sphere of religion,which is itself closely regulated in most of the Muslim world.
noah feldman gave this TEDx talk in 2003! so prescient
But the dogged persistence of certain American shibboleths has always struck me as somewhat curious.
What are these shared convictions? I could go on all day, but here, for argument’s sake, are ten. Not all Americans subscribe to them, of course. In some instances, the true believers may amount to a small but vocal minority. Still, the popular sentiment underlying these statements is so strong that politicians defy it at their peril.
1. Gun laws and gun deaths are unconnected.
2. Private enterprise is good; public enterprise is bad.
3. God created America and gave it a special purpose.
4. Our health-care system is the best there is.
5. The Founding Fathers were saintly figures who established liberty and democracy for everyone.
6. America is the greatest country in the world.
7. Tax rates are too high.
8. America is a peace-loving nation: the reason it gets involved in so many wars is that foreigners keep attacking us.
9. Cheap energy, gasoline especially, is our birthright.
To be writing these words is, for me, to undergo the severest test of my core belief - that sentences can be more powerful than pictures. A writer can hope to do what a photographer cannot: convey how things smelled and sounded as well as how things looked. I seriously doubt my ability to perform this task on this occasion. Unless you see the landscape of ecocide, or meet the eyes of its victims, you will quite simply have no idea.
My stated excuse for sneaking away from Mormonism was skepticism about its doctrines, but I’d learned that most Mormons don’t grasp all the teachings of Joseph Smith—nor do they credit all the ones they do grasp. After the bus trip to Eden, holy Missouri never came up again in conversation. As for the future temple in Independence, I found out that the spot where Smith said it would rise belonged to a Mormon splinter sect with a U.S. membership of about 1,000. The “sacred underwear”? It was underwear. Everyone wears it, so why not make it sacred? Why not make everything sacred? It is, in some ways. And most sacred of all are people, not wondrous stories, whose job is to help people feel their sacredness. Sometimes the stories don’t work, or they stop working. Forget about them; find others. Revise. Refocus. A church is the people in it, and their errors. The errors they make while striving to get things right.
I’d forgotten that social life could be so easy. I’d forgotten that things most Americans do alone, ordinary things, like watching television or listening to music or sweeping a floor, could also be done in numbers, pleasantly. One night, I sat on the floor next to a kid, muscled and tall, rectangularly handsome, who turned out to be a quarterback for UCLA. I learned this from Kim; he’d never bothered to mention it. Too absorbed in the goofy talent show, too busy barbecuing chicken breasts or squirting Hershey’s Syrup on bowls of ice cream, assembly-line style, while someone else stuck spoons in them. At Beverly Zion, that’s how it worked: pitch in, help out, cooperate, cooperate. Divide the labor, pool the fruits.
The Art of the Profile with David Remnick of ‘The New Yorker’
David Remnick writes for fun. That might seem an odd sentiment coming from the editor in chief of The New Yorker, a magazine known for an eminent tradition of literary and journalistic gravitas. But his kind of “fun” shouldn’t be misread as trivial. What Remnick considers fun to write are the signature New Yorker profile pieces, which involve weeks or months of rigorous research and legwork for the writer (running to many thousands of published words). On the occasion of Remnick’s comprehensive profile of Bruce Springtseen in the new issue, we picked his brain about the art of the modern profile and how the form originated and evolved at The New Yorker.
The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage…
…In an interview at a Washington coffee shop near his State Department office, Amanullah explains that online extremists have “an energy, they’ve got a vitality that frankly attracts some of these at-risk people,” Amanullah says. “It appeals to macho, it appeals to people’s rebellious nature, it appeals to people who feel downtrodden.” Creating a comparable passion on the other side is difficult. But it’s easier if the average online would-be jihadi has his mystique challenged through the trial by fire that is online ridicule…
…But all that is several steps ahead of Viral Peace at the moment. Viral Peace doesn’t have a strategy yet. And to hear Amanullah and his colleagues tell it, the State Department won’t be the ones who come up with one. It’s better, they argue, to let Muslims in various foreign countries figure out which message boards to troll and how to properly troll them. Americans won’t know, say, the Tagalog-language Internet better than Filipinos; and as outsiders, they won’t have the credibility necessary to actually make an impact. The best the State Department can do is train good trolls — which Amanullah began to do this spring.
somewhat relevant: this morning i was just thinking the two things i’m most eager to learn atm are arabic and programming. making progress on the first, will start asap on the second. if i had 4 more years of princeton (if only!) i’d be a COS major with an NES certificate. of course coding at pton is no joke, but i’m sure my asian kumon math girl buried deep inside would muster up enough gusto to handle it..
Today, the world is like a cocktail party at which everybody is suffering from indigestion or some other internal ailment. People are interacting with each other, but they’re mostly focused on the godawful stuff going on inside. Europe has the euro mess. The Middle East has the Arab Spring. The U.S. has the economic stagnation and the debt. The Chinese have their perpetual growth and stability issues.
It’s not multi-polarity; it’s multi-problemarity. As a result, this is more of an age of anxiety than of straight-up conflict.