Turn of the century anarchists and al-Qaeda?

My original post on anarchism and the cataclysms of the 20th century has certainly engendered some lively debate, and here’s something to add to it. It’s actually to draw the attention of Troppo Armadillians to the work of a man I’ve only just become aware of(in fact since yesterday, trawling on the Internet!). He is Professor Rik Coolsaet, a Belgian, Director of Security and Global Government at the Royal Institute for International Relations in Brussels, and also Professor of International Relations at Ghent University. Professor Coolsaet published a book last year on the phenomenon of Al Qaeda, as well as a historical overview of the problem of terrorism, and this book has just been published in English by Academia Press, under the title of Al Qaeda–The Myth. In it, apparently, Professor Coolsaet argues that terrorism is born not out of the usual ‘root causes’ usually mentioned, such as poverty, but out of marginalisation. I haven’t read the book, only extracts and summaries on Professor Coolsaet’s website and other places, so I can’t and won’t argue about his thesis. What I did find interesting in the context of what we’ve been argy-bargying and discussing about, is that he specifically mentions and discusses the late 19th/early 20th century anarchist terrorists (as well as others, such as the fascist terrorists of the 1930’s) in the context of a discussion of Al Qaeda, and how a knowledge of that turn of the century period might indeed be of interest to people surveying the situation now. He seemed to be in no doubt, actually, that the anarchist terrorists were, indeed, anarchists!
For those interested in following this up, here is Professor Coolsaet’s website:
here

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Kim
Kim
2022 years ago

I don’t know that the good Professor is that helpful to your argument, Sophie:

“Terrorism is of all ages. So why do we experience this angst, this deep-seated fear of a hydraheaded monster of mythological dimensions, constantly changing and adapting, always catching its opponents off guard ? Today’s obsession with terrorism and security comes and goes, in waves. It was there when the anarchist terrorists of the late nineteenth century made havoc. It was there when the fascist terrorists of the 1930s spread death and destruction. And it is here now. Each time, myth and reality become blurred. Underestimating terrorism is dangerous. But exaggerating the threat is just as dangerous

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

Kim, it’s dangerous to play the game of quotes if you don’t include all the quotes. I won’t do it. I just urge people to go over to the site and read the whole thing.
Perhaps you misunderstand my argument in my original post. I never said that the authorities reacted correctly at the time of the anarchist terrorism; in fact their panic and the authoriarian measures they brought in helped to precipitate things, until, as Prof. Coolsaet puts it, ‘one terrorist assassination too many started the First World War.’ What I was arguing for was the idea that the anarchists’ acts created a climate of fear, uncertainty and panic which opened the way not only for repressive measures but for the ideological tyrannies that followed World War One. As I’ve said in the original post, it’s an idea that isn’t of common currency; doesn’t mean it’s wrong(or right, for that matter.) I do feel that on the face of it, Prof Coolsaet’s book appears to be supporting the general thrust of my argument. He does not deny the impact of anarchist terrorism, and doesn’t think it should have been underestimated; but equally, he thinks that the reaction to it was misguided and led to disaster. He is using this overview as a warning to us; but he isn’t discounting the contemporary fears and understandings of people at the time.

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Oh for f#ck’s sake!
Play by the bloody rules Sophie or don’t post.

The ENTIRE point of your leader was that Professor Coolsaet wrote stuff that agreed with you ie you are ‘playing the game of quotes’.

Kim calls you on it and brings a structred logical and reasoned argument, and you tell her not to play the quotes game!
The hide!
Ken asks for civility on this blog, how about showing some in the form of respect?

You meet her arguments, Sophie.
If you want to be taken seriously then you damn well treat us seriously.

You still haven’t addressed how these anarchic assassinations set the tumult of the twentieth century – which was your thesis, you will recall.

Get arguing or get f#cked!

Kim
Kim
2022 years ago

Harry’s got a point, Sophie, though perhaps some of his frustration is showing.

Unless you post his whole book, we have to be selective.

My point was based on my reading of his website and the quotes were meant to illustrate what I found him to be saying.

Incidentally, his argument about the “root causes” of terrorism is more complex than you make out. He points out that the success of the working class movement and the political role of unions made the climate in which anarchist or syndicalist demands could be articulated more unfavourable by raising living standards and including workers in democratic processes. His argument is similar for Islamic “marginalization” – his word.

I think yr trying to make the Prof. into something he’s not – he has quite an interesting position which you really oversimplify and distort by articulating it to your assertions about anarchism.

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

Harry, enough is enough.
You have totally passed the bounds of civility.
I am not going to respond to any more of your comments.

I made myself clear on the original post, Kim. My intention with this extra post was to bring this book to people’s attention. Please, I do ask people to remember that I am not a political campaigner; I am just posting ideas and notions I consider interesting. But now I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that this is not the place to get a fair hearing.

Kim
Kim
2022 years ago

Sophie, but you linked Coolsaet’s book back to your earlier argument.

Perhaps Harry wasn’t civil, but I don’t see that you can claim that you haven’t had a fair hearing – people engaged with your arguments on the other thread – disagreement is not the same as unfairness or incivility.

Surely the point of a blog is to get feedback and have your ideas sharpened through engaging with debate? That’s what Ken is always saying.

But who am I to know? Perhaps you see the role of blogging differently from most others.

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Talk about wanting your cake and eating it too!

Do you want comments on your posts or not. You seem quite happy to have comments, and lo and behold when Kim does so you shut her down.

“I made myself clear on the original post, Kim.”
No you didn’t, hence the comments.

“My intention with this extra post was to bring this book to people’s attention. ”
So the little bit at the end was what exactly? “he specifically mentions and discusses the late 19th/early 20th century anarchist terrorists … in the context of a discussion of Al Qaeda, and how a knowledge of that turn of the century period might indeed be of interest to people surveying the situation now. He seemed to be in no doubt, actually, that the anarchist terrorists were, indeed, anarchists!”

Two direct references to yesterday’s argy-bargy (1) Anarchists with reference to Al Qaeda
(2) Whether so-called anarchsist actually are anachists.
This is more than bring the book to our attention.

“Please, I do ask people to remember that I am not a political campaigner”
What’s this got to do with it? Most Troppo people aren’t political campaigners. What does being a political campaigner have to do with an ability to present and defend cogent opinions/arguments?

“I am just posting ideas and notions I consider interesting.”
Presumably to generate discussion, right? I mean, that is what a blog is.
So if you are merely “posting ideas and notions” why do you get so horribly defensive when someone disagrees with you?

“But now I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that this is not the place to get a fair hearing.”
WHAT!!?!?!?!?!?!
What can be more fair than an opportunity to refute every single person who disagrees with you?
What could be more fair than everyone having an equal voice on a blog?
What can be more fair than having the entire web at your finger tips to draw facts from?

An unfair way of blogging would be to stop discussion in it’s tracks; use stereotypes unashamedly; make unjustifyable claims that you refuse to support; selectively answer questions; avoid commentators; refuse to concede points; baffle by bullshit and any other tactic you have tried in the last couple of days.
It is you who are being unfair, Sophie.

Your claim of ‘not getting a fair hearing’ is like turning up to a football game and getting upset because you want to play cricket.

In conclsuion: …diddums.

Kim
Kim
2022 years ago

Sophie, but you linked Coolsaet’s book back to your earlier argument.

Perhaps Harry wasn’t civil, but I don’t see that you can claim that you haven’t had a fair hearing – people engaged with your arguments on the other thread – disagreement is not the same as unfairness or incivility.

Surely the point of a blog is to get feedback and have your ideas sharpened through engaging with debate? That’s what Ken is always saying.

But who am I to know? Perhaps you see the role of blogging differently from most others.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Harry,

You can hardly blame Sophie for losing her cool with you after your preceding effort, which was most uncivil.

Sophie didn’t “shut down” Kim – she just didn’t argue the point, and she’s in no position to complain if Kim uses quotes from a source she has used in her own argument. You’re correct that this is bad form on Sophie’s part, but I think your response was disproportionate.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

The “what is an anarchist” issue is clearly fair game for open but civil debate given that it was integral to Sophie’s original post and was again raised by this one. But I don’t think the “diddums” stuff was very helpful at all, or some of harry’s earlier comments either. It certainly wasn’t in the spirit of civil discussion.

To be productive, civil discussion desirably stops short of nailing your opponent’s hide to the wall and sneering “nah nah nah, you were wrong”. It’s useful to know when you’ve made your point and that it might be appropriate to give your opponent room to save face and withdraw graciously. Do you really need to grind her into the dust to gain a knockout win?

It might well have been desirable for Sophie to have conceded that her usage of “anarchist” was loose to say the least, but equally I think there might be some valuable insights in her observations. I certainly hadn’t realised how extensive anarchist violence was during this period, and I think Sophie’s right that we ought to place considerable weight on a terrorist’s self-evaluation as “anarchist” even if we concede that labelling by others clearly took place indiscriminately.

I confess I don’t really understand why an initial observation that struck me as interesting but hardly earth-shattering should have generated such acrimony. The points have been made. Let’s all agree to disagree.

Maybe part of the problem is that Sophie is a creative artist who develops ideas intuitively, impressionistically and by association. That isn’t in any sense to decprecate the depth of research she brings to her task, but the artistic sensibility and approach is different from that of the academic specialist. I suspect that many of the commenters here are academics (or would-be academics) of one sort or another, and bring to the discussion a level of precision bordering on nit-pickery that tends to be alien to the creative sensibility. That isn’t to say that creative people shouldn’t be held to account for errors, but that we should give each other some elbow room and allow for differing styles and sensibilities. Sometimes creative intuition leads to a flash of insight that no amount of dogged academic rigor could achieve, so both ways of approaching the world of ideas should be respected. We can all learn from each other.

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

Fyodor, thank you for your civil reproof. I never mind discussing/debating/arguing with you as you are always polite. But I must say in my own defence that I did not use this source in my own argument until today, as I did not know of the book’s existence till yesterday. My point to Kim was that if she had used the whole of the quote of the ‘executive summary’ of the book, then she may have seen that there were certain parts that did agree with me. I didn’t want to quote those because I don’t like playing tit for tat, and besides I hoped people might go and look at the whole thing, which is why I used no quotes myself on my post.
Kim, you speak too as if you had read this book and understand completely his theory, which, with due respect, I doubt you can, as like me, you have not read it, and were not aware of it until I had put up my post. I think it certainly sounds like a very interesting book and I am going to order it, along with another I’ve recently become aware of, John Gray’s ‘Al Qaeda and what it means to be Modern.’ Has anyone read that?

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Ah but Sophie –

you are not campaigning politically, but you are doing something very interesting, if I understand you correctly. You are trying to research a fiction book set in the real world of the late nineteenth century.

That sets up a particular problem which is faced by anyone who is imaginatively active in putting facts into stories – it is similar, for instance, to the research activities in television documentaries. You bring the authority of an imaginative writer, not the professional expert in the particular territory.

My experience of this is that it creates a whole lot of surprising and sometimes unpleasant moments, when people have smacked me upside of the head for not getting the point when I am working really hard to cotton on. But those moments when people have turned on me are the most valuable, because they tell me I am missing something important. When I do get it, my whole perception shifts and I see the territory in more sophisticated ways.

This is one of those places where the technical world of professional academics needs to be porous in ways which are not under the control of the experts. It is being used for a different reason.

It is useful because a really good historical novel is very illuminating and of course spreads ideas beyond the academic. The trouble is, it is important to be subtle and accurate.

Genre here I suspect is a bit of a snare, as is the general form of the television documentary, which is increasingly populist. Think SBS and the Middle Ages. The risk is, we are asked to hunt for some good characters, a few baddies and goodies, and a rollicking scarey story. Doing that and being accurate is pretty tough.

Here I reckon these threads have been useful. I wonder what Wen thinks?

David Tiley
2022 years ago

ps – across the nation, at exactly the same time, Ken and David hit the keyboard to muse on the same thing… eery, huh?

Kim
Kim
2022 years ago

Serendipity and synchronicity are hallmarks of the ‘sphere, David!

Sophie, I’ve read Gray’s “Al Qaeda and What it Means to be Modern”. Gray’s a very interesting (though not uncontroversial writer). I think you’ll enjoy it. I discussed aspects of his other work in an earlier Troppo post:

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/007579.html

Kim
Kim
2022 years ago

I mean Mark wrote an earlier post and I commented on it – at least I think I did – if not I’m getting senile :)

Mark
2022 years ago

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Kim, but you’re getting senile :) I think that was before you started commenting regularly – maybe you read the thread and thought of a comment but you hadn’t yet taken the step of dipping your toes in the ‘sphere…

I agree – Gray is interesting. I thoroughly agree with his thesis that Al Qaeda is the product of modernity and globalisation rather than some sort of traditionalist reaction.

Sorry if this is a tad OT.

Mark
2022 years ago

I seem to have killed this thread. I must be channelling Rafe now that he’s become an anarchist. :) Popper! Popper! Popper! Maybe that will act as a redrag to a bull or two and get some discussion going at Troppo on a Thursday night!

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

Q. How many discussions of anarchy does it take to change a thread?

A. Any of ’em.

Mark
2022 years ago

Nabs, over at LP Kim’s claiming you set a trend for commenting nude that she’s now adopted. I don’t know if that’s a thread killer or a thread redrag…

Mark
2022 years ago

Here, Nabs, should you wish to address these claims:

http://larvatusprodeo.redrag.net/2005/03/30/farewell-civility-i-loved-thee-well-once/#comment-673

Ok, apologies for being OT! Will stop now.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

I’ve missed much of this being at work but I think friend harry killed the thread. Seems he’s gone from being incorrigibly incomprehensible on the other thread to incontinently abusive on this one.

I’d recommend a long bracing walk in the cool night air through through a charming field of broken razor blades – barefoot.

So much for humour.

Fyodor
2022 years ago

Ahem.

Anyone for Scuba?

Mindy
Mindy
2022 years ago

Harry – behave yourself. don’t make me come down there.

Rob – there is no need be rude. Be civil. I think Harry would benefit from a nice quiet walk. In shoes.

Play nice people.

Rob
Rob
2022 years ago

Yes, Fyodor – why shouldn’t harry go scuba-diving? You never know – he could find himself falling through the currents of ocean, surrounded by beguiling swordfish, playfully butted by inquisitive sharks, until he reached the ocean floor, lined with the detritus of the ages, and walked the spongy surface, dancing across a charming submarine field of…..broken razor blades……

Oh dear, I’m coming over light-headed. Must be those 12-hour shifts.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Take Rob to the ocean NOW.

He is obviously pining.

Nicholas Gruen
2022 years ago

I think Sophie’s original idea was an excellent one – put forward in an appropriately tentative way. Now I think Sophie wrote the post with a certain animus towards ‘anarchists’ which is entirely fine and she was happy to defend herself with that animus largely in tact. At that stage we got lots of agro about definitions of anarchism, by those reacting to Sophie’s animus.

But the basic idea is independent of and much more interesting than what spin gets put on the word ‘anarchist’. As I read it, I thought it definitely cast the strange and swift change in the mood of our own times in an interesting new light. Because terrorists have murdered less than 4,000 people, countries have been invaded, people have been shipped off to third countries for torture, people disappear in the United States. And we have a bunch of people running the US who their recently departed Secretary of State described as ‘crazies’.

This moment feels to me like one in which things could easily spiral out of control as they did from apparently relatively benign circumstances in 1914.

The MOOD has changed mightily.

How to explain this? Well I’ll be buggered if I know. Will we find out from a bunch of social theorists? Do they tell us more about how Hitler did what he did than Sebastian Haffner tells us in “Defying Hitler” a contemporaneously written explanation of what it was like to live in the Third Reich? I could never quite understand how it was done till I read that book.

I hope I hold debate in as high regard as most people here. But what Sophie is saying is highly speculative – as by implication is any disagreement with her. In that circumstance, the idea that the truth or falsity of Sophie’s musing being ‘tested’ and so reduced to its essence to yield its ultimate worth

AnferTuto
AnferTuto
14 years ago

Hola faretaste
mekodinosad