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Michael Lind: What Politics Is(n’t) 

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In defense of what politics is and is not.

Michael Lind writes: What is politics? The answer is not obvious. Most Americans on the left and the right either do not know or have forgotten what politics is. Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.

February 23, 2014: People paint on the KGB officers monument in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

February 23, 2014: People paint on the KGB officers monument in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

“The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture. Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.”

Politics is only possible in a society in which much, if not most, of social life is not politicized. In premodern communities in which every aspect of life was regulated by custom or religious law, there was no politics, in the modern sense. There was no public sphere because there was no private sphere. Tribal custom or divine law, as interpreted by tribal elders or religious authorities, governed every action, leaving no room for individual choice. There were power struggles, to be sure. But there was no political realm separate from the tribe or the religious congregation. And disagreement was heresy.

A February protest against a liquified natural gas export facility in Maryland. Susan Yin/Chesapeake Climate Action Network

A February protest against a liquified natural gas export facility in Maryland. Susan Yin/Chesapeake Climate Action Network

The separation of church and state — strictly speaking, the privatization of religious belief, beginning in early modern Europe and America — was the precondition for modern politics. The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture.

“Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.”

Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.

Statue of Lenin in park of the statue near Budapest in hungary

“As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies.”

Unfortunately, as Horace observed, “You can drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back.” The same might be said of religion. While some forms of religion have been expelled from politics, new forms keep trying to creep in, to recreate something like the pre-Enlightenment world in which a single moral code governs all of society and disagreement is intolerable heresy.

[Read the full text here, at The Smart Set]

Marxism can only be understood as a Christian, or Judeo-Christian, or Abrahamic spin-off — a faith militant, with its prophets, its holy scriptures, its providential theory of history, its evangelical universalism, its message of brotherhood and sisterhood transcending particular communities. Marxism was the fourth major Abrahamic religion. Nothing like Marxism could have evolved independently in traditional Confucian China or Hindu India, with their cyclical rather than progressive views of history.

Climate-Change-e1377805589403

“Other elements of religion, expelled from the public sphere, have crept back in via the left, thanks to environmentalism. As the great environmental scientist James Lovelock has pointed out, anthropogenic global warming is affected by the sources of energy for large-scale power generation and transportation. But refusing to fly on airplanes or reducing your personal “carbon footprint” is a meaningless exercise, explicable only in the context of religion, with its traditions of ritual fasts and sacrifices in the service of personal moral purity.”

As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies. A case can be made that militant environmentalism and militant identity politics are both by-products of the decomposition of Protestantism in the Anglophone nations and Germanic Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

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Match Made in Hell: SoCal Terrorists Likely Forged Bond in Online Jihadist Forums

Hollie McKay reports: The online romance between Southern California terrorists Farook Rizwan Syed and Tashfeen Malik was more a meeting of like minds than lonely hearts, with two radical jihadists forming a bond of hate and bloodlust in the dark recesses of the Internet.

Family members have said Syed, 28, and Malik, 29, met online and embarked on a whirlwind digital relationship capped by their 2014 marriage. But if they did, it was not on any dating site resembling those that bring people together every day in the civilized world. Their meeting brought together two already-radicalized soulmates who would go on to kill 14 people and wound 21 more in last week’s massacre at a San Bernardino social services facility

“They were actually radicalized before they started [dating online],” FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers Wednesday. “As early as the end of 2013 they were talking about jihad and martyrdom, before they became engaged.”

“As early as the end of 2013 they were talking about jihad and martyrdom, before they became engaged.”

– FBI Director James Comey

Farook seemingly set up several profiles years ago in his search for a wife – reportedly using sites like Dubaimatrimonial.com, BestMuslim.com and iMilap.com, which is an Indian-centered matrimonial and dating site “for people with disabilities and remarriage.

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A spokesperson for iMilap.com confirmed to FoxNews.com that while Farook has an inactive profile not in public view, Malik never belonged to the site and they have no history of any such name or details. In his profiles, Farook described himself as a “devout” Muslim and added that he spends “much free time in the [mosque] memorizing the Quran and learning more about the religion.”

[Read the full story here, at Fox News]

As for Malik, she was an online ghost, and experts said absent her participation in hardcore jihadist chat forums or use of a pseudonym, it is unlikely that she met Farook innocently. Read the rest of this entry »


France Shuts Down 3 Mosques During Crackdown On Terrorists 

PARIS (AP) — The latest on the recovery from and investigation into the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. All times local: 2:35 p.m.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says three mosques have been shut down in France since the Paris attacks as part of a crackdown on extremist activities.

Cazeneuve told reporters it was the first time mosques are being closed in France “on grounds of radicalization.”

One of the mosques, 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Paris in Lagny-sur-Marne, was targeted by raids early Wednesday, with police seizing a 9mm revolver, a computer hard disc and jihadist propaganda. Cazeneuve said the mosque also had a non-authorized Quranic school….(read more)

Source: Weasel Zippers


[VIDEO] Raw: French Jets Takeoff for Raqqa Airstrike

The original video posted here is no longer available. (it appeared here as a broken link) As a substitute, the above video is of fighter jets taking off from France, en route to Raqqa.

Aftermath footage of 30 airstrikes conducted by France targeting the outskirts of IS controlled Raqqa


Priorities: De Blasio and Farina de Blasio’s Overture to the Muslim Community

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“We made a pledge to families that we would change our school calendar to reflect the strength and diversity of our city. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim families will no longer have to choose between honoring the most sacred days on their calendar or attending school,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement.

It’s the fulfillment of a campaign pledge Mr. de Blasio made when he was running for office in 2013, and today the mayor said it reflects the growth of the city’s Muslim population. Mr. de Blasio has also expressed support for giving students the day off for Lunar New Year, something for which the city’s growing Asian American community has advocated. Read the rest of this entry »


Switching Sides: Afghan Special Forces Commander Defects to Taliban with Humvee Full of Guns

Kunar, like other provinces along the border with Pakistan, is among the more insecure and volatile parts of Afghanistan.

Zuliyal, Kunar Province. Kunar, like other provinces along the border with Pakistan, is among the more insecure and volatile parts of Afghanistan.

Mohammad Anwar reports: An Afghan army special forces commander has defected to an insurgent group allied with the Taliban in a Humvee truck packed with his team’s guns and high-tech equipment, officials in the eastern Kunar province said on Sunday.

Monsif Khan, who raided the supplies of his 20-man team in Kunar’s capital Asadabad over the Eid al-Adha religious holiday, is the first special forces commander to switch sides, joining the Hezb-e-Islami organisation.

“He sent some of his comrades on leave and paid others to go out sightseeing, and then escaped with up to 30 guns, night-vision goggles, binoculars and a Humvee,” said Shuja ul-Mulkh Jalala, the governor of Kunar.

Zubair Sediqi, a spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami, confirmed that Khan had joined the group, saying he had brought 15 guns and high-tech equipment. Read the rest of this entry »