My writings seek to deconstruct the narration of current affairs as distributed to the public. By taking a linguistic hermeneutic path I attempt to reveal the rhetorical devices grounded within the techno-scientific calculative culture that is characteristic of liberal democracies. I relate particularly to the self-contradictions in the Zionist discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its mutual interaction with world politics.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Detachment and Alienation: From freedom of choice to the promise of being chosen

By Ariella Atzmon ©

In the beginning was the WORD, God speaking, to be followed later by the prohibition of the figurative, and the children of Israel were left aloof in a world of words without things. Freud's diagnosis proposes this condition of aloofness as
obsessional neurosis, and Lyotard adopts the hypothesis of psychosis[1]. Hence, in order to evaluate the distinctiveness of Judaism we need to first be liberated from the bonds of political correctness.
An analysis of the two synonymous words ALIENATION and DETACHMENT epitomizes a gap between the view that refers to human beings as celebrating freedom of choice, and the Judaic self-conviction of being chosen. To be Jewish means that in response to being bound to a mutual covenant with God in which the utterance of his name is prohibited, Jews are rewarded with the promise of "choseness." Taking a psychoanalytical line might be helpful in specifying typical Jewish political conduct as being afflicted with symptoms of detachment. I argue that the Mosaic prohibition of the iconic figure is much more significant than what the inventors of the expression 'Judeo-Christian tradition' are prepared to concede, and try to sweep under the carpet.
Re-examining the birth of the expression Judeo-Christian tradition philosophically reveals a Jewish attempt to become oblivious to the bottomless divergence between Judaism and Christianity. This expression, coined in 1964 in the USA by 120 Rabbis, was a deliberate plot to exclude Islam and to give the impression that Judaism and Christianity are kindred European monotheistic religions that worship the same God, share the same sacred texts and the same ethical standards. It was forged to create a religious consensus that the embracing of Judaism would ward off anti-Semitism. Thus before using Judeo-Christian terminology for the demarcation of European culture from other traditions, it would be advisable to underscore the kinship between Judaism and Islam, rather than its claimed closeness to Christianity. As a political invention it covers up the fact that there are no compatible principles shared by Judaism with Christianity. The two religions hold quite opposing ethical values and contrasting conceptions of God and of human beings. And thus all western history can be narrated with reference to the enduring clash that split the two religions from each other.
Since the symptoms of detachment are attributed to Jewish identity we need to define what detachment means as distinct from alienation. Detachment is defined as a mental morbidity, a spiritual and mental separation from the world which appears as a lack of empathy to worldly concerns. Thus detachment, as observing others without emotional commitment, is diagnosed between neurosis and psychosis.
Alienation on the other hand is an estrangement in feeling imposed on the human subject by external circumstances. In the best case it is an intentional externalization of experiences; in the worst it is the instance where man is conditioned to be alienated from what are properly his functions and creations, and where instead of controlling them, he is controlled by them (as in Marxist theory). Alienation is not an intrinsic mental state like detachment since it is caused by conditioning.
Actually Jews are not alienated but detached. Throughout history the presence of Jews was evidently central in all worldly affairs. More than 50% of the Bush administration's posts are held by Jews. We can trace Jews as the initiators of ideologies and as central figures who triggered social and cultural reforms and revolutions. This proves clearly that Jews are not alienated, but detached from the gloomy consequences of their deeds. Despite being conceived as the eternal ultimate 'other', the Jewish presence and its unmistakable influence is evident in all fields of political and cultural life. It is suggested that adherence to the role of the ultimate 'other', including separatist tendencies, relates to a transcendence from the figurative, being left solely within the play of words and without icons. Judaism is characterized by the prohibition of making an image of God. They worship a God whom they cannot see. The sensory perception came second after the abstract idea. The ear listens to the writing, and the writing comes from an absent God! So what is considered a Judaic triumph of intellectuality over sensuality, renounce the discourse/figure complimentarity.
Among savages for instance, the figurative prevails, and thus they have no philosophy, no deliberative politics. The savage resolves his wish fulfillment within the existing social organization itself, and by the cultural ritual façade which satisfies the wish to know. In the Greek polis, conversely, the rhetor initiated a secular use of discourse, where the word must sound reasonable. The birth of logos gave birth to science. In Hellenism, the pagan rituals were shifted towards theatrical epic and to the rhetorical theater. Hellenism turned the magic into myth, into theater. The Dionysian encountered the Apollonian stage of rhetoric leading to the path of logic. This is the route that western people have taken since then. In Judaism, the prohibition of the figurative wish-fulfillment turned into neurosis and even psychosis. And where the balance among the natural triad, signified-signifier-referent is distorted, detachment prevails. Apparently the discarding of the referent, including the signifier, conforms to the spirit of post-structuralism. But what is considered a virtue according to post-structuralism went too far with Judaism - right up to psychosis i.e.: narcissism and paranoia[2]. The exclusion of the figurative icon was transformed in Jewish tradition to repetitive ceremonial rites, where irrational ritualism compensates for the forbidden icon. In secular Zionism, the religious rituals were substituted by nationalistic patriotic ceremonies.
Following Lacan, the imaginary represented by the figurative is contrasted with the symbolic, articulated as a discursive language. The gaps of the inexpressible that inspire the work of art stem from rejected elements, absent as audible words but retained as visible things. Judaism excludes the figure, excludes magic, excludes reconciliation, refuses to admit to parricide, and thus there is no art in Judaism. Lyotard asks: Where to place this religion? The empirical mark of its difference is the hatred it inspires; anti-Semitism. Circumcision as the covenant with the word is a cut off from the imaginary, without gaining an entry to the symbolic order. By circumcision the Jew is caught in a double negation, being locked within the symbolic i.e, 'the name of the father,' while the name of the father is censored. With no symbolic order the access to science is blocked too. Hence, the Jew is left aloof without science and without art, emptied of human desire, where the balance between the pleasure principle and the reality principle is ruined. The moment the desire to kill God, which is the key motive of science, is repressed and denied the escape to art, Jews are caught in psychosis, detached from reality, including all its symptoms.
The difference between neurosis and psychosis in terms of their respective positions vis-à-vis language, is that the schizophrenic treats words as though they are things, perceiving reality by the signified without signifiers. Ordinary people cope between words and their thing presentation by trial and error. But while the neurotic get confused with the discrepancies of reality, the schizophrenic has no means for testing what is. The attempt to recuperate things via their verbal aspect, without resorting to images, while every thing remains in the realm of articulated language, brings about a schizophrenic aloofness from reality. It ends with inhuman acts, wrongs caused without even a wink. It is not being unethical but rather lacking a sense of ethics. While neurosis is a clash between wish-fulfillment and reality, psychosis occurs when the subject turns against the outside world, sniffing an enemy (anti-Semitism) behind every corner. If dialectic means compromise and reconciliation then the psychotic is not dialectic. Thus, Jewish politics, including Zionism, manifest no compromise and no reconciliation.
Narcissistic pathology is recognized by self-centeredness and a lack of empathy. When this disruption is coupled with a sense of superiority it generates hostility and paranoia that bequeaths to the generations to come the same victim mentality. It is manifested by the legitimization of theft of absentees' lands declaring it 'a proper Zionist decision'. For the sake of Jewish 'survival', Zionism distorts history and justifies discrimination. Thus Zionism is unethical just as Judaism is!
The attitude to past narration and history is another sign of the Jew's detachment and unethical attitude. The Jew turns his eye from the visible and thus history turns into a religious text. It is not reality but words. All traditions revive their forgotten grandeurs by past reconstruction. While Hellenistic glory was recollected in the Homeric epic, for orthodox Jews, including secular Zionists, the legacy of the past is engraved within the holy pages of the bible. Up to the present the bible is considered by all brands of Zionism as a legal document which substantiates the rights to the Promised Land. In Greece the pleasure principle was given free reign in Homerism, but Jewish religion excludes the pleasure principle and thus the core of historical writing is prohibited. For westerners, history is a reactivation of memories in the attempt to interpret the past, for the Jews, history is a teleological pursuit not meant to aid understanding the past, but rather relating the course of history to its end. The birth of messianic Judaism, can be understood in the light of the basic Jewish attitude to history. The coming of the Messiah is believed to be the end of Jewish victimization and the gentiles' Judgment-Day. While in other monotheist religions God’s judgment is directed at individuals, in Judaism, God's judgment is revealed in the history of the nation. The reign of God is expected to materialize in a new kingdom under a Davidic messiah. But the discrepancy in Judaism is that despite God’s promise, God is remote and invisible and the relations with his believers are mediated through the Rabbinic tradition of legalism. God does not meet the observant Jew in real daily life, where human beings encounter their neighbors and take responsibility for how their deeds affect the lives of others[3].
The distressing historical attitude devolved into all brands of Zionism. While religious Zionism was established on the nationalistic aspirations of being chosen, waiting for the minute God will restore the people's former glory, secular Zionists, inspired by 19th century European ideologies, were plotting a nationalist, racist Jewish state. The radical right was dedicated to the primordial idea of blood and race, while the left was ecstatically confused between international socialism and national aspirations.
It is clearly proved that at the point where ideological thought seemed to emancipate itself from the religious sphere and attempt to accomplish the task of demythologization, Zionism failed. I would argue that present day Jewish nationalism, manifested by Israeli colonialist and racist conduct, is deeply grounded in Jewish detachment from reality. The fact that secular Zionism never tried seriously to reflect critically upon its innate contradictory elements, is symptomatic of the old psychosis of floating in the realm of words.
The state of Israel reflects a cleavage between those who perceive Judaism as grounded in a mutual covenant between the children of Israel and God, and those who are fixed on the idea of statehood. Besides the antagonism between the two perceptions, just as in the time of the prophets, each of these positions does not allow for the existence of a Jewish community under its own basic assumptions. For the former perception, as long there is a promise of continuing with the Jewish life style and Halachic law the existence of an independent Jewish state is not conditional; while the Zionist view, by advocating the notion of statehood, is caught in the contradictory terminology of defining Israel as a democratic Jewish state. Thus the moment they put the prefix Jewish before the word state they dismantle the sense of democracy in the same breath. From all the many complexities bound to the notion of a Jewish state, I choose to elaborate the perplexities associated with the notion secular Jews which is an oddity in itself. For the orthodox, Jewish identity means a complete observance of the law without compromise, and thus, it does not cause any problem. Their difficulties emerge precisely in Israel as a secular democratic Jewish state. Real obscurity is revealed when secular Jews start wrestling with their identification as Jews. Most Israelis try to avoid this question by shooting from the hip that what unites all Jews is anti-Semitism, as if anti-Semitism is an inherent feature of the world. As a reflection of their own animosity toward gentiles, Jews are completely convinced that it is an inborn gentile necessity to exploit the ultimate Jewish otherness as a punching bag. Israeli educational curricula blame other religions, mainly Christianity, for orchestrating hatred towards Jews throughout history - as if the segregationist predisposition is a Christian invention. Children's books are saturated with inquisition and pogroms, ignoring the circumstances that led to those historical events. Israeli Jews mourn their killed children while remaining oblivious to their atrocities that brought the Palestinian martyr to perpetrate his desperate act.
Some secular Israeli Jews recite the slogan that Judaism is not a homogeneous entity, that there are many versions of Judaism. They identify themselves as Jews characterized by the glorious Jewish cultural tradition of scholarship. But this false pride falls apart easily when they are asked what they mean by Jewish culture, or what are the main virtues of Jewish scholarship? Their ignorance is grounded in religious and political motives that intentionally blur the narrative regarding the fall of Jerusalem and the birth of Christianity. Jews in general, and Israeli Jews in particular, are lacking in knowledge about the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes, as Judaic oppositionary paradigms.
Beit Hallahmi (1993) In his book ‘Original Sins’ elaborate a thorough overview that clarifies the background for the distortion of Hebraism into the Rabbinic tradition. The Rabbinic tradition is responsible for what is called Jewish culture or Jewish genius over 2000 years of exile. He blames this tradition for the origin of Jewish segregation and intolerance. In exile, after the fall of Jerusalem, the rabbinic tradition took over and became the driving force behind all characteristics of Jewish identity. The rabbinic ruling interpreted the law given in the five books of Moses, the written version of the oral tradition which was collected in six volumes called the Mishna. This is the core for further interpretation in the Talmud. Beit Hallahmi argues that the Mishna was actually a new version of Judaism.
The Rabbinic tradition is linked with the Pharisees who attempted to modify the harshness of the law by interpretation and inference. Actually they were the authoritarians who successfully tied the whole of life, down to its smallest details with the observance of the Law. The oppositionary conservative school to the Pharisees, the Sadducees, rejected any tradition that was established by scribal activity. After the fall of Jerusalem they disappeared and the Pharisees' exposition of the law became the touch-stone of Jewish scholarship. The rampant deception about profound Jewish scholarship is prevalent among Jews. The glamorous tradition of scholarship is actually a learning by rote of piles upon piles of rules as related to the Jewish law. Judaism is a religion where man in relation to God, is conceived in legalistic terms, where the ethics are equated with obedience and fear of God. There is no theology in Judaism.
These darkened spaces in narrating their ‘national’ past cause further ignorance which ends in a detachment from reality. The same people who praise Jewish culture and its profound scholarship, lack any knowledge regarding the style of Jewish learning. The secular young Israeli Jew is not faced with a Pentateuch scroll or with a Talmud page. But although Israeli Jews are completely alien to Jewish PILPUL (scribe interpretation) they are very keen to raise their voice in praise of Jewish scholarship.
In a brilliant article Meron Benvenisti declares that if Zionism does not convert its ideological basis it is doomed. I argue that it is not the ideology but rather a genuine morbidity typical of Jewish identity which causes Zionist conduct. Taking a step further I would say that there is no chance for a people afflicted by the morbidity of detachment to change, and thus they are doomed- unless they decide to rediscover their innerself critically by self reflection and learn to be more alienated rather then detached.

[1] The Lyotard reader, 1989 (Oxford:Basil Blackwell)
[2] Even the close proximity of postmodernism and poststructuralism to Judaism is refuted. Post structuralism as the linguistic turn is related with the artistic nature of language where all binary oppositions are dismantled. Since Judaism is obliged to differentiate between the secular and the profane, Jews and gentiles, Kosher and TRAIFAH, Judaism takes a diverged route from post structuralism.

[3] Butmann R., 1956, Primitive Christianity, (The Fontana Library)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Legal populism or the way to ‘post’ multiculturalism

Ariella Atzmon ©

This paper is a discourse analysis of the terminology of multiculturalism in relation to legalism vs. morality and ethics, viewed from a philosophical perspective. The ambivalence inherent in the vocabulary of multiculturalism is evident in the political scene where the meaning of legalism, inspired by scientific thought is confused with notions of morality and ethics. In Stanley Fish’s words: “many moralities would make many laws, and the law would lack its most saliently desirable properties, generality and stability”. The term "multiculturalism" which has to do with language and political correctness (or incorrectness), amplifies populist clichés regarding cultural equality and moral norms. Western jurisprudence, bound to morality and ethics, is essential to the way we interpret the notion of multiculturalism.
A discourse can be seen as a set of practices that systematically defines the rules which permit certain statements to be made. A discourse analysis of multiculturalism, from the perspective of educational curricula and other contents organized around the term, exposes liberal democracy's tricky game regarding non-western cultural norms. The fictitious populist view of science as an ideal model for human reasoning lies at the root of the affirmation of the legal system as autonomous, independent of any supplementary discourse such as morality or ethics. "Multiculturalism" as a gentle and tolerant expression actually presents a pair of opposites, declaring the ethnic minorities' empowerment of cultural manifestations on the one hand, and on the other, thoroughly identifying these same groups in terms of socio-economical and cultural guidelines quite distant from them. The use of the expression post-multiculturalism hints at the role of multiculturalism as a safeguard for the new liberal democratic state.
By putting ‘post’ in proximity to multiculturalism the contradictory nature of the term is revealed. The word ‘post’ can refer to the act of posting, that is ‘to deliver’, ‘to make known, to announce’, to advertise or to bring before the public. Simultaneously, the prefix ‘post’ alludes to what comes ‘after’, what is ‘laid aside’, or ‘finished with’, in other words, what is ‘postponed’. Bear in mind that multiculturalism proclaims that all cultures and religions are worthy of respect. So by grouping legalism together with morality and ethics under the same umbrella multiculturalism is concurrently postponed. If moral codification has to do with group cultural norms, then by celebrating the supremacy of legalism as an empirical entity, while ignoring moral considerations and personal ethical reflection, signifies that any possibility for cultural pluralism is called off.
By presenting the ‘nation’ as a unitary, homogeneous formation, legal populism operates as a vehicle for ‘posting’ multiculturalism (i.e., that all cultures are worthy of respect), and postponing it in one and the same breath. As long as multiculturalism is blind to the existence of ‘many moralities’, modes of assimilation and integration prevail upon negotiable hybridization, where cultures are viewed as retaining their distinct characteristics and yet form something new. Our generation has produced more refugees, migrants and displaced people than ever before. The question is how should national institutions respond to this diversity? By an attempt to assimilate distinct cultural norms under the command “melt or get out of the pot." or by trying to generate a hybridized cultural identity?
Regardless of diverse moral norms, multiculturalism enfolds everything under the cover of ethnicity, as if ethnicity is the key for handling multiculturalism better. Opposing this view, I shall stress the idea that ‘the discourse of the law’ as predetermined by words, and common phrases coined by the hegemonic culture, is obscured. The idea of moral universalism that fuses in its amalgamated spirit political, legal and philosophical terminology leads to the confusion of ethics and morality with legalism. Opposed to the melting pot model, it is cultural hybridization, where cultural incommensurability and interstices between cultures should be explored.
Morality has to do with cultures and group norms, while ethics addresses questioning and response-ability. Ethical judgment is the challenge of one’s self in the face of the Other. While morality is a body of norms concerning what is right and wrong, with respect to human conduct, adhered by a professional or social group, ethics never signify closure. As legalism is inspired by scientism i.e. an exaggerated trust in the efficient methods of the natural sciences, it is distinct from ethics and morality because of its claim to universality. This obsession with scientism turns the whole western legal machine into a binary system where statements are verified on the basis of observational proofs. Since testimony in western legal systems means validation of statements in correspondence with empirical evidence, we come to realize how latter day western regimes are steeped in documents and intelligence reports.
The fact that every society is comprised of a variety of interests and communal norms necessitates the foundation of a social apparatus that will be accepted by all. In seeking legitimization of its rule, the liberal paradigm turned to the legal system as its main source of stabilization. Thus, by asserting that legal, rational reasoning emanates naturally and autonomously from moral intuitions liberal secular ideology constituted the civic legal system, as an all-inclusive means for the resolution of conflicts. It is the culture of ‘reason’ that replaced the rule of power. In the course of liberalism, rhetoric turned into an acrobatic pursuit of how to contain politics in accordance with the law. According to this utilitarian approach, ethics are relegated to being interpreted in calculative terms for the assessment of harm caused to the ‘other’. By this argument I contend that liberal democracy, supported by scientific rhetoric, put up a barrier between morality and ethics on one side of the divide, and legality on the other.
In view of recent events where governments are occupied with ‘the legal justification of the war’ the role of THE LAW is better understood. The liberal assertion of moral universalism where the category ‘legally valid’ is equated with ‘morally right’ paves the way to ‘post-multiculturalism. It exemplifies the way in which the legal system blocks any encounter with cultural, moral considerations and silences personal ethical judgments. By highlighting legalism and equating it with morality and ethics, liberal democracy sustains its power.
Actually, multiculturalism as a sophisticated form of social control, talks in two voices. It praises cultural pluralism, while only scientifically approved phrases are acknowledged. The privileged status of scientific thought, is reevaluated in keeping with the idea that autonomy and rational judgment, promise redemption from deprivation. People exchange prior cultural, spiritual and moral bondage for access to the portal of enlightened legalism. Inspired by scientism they are converted to a new belief in facts, reports and evidential findings. Thus, the melting pot metaphor is a cover for a new type of oppression. The only way to melt in the pot is to assimilate - to become similar – to the dominant culture under the hegemony of science. But science is not just a selection of contents; it is a set of metaphysical assumptions about reality and knowledge. Science is an attitude for the legitimization of knowledge. By taking the bull by the horns, science filters the contents of knowledge from the educational curriculum to the legislative system. Thus multiculturalism turns into a safeguard protecting western culture from becoming contaminated by too strong a dose of other rationalities. Science determines the inferiority of those who do not follow its modes of thought. Thus multiculturalists’ openness regarding norms, beliefs, religious worship turns out to be another hypocritical falsehood.
A declaration made by an Israeli Supreme Court judge that: “All can be judicially accountable”, points to one of the most crucial cornerstones of liberal democracy. This phrase assembles ethics and morality under the legal system. Since legalism acts in reference to conformity with a book of laws, the moment legalism is declared all inclusive, multiculturalism is dismantled. The two threats to the authority of the legal system are: subjective moral intuitions and interpretation In Stanley Fish's words: “Interpretation has to do with the ethical judgment which is an inter-subjective consideration regarding what ought to be done”.
The legal system represents a public commitment to view conflicts as something that should be judged by legal means. But what does public commitment mean? If it is a commitment to all communities existing in the public sphere, then does it accord with the cultural norms that correspond to non-representational modes of thought? Defeated multiculturalism can be viewed in Israel where the majority Jewish population, comprised of immigrants and refugees, intolerant of each other, dominates a minority, indigenous Arab population. It is a case where cultural incommensurability between Western law and Jewish Halakhah seems to be insoluble. The multiculturalist demand that all cultural groups have the right to bring their cultural norms into the marketplace of ideas is unfulfilled, since many vocabularies constitute a threat to liberal legalism. This is why multiculturalism appears to the world wrapped in liberal legalism and why the two discourses support each other.
Multiculturalism should be a way to guarantee equality for moral norms and for witnessing many vocabularies. It suggests taking the path of hermeneutic interpretation, interpretation that establishes the meaning of a phenomenon, which, by its very nature, is fragmentary and incomplete. The underlying bloodthirsty wrestling in the political rhetoric for harnessing meaning is a vital tool in fortifying consent in the democratic sphere. Ethics have no rules for justification. There is no viable route for an ethical proof. Even if there are rules for what should be described as ‘the real truth’ they are inaccessible by their ethical nature. Since legality belongs to a calculative culture it needs proofs, supported by factual evidence. While legalism is committed to statutes and the regulation of the law, ethics and morality are released from presenting proofs. Since morality is bound to ethnic, religious, or cultural group norms, it should be contiguous with the discourse of multiculturalism. Liberal democracy’s obsession with legal assessments and evidential proof, with the aim of justifying dubious political acts, ends with a disregard for ethical judgment, and the POSTPONING of multiculturalism. Ethical judgment can not be learned by adding ethnic content to school curricula. It cannot be taught, but is generated by internalizing the essence of hybridization.
The way legalism is confused with morality and ethics, becomes apparent when prescriptions for professional behavior are distributed to the public as ethical codes (medical doctors, lawyers or teachers). In Israel a renowned philosopher produced a document entitled the IDF Ethical Code. Erasing distinctions between ethics, morality and legality leads to a dependence on juridical committees for the assessment of what is right and what is wrong, in cases which should be regarded as purely ethical. Leaders, who should reflect upon their own clear or bad conscience, would be more respected if they leave the court and be judged according to inter-subjective ethical imperatives. Despite this, we are witnessing a current, democratic, judicial routine: where a salient ethical and moral judgment is needed. The political leadership appoints judicial committees in order to examine their deeds in the face of further accumulations of evidential findings. It is the philosopher's task to draw attention to the sly legal game that veils political maneuvering. That’s what Stanley Fish calls the “amazing trick”, by which the law re-builds in mid-air without ever touching down. This is how law subsists through the Hutton Committee or the Butler inquiry.
Citizens of the democratic free world should become more engaged with ideas and the way these ideas are articulated by words. But to cease being indoctrinated by evidential proofs, means taking an alternative path of being attentive to citizens’ moral and ethical considerations. This alternative option does not fit with the liberal image of unprejudiced rational reasoning, free of emotions and the torment of the soul. The gloomy conclusion is that liberal democracy invented multiculturalism in order to tranquilize minorities' aspirations for attracting attention to their moral or ethical thought. By providing endless, observable referents in the name of superior scientific thought, populist legalism crushes any chance for ethical judgment or for a diverse, cultural moral norm to be heard. This is how positivism, phenomenology and constructivism became the leading philosophies in liberal democracies. How Habermass's consensual communication, Rolls' reasonable judgment, and Chomsky’s innate universal grammar, became leading figures in universities' curricula. As the guardians of the democratic deceit, their treatise prevents us from being alert to the deprivation of non-calculative modes of thought. The bearers of deconstruction, Heidegger, Derrida, or Lyotard are marginalized in many departments of philosophy. Totalitarian regimes invented prisons and torture cellars for rebels and political outsiders, while contemporary democracy discovered terms such as multiculturalism for narcoticizing its citizens.
Making a distinction between an object of cognition, and objects of ideas, points to the cleavage which threatens human society. An object of cognition refers to a cognitive category - its existence can be validated or refuted by testimonial means. Objects of ideas have to do with reflective, contemplative thought. Legalism conforms with objects of cognition where a statement about reality can be validated according to a common rule. Ethics and morality comply with the realm of ideas which evade factual findings. There are no protocol procedures for establishing the reality of an object of an idea. And thus, a statement regarding an object of an idea can not be legitimized by legal means!
The minute a person or a site on the map is defined as evil it is predicated as an object of an idea. And as such it can not be validated or refuted by legal means. It can be examined solely in moral or ethical terms. So when Bush's advisers coined the expression ‘axis of EVIL' they elevated Saddam to the heights of an object of an idea. Thus, however, they were caught in the trap they laid for themselves. By referring to Saddam as an evil, they ruled out their chances of justifying the war against Iraq by legal means. From a philosophical perspective, they lost the case of portraying the acts against Iraq as grounded in a cognitive discourse, and thus, all intelligence reports, documents, and testimony regarding the existence of WMD became useless. There is no way to hold the stick by both ends: to declare rational reasoning grounded within the cognitive genre on the one hand, and to validate an abstract idea by cognitive means on the other. This conduct means being irrational while at the same time claiming rationality. For the cognitive genre it is impossible to quit the conditional demand for binary logic. It is impossible to deliver a guilty/not guilty sentence. There is no way to be rational and irrational at the same time! An attempt to elude this claim is totalitarian. So how dare enlightened people establish the multiculturalism project if they themselves are oblivious to their own norms? How dare liberal leaders democratize other societies, whilst they themselves are unfamiliar with rational thought portrayed by scientific reasoning?
The concept of the Differend coined by Lyotard illuminates this theme clearly. A differend is a case of conflict between two parties that can not be resolved for lack of rule of judgment applicable to both arguments. A differend takes place when the one who complains about a wrong done is denied the means to prove the damage. The differend is signaled by an inability to prove, when the victim is reduced to silence. But, to be able not to speak is not the same as not being able to speak. As Lyotard put it, “There is no non phrase. Silence is a phrase”. When 'one can not find the words', one might express oneself by a ‘negative phrase’, by silence, by non-verbal aggression and acts of destruction. The captives of the cognitive genres are left in the remorseless limbo of a futile blind alley. The option available to the victim is to turn the state of being able not to speak into a benefit, to start a wordless fight outside the cognitive genre. Letting the ideas talk for themselves by killing the referent.
Multiculturalism under the hegemony of legalism means lip service that supports the reality of the differend as natural and indisputable. In order to stop being victims of populist rhetoric, and thinking of multiculturalism not in ethnic terms but as a moral issue, people should renovate significations and explore new expressions. Let’s dream a reality where the victim of the cognitive genre is able to dwell in the zone of the differend, get involved in the art of deconstruction. and thus, gain access to expressing the wrong done by using new phrases.
The idea of freedom, tolerance, leadership responsibility, being good or being evil is not conditioned upon phrases which are related to referents of knowledge. Instead of preaching multiculturalism under the guise of science and calculative thought, more space for ethics and morality should be made available. This could generate genuine empathy for immigrants and diverse ethnic or religious communities, and bring ‘cultural pluralism’ to the public agenda and to schools. Thinking of language hermeneutically, putting all texts under the magnifying glass of deconstruction, might let in some light and deconstruct the texts of multiculturalism!
A bothersome questions to ask is: what is the reason for the dubious conduct of western philosophers who do not criticize their political leadership on philosophic grounds; disclosing their ignorance, shouting to the world that ‘THE KING IS NAKED’? What is the use of multiculturalism if they turn their back on justice? Could it be that popularizing legalism is the way to postpone multiculturalism?

This paper was presented at the "New Europe at the Cross Roads" conference (sponsored by Loyola College in Baltimore). Munich summer 2004.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

AN EYE FOR AN EYE, or, an eye for an "I": authors and executioners.

By Ariella Atzmon©

“An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind” (Mahatma Gandhi)

‘An eye for an eye’ as a doctrine of punishment appears in ancient systems of law. We can find it in the Old Testament, in the jurisprudence of Babylon and in Islamic law. In Rome it was known as the "Lex Talionis” code of justice. Some relevant implications for contemporary politics and rhetorical conduct of deterrence can be revealed by deconstructing the meaning of the 'EYE FOR AN EYE' precept.
We have always been taught that the old biblical verse “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” presents a primordial mode of punishment which is endorsed and carried out by the most reactionary regimes. Oddly, the primordial 'eye for an eye' mode of punishment no longer is applied by non-western peoples, but rather has become the typical style of retaliation in societies which are considered to be neo-liberal democracies. The question to be asked is how it came about that this ancient imperative has been transformed into daily conduct for those who consider themselves liberal, enlightened, high-cultured and democratic regimes. What are the rhetorical mechanisms that disguise the 'eye for an eye' retaliatory policy under propagandistic declarations such as the 'liberation' of the oppressed people of Iraq, or democratizing those who are 'abused' by theocratic fundamentalist regimes? Since we are conditioned to praise any occurrence and all policy in the course of democracy as right, while whatever is related to non-democratic regimes as totally evil, critical self-reflection on the scene of retaliation is needed. Given that speculations regarding overt political affairs remain locked in the shadow of a 'Black Box', the entire commitment to progress and rationality, as related to legal doctrines for punishment, should be critically analyzed.
In a short essay, "An Eye for an Eye,"[1] Immanuel Levinas the 'prophet of ethics' condemns Christian piety, magnifying non-resistance to evil. "Ah! The lex talionis, an eye for an eye. How much pious anger you generate in a world ruled only by kindness and love". In the name of Jewish wisdom Levinas attacks the exaltation of a superhuman and heroic life from which heart and pity must be banished. He locates this kind of inspiration in pagan traditions, in Machiavelli, or in Nietzsche. By tracing a message of universalism that describes the unity of mankind, Levinas expounds "one law for all is the latent wisdom that is hidden in the mysterious words." As violence calls for more violence, it is the mission of humanized justice to put a stop to what "once the evil has been committed." But how should this mission become real? And here comes Levinas with a twist that sounds odd and bizarre! In the name of the doctors of Talmud he blames western justice, based on 'peace and kindness' for the biased privileging of the rich! "It advantages those who can easily pay for the broken teeth, the gouged–out eyes and the fractured limbs..." He condemns the way fracture and outrage are "taken on a market value and are given a price" and thus "the world remains a comfortable place for the strong." Without blinking he reminds us about the biblical spirit of kindness, declaring that "if money or excuses could repair everything and leave us with a free conscience, the movement would be given a misinterpretation. Yes! eye for eye …… nor all the money in the world can heal outrage done to man… It is a disfigurement or wound that bleeds for all time as though it required a parallel suffering to staunch this eternal haemorrhage". By listening to the phrase "What appears to be cruel, seeks only justice" we may well wonder, was it enunciated by Levinas or by Shylock?[2]
Relying on the doctors of Talmud, Levinas places himself in the webs of Rabbinic tradition and Halachah law, grounded in the old Pharisee school. It is the version of Judaism where social justice and personal morality are equated. There is no conception of 'virtue' or 'duty' and no need for rational morality. There is only the fear of God as the patron of justice. So in favor of false Talmudic righteousness, Levinas closes his eyes to ethical judgment, as shuttered within a Black Box. By praising the rabbinic tradition that confuses morality with legalistic law, Levinas betrays humanism and exposes his behaviorist position.
When the eye for an eye is understood and materialized in concrete figurative terms, it implies a behaviorist positivist epistemology. The measure for measure mode of retaliation is a by-product of the correspondence theory of truth, namely, associating a name to a sensory data. The correspondence theory of truth dictates a clear-cut demarcation of the observational from the theoretical, and the behaviorist stance determines the superfluous status of theoretical speculations. Skinner, the originator of the behaviorist argument, refers to any theoretical outlook as sealed in a ‘BLACK BOX’. According to this view, since inventive interpretations are impenetrable to snooping, inquisitive investigation, any entity that can not be linked with sense data is doomed to be thrown out to the non-sense bin. The behaviorist argument asserts that if A leads to B and B leads to C, then A indirectly determines C and we can eliminate B. Therefore, if an explanatory theoretical terminology C link between initial input observables A and output factual data B, it is possible to skip C, as represented by a ‘Black Box’ and treat reality by exclusively using observable entities. Thus, when reality is supervised merely by evidential reports, the 'reporter' is released from referring to contextual notions of meanings in use. In a scene of retaliation, when there is a sequence of violent events which follow one after another, bypassing the stage of reflexive thought in the attempt to reveal the underlying linkage between the mutually destructive acts conforms with behaviorism. When a martyrdom act in Jerusalem is avenged by demolishing the family house, village or town of the perpetrator, skipping a phase of self-reflection regarding the original sins that lead up to the act, we are faced with crude behaviorism. Such devastating modes of retaliation are backed up by behaviorist propaganda that hinders people from interpreting the chain of events. All the input/output conditioning apparatus operated by the worst styles of brainwashing propaganda are grounded in behaviorism, namely: disclosing factual evidence and sealing theoretical speculation within a Black Box. We can scarcely find people who question the reasons why and how things started to deteriorate. After the 7/7 London blasts, things are referred back to 9/11. Yet forms of political and economic control "terrorized nations and obliterate their power… "[3] had been in practice long before the 1993 World Trade Center attack. The nonchalant brainwashed mindset regarding the robbery of Third World people of their natural resources is symptomatic to behaviorist blindness. The corruption of believers’ lives by authoritarian secularism was going on long before the Twin Towers were crushed to dust.
The more we are flooded by facts and evidential reports, the more the Black Box shuts down. Since liberal democracy is conditioned to place its trust in scientific thought, the way to keep people in step with the system is to submerge them in streams of reports, surveys and poll results. The scientific envelope guarantees, in advance, the status of addressed messages, as if statements can be validated by correspondence only. Although justification by a coherent inference is closer to the nature of science, it is disregarded. And so, since science is presented as a perfect model for unbiased rational thinking, with the aim of protecting the social order, liberal education fixes the rules for how science should be presented to the public. Students are instructed to construct reality in terms of their own experience; it insists upon bridging the observational reports to empty abstract statements first, and to skip the notions given to words later. The distortion of peoples' minds towards facts is the great deceit of liberal education.
People were against the war on Iraq since there was no factual evidence regarding the existence of WMDs. But, even if some WMDs would have been found, was it still justified to impose democracy on people who had not asked for it? Are only 'responsible' western democratized states allowed to develop WMDs? Do Dresden and Coventry present us with evidential proof of responsible retaliatory conduct? But questioning the implications of the eye for an eye imperative as related to ethics is not a matter of concern for the westerners. In the legalistic public debate it is considered irrelevant.
The ambiguous double meaning of the 'Black Box' can be viewed as another deceptive rhetorical device. It is when besides the praise for rational scientific thought; obscure messages meant to implant fear from the shadowy Al Qaeda are disseminated. It is a double bind message that in the name of individual freedom of choice facilitates manipulation and control.
Surprising? It is precisely in western regimes, where the political leader controls the 'Black Box' that we face distorted evidence and forged documents. The coalition had to invent the Iraq conflict “because Iraq was a test case…if we had backed away from that, we would never have been able to confront the threat in other countries where it exists,” Blair's speech to the British troops in Basra 4/1/04. Blair admits that the war against Iraq was just a warning. The crucial attempt, according to Blair, is “to get on top of the security situation”. Blair, Bush and Sharon start counting from the stage of being attacked, failing to recall their own offences. They punctuate starting points without responsibility for catastrophic endpoints. Ironically, this behaviorist epistemology also liberates their critics from digging into the Pandora's Box.
On the same day that Blair delivered his speech, Bin Laden, in an audiotape broadcast, declared the causes for past, present and future attacks on American, British or Israeli targets. “My message is to incite you against the conspiracies especially those uncovered by the occupation of the crusaders in Baghdad under the pretext of weapons of Mass Destruction, and also the situation in Jerusalem under the deception of the road map and the Geneva initiative.” According to the speaker, Middle Eastern issues are part of a religious and economic war in which the “Big Powers” are trying to control the region for its oil. Clearly we can point out who is talking in causal terms?
In the Judeo-Muslim world where democracy is rejected, the rhetorical game of persuasion is unnecessary. Therefore the ‘eye for an eye’ precept of retaliation is modified into an obscure mode of leaving the enemy blinded. The unidentified terrorists of Sept 11th, those who committed the massacre in Bali or Madrid, did not leave behind any clear explanation, written or broadcast. The vague messages distributed on the internet after the London bombs were another obscure reminder of Anglo-American and Zionist imperialism. Bin Laden, who is considered the one who arranged the Sept 11 attack, never openly admitted the attacks. The intelligence agencies are still shooting in the dark. The minute we acknowledge that all assaults on western trade and tourism sites were led by unknown groups in the name of ideas, then the way to deal with this trend of events is to start reflecting on the matter philosophically. It means paying attention to the obscure style of the delivered announcements; trying to infer why and how they cynically utilize western technology for their own means. The quality of the filming and sound, which are extremely poor, tell us how much they disregard the technology of photography. It is just the contrary to the thinking behind the London Metropolitan Police who appeal for mobile camera photos and other kinds of filming taken around the time of the blasts – in the attempt to solve the mystery. In the course of calculative investigation it is possible to identify those who carried out the attacks, while the detection of their sender continues to be a mission impossible. The disclosure of reasons and cause for the blasts remain enigmatic. I argue that the obscurity of the messages is a message in itself. It is a self-referential message! Since filming is not a reproduction of reality but rather a simulated invention of the event, the videos do not pretend to bring out a clear documentary eligible for western analysts. It is an illustration of how the mode of delivering a message can be seen as a warning message to step back from behaviorist modes of thought, to revert and start searching into the 'Black Box'. Opacity stimulates fear of the unknown which is much more powerful than the pseudo-transparent messages declaring fortitude and self-determination. Instead of being trapped again and again in a behaviorist chain of retaliation it should raise an awareness regarding the impossibility of representation. It is more than reasonable that the efforts of western intelligence agencies are still concentrated, around the clock, on identifying those responsible for the 9/11 event. But it is the philosophers' task to reflect upon the messages hidden in those left-behind video cassettes, the writers' duty to raise public awareness of the polyphony of meanings. It is difficult to articulate the attackers' intention in plain words. We can only guess!
We may say that there is nothing wrong with techno-scientific thought. The problem is its arrogance which perceives all non-calculative modes of reasoning as inferior. Disabling the poetic aspect of the human brain, letting free only the digital façade, is the moment where humanism is totally subjugated to brutality.
Conforming with calculative thought, western rhetoric makes it imperative that only what is visible has an impact on the public. Since in democratic societies the next election is always just around the corner, any victory or failure has to be attached to immediate tangible proof. In cultures that are not obsessed by elections, maintained by rationality and freedom of choice, there is no pressure for a permanent supply of successful maneuvers. People accustomed to contemplative thought are not free of hatred, and yearning for vengeance. But the search for revenge can wait till another epoch in time. The verse “Haste comes from the devil” portrays a different rhythm, not predisposed to calculative punctuation.
Contrary to western democracies where the ruler is entitled to provide retaliation in the time-range between two subsequent elections, people led by divine eternal power are never restrained by the limited human lifetime. In contrast to democratic rulers who strive against time to produce successful results, religious pundits guided by God’s will do not have to justify their deeds in reference to results but according to intentions. Digitalized western people who are unable to internalize a non-punctuated mental state, when defeated, crave for an 'eye for an eye' revenge. They can not delay their need for gratification. But philosophy, as the realm where human deeds should be ethically judged, should remove itself from actuality, keeping remote from that deceitful game.
To agree with Levinas on the point that the ‘eye for an eye’ phrase should be understood as the search for proportional justice, the questions to be asked are: How did it happen that the Anglo-Americans dumped the enlightened spirit of the Lex Talionis in favor of the 'Talmudic - Behaviorist wisdom' of interpreting the 'eye for an eye' precept literally? How did the biblical modes of Jewish retaliatory and deterrent conduct, which contradict the nature of justice, became the hallmark of western policy? How long can western rulers stay remote from the ethical aspect of the Lex Talionis - the principle of proportional justice, that the punishment should fit the crime no more, no less? How many eyes should be sacrificed for the one I?

[1] Emanuel Levinas (1990), Difficult freedom, Essays on Judaism, (London: THE ATHLONE PRESS)
[2]In their own way, Zionist follow the meandering treatise of Levinas thoroughly. But while Levinas insists on the Talmudic concrete 'measure for measure' mode of punishment, Zionist Jews are engaged in an endless search for documentary proof aimed at bringing the wrong into the marketplace, putting a price tag on executed parents, wives, husbands and children. Actually, Jews who are used to grounding their supreme identity in the wisdom of Talmudic scholarship substitute a monetary fine for suffering. Remember that the Zionists twice refuted Talmudic wisdom: first in the transfer agreements in 1933 legitimizing Hitler's regime, and later in legitimizing the new Germany in 1953, by signing the compensation agreement. Contrary to the old Jewish declaration "to blot out the name of Amalek", recalling God's war against those who symbolize the eternal enemy, from generation to generation, they keep on begging for financial compensation without quitting the urge for revenge.
[3] Mahmud Abouhalima in an interview with M Juergensmeyer in: M. Juergensmeyer, (2000), Terror in the Mind of God, University of California Press. P.60-9

This paper was presented at the "New Europe at the Crossroads" conference (sponsored by Loyola College). Poznan, summer 2005.

Friday, September 02, 2005

‘BLACK BOXES' – the overt manifestation of the covert

Dr. Ariella Atzmon ©

“One can own a mirror; does one then own the reflection that can be seen in it?"
Wittgenstein, Zettel:

The relevance of this Wittgenstein remark (Zettel sec:717), hints at the rhetorical language of propaganda used in the course of contemporary democracy and its links to false images of science implanted in the public consciousness in the course of contemporary science education.
With reference to recent political events following the September 11th disaster, let me examine the use and abuse of the ‘Black Box’ terminology. The expression ‘Black Box’ crops-up whenever it is necessary to elucidate an enigmatic event by transforming the covert into an overt clear-cut exposition. As related for example, to the airplane crash in Queens NY on the 12th of November 2001, the report of that event might reveal a device for the subversion of people’s minds. We should ask: how is it possible that the people of NY were so easily convinced in just two hours, that the event was an accident and not another terrorist attack? The fact is that the moment the announcement on finding the 'magic' Black Box (claimed to consist of ultra- digital information technology) was made, all the news channels suddenly replaced this news item with reports of the invasion of Kabul by US troops.
What is meant by a Black Box? Does it signify the urge to decipher something in order to achieve transparency, or does it specify an opaque entity, its content doomed to remain unknown?
The maneuvering of the notions imposed on the 'Black Box' metaphor, originates in philosophical behaviorism representing a locked, opaque object - impenetrable to any inquisitive investigation. All the in-put/out-put (stimuli/response) conditioning that triggered the sophistication of brain-washing propaganda (or advertisement) is grounded in this behaviorist notion of Black Boxes.
The ‘Black Box’ terminology entered the philosophic vocabulary in relation to the Carnap Skinner debate around the status of theoretical terms[1]. The behaviorist argument asserts that since theoretical terms links initial input observable entities with output factual data, it is possible to skip the theoretical framework, as represented by a ‘Black Box.’ Hence, reality is supervised as an efficient summation of evidential reports, as long as it meets the requirement for predictions and explanations. This view enables to keep up with a descriptive methodology, releasing the reporter from referring to the contextual meanings in use. Consequently the whole weaved conceptual framework that activate daily practices keeps being disguised from the public. In Anthony Wilden words: "You can not beat strategy with tactics…. If you are strategically illiterate you don't know you don't know…."[2] It has to do with political ethics, as contrasted with authoritarian democratic cynicism where people are left with tactics, making strategy and the idea of strategy a secret never to be revealed.
Thus, cynically, the same ‘Black Box’ nowadays simultaneously portrays an opaque entity beside a transparent key for unveiling information. This covert/overt ambiguity provides a rhetorical mechanism for the disclosure of something that might be lost and is aimed at enhancing peoples’ trust that things are firmly under control.
Rhetoric in the course of Liberal democracy manifests a positivist-behaviorist approach that complies with the truth theory of correspondence, i.e. associating a name to a thing. It links a term to sense data in order to ratify meanings by using a rule of correspondence.
An alternative mode for validation of statements is to distance ourselves from observable attributes, interpreting a term by coherence criteria - where a meaning is understood in the terminology of relationship and difference.
Education can be seen as a key for implanting the correspondence theory of truth as all-inclusive. Most recent educational programs are lacking a serious engagement with an abstract theoretical terminology. Contemporary education is a bizarre blend of two rival philosophical movements namely; positivism and phenomenological constructivism. The efforts invested in instructing students to construct reality in terms of their own experience are blurred between Husserelian phenomenology and Positivist- behaviorism. While the first stresses genuine expression alongside the experiencing of pure phenomena, the second view advocates rigorous methodological conduct for the articulation of descriptive reports. The uncontrolled zealous devotion to the experiencing of solid factual data reveals the educationist’s ignorance. Educational programs can be seen as a ‘Hailing process’ where the student is told “follow me, I am about to teach you how to construct your own reality.”
Confidence in factual data is rooted in the Lockian Ideational Theory of Meaning referring to language as representation. Representational thinking treats reality as if it were a picture "placed before" the subject. Fallacious images of scientific thought describe language as a 'vocabulary of things.’ According to this view, communication is enabled since words signify ideas in a perceptible way. Consequently language is essentially a tool for the interaction between human minds. Hence, our thoughts are viewed as an amplification of sequential ideas that associate a vocal sound, giving it the same meaning. The link between our minds and the objects which are perceived by our senses, is mediated by the process of name giving.
The ideal of sharing a similar interpretation of the same linguistic sign concurs with techno-scientific language. This language authorizes the use of linguistic signs as clear-cut signals, narrowing the multiplicity of expressive utterances, making way for the most determined communicative descriptions or reports. The techno-scientific language gains its power due to education systems governed by scientism[3]. Education, that operates as a selective membrane for the meaning in use protects the social order by signalizing the linguistic sign.
The Freudian-Lacanian idea that what has not acquired meaning can never be known reveals a vicious circle, where the rhetorical game signalizes meanings. The scientific cover-up allocated to findings, grasped as clusters of factual data formulating a suitable basis for rational reasoning, is connected to the citizen’s self-image in democratic, liberal society. Consequently the rhetorical representation of signalized, scientific language becomes part of an ideological illusion of freedom of choice. Thus, the liberal promise of emancipation is related to human beings as individuals whose rational abilities grant them the ability to judge, choose and plan their life-style competently in the framework of democratic life. Planting positive attitudes in favor of a system where given data serve as the basis for legal, moral and ethical judgments raises individual illusion regarding freedom of choice. In the western, liberal democratic milieus it is agreed that calculative thought, based upon well-established punctuated evidence, is preferential upon personal impressive verbalization. The weight bestowed in advance on digital descriptions considered to be legitimized reports is based on an arbitrary linguistic contract. Hence, the more the scientific façade of a statement is enhanced, the more its authorization is recognized. A hegemonic approach to language as correspondence (i.e.; representation) defines MEANINGS in terms of what should be included or excluded under a specific term. The political conclusion is that the promise of modernity for self-realization, including some postmodernist hopes for emancipation, are mediated by an a-priori tendency to signalize the sign.
The prestigious status of scientific thought, spurred an obsessive drive in the philosophy of science to demarcate between the scientific and the non-scientific (Popper). The necessity for demarcation preserves the criteria for what is considered valid and what should be thrown-out as meaningless. ‘Credible’ information amasses its authority via science images that proliferate in liberal societies, namely: referring science exclusively to organized factual knowledge. The compulsive occupation with the problem of demarcation reflects a struggle for control over the legitimization of specific modes of information. Popular acceptance of the positivist images of science is reflected in the media, in the courts, in achievement assessments, in I.Q. testometry and so on.
Science is self-maintained via narrow definitions of rationality which relate judgments to a link between a concept and its experiential attributes. But in order to examine whether something can be considered ‘rational,’ one must utilize the concept of rationality invented by the selfsame designers of the same widespread science images. This may be compared to a situation where the police investigate itself. I would say that the same approach that plants the illusion of free choice, simultaneously blocks the possibility for emancipation.
My argument can be clarified by the illustration of a final pre-election TV. confrontation between the main rival candidates. That style of interview with the trickery rhetorical sound bites in a ping-pong game, dictates a race where the opponents’ statements are restricted to no more than ten seconds at the most. The question is: “how is the process of rhetoric designed, so that what a politician is unable to say on TV in a sound bite of three minutes, he will never get a second chance to speak about at large?
One may describe pre-second world war rhetoric as a deductive Euclidean inference relying upon axiomatic assumptions, keeping within the bounds of coherence. In contrast to those styles, postwar western rhetoric presents us with a sort of T.V. “espresso” style, defined by Arthur Koestler as ‘short,’ ‘instant’ and ‘concentrated.’ The politician, with the aid of P.R. companies, will succeed as long as he blends, briefly in one gulp, the proper ingredients in the right dose, so that he may be simultaneously convincing, pleasant, and sufficiently vague to cover as many people as possible under the same umbrella. So, information is not just what is coming out of the T.V. screen, but those corresponding algorithmic modes of reasoning which pave the way to how we listen to the news.
By choosing a substantial word (such as evil, or terror) and charging it with a univocal meaning, optimal obscurity is achieved
Identification of the indicators of a successful rhetorical blend presents to us the subtle role of education that disappears from view precisely because of its importance. It is education that fixates the false images of science, which support the rules for how science should be presented to the public.
By using Lyotard’s terminology of the ‘Differend’ I argue that the victims of science images are unable to make a claim against scientism, because there is a latent web of rules which imposes shared agreement about ‘what science means.’ I propose that not only is education itself safeguarded within the patterns of scientism, but also that education fortifies scientism, establishing a self-maintaining system by the dissemination of its power.
The distinctiveness of western propaganda is founded upon the fact that both liberalism and the scientific revolution came into the world arm-in-arm. The main characterization of western propaganda is that latent commitment to support pervasive statements by well-established, evidential proof. Actually, all those I-philosophies (from Descartes to Husserl) that stress that human rational ability can facilitate a close correspondence between the realm of abstract meanings and the realm of reality as perceived by the senses, have supported and protected liberal democracy ever since.
Taking the Heideggerian stance regarding the human subject as being shaped by language rather than by his mind and his personal experience, undermines the human self-image as an individual empowered with the capability of rational free choice. Since the concept of individuality is the cornerstone of liberal democracy, Heideggerian philosophy endangers the whole texture of the western rhetorical machine. Heidegger’s view of language as the ‘home of being’ affords us an innovative gaze into the route taken by propaganda for trapping peoples’ minds in the webs of the hegemonic discourse.
In the name of “scientific neutrality”, scientism confuses science with technology, and thereby the definitions for “rationality,” and “objectivity” are narrowed. This is how liberal democracy becomes entangled with scientism by virtue of the praise given to human, calculative, sovereign reasoning. But this reasoning illusion is manipulated by the behaviorist approach that treats the human mind as a Black Box, conditioned by the stimuli/response procedure. In other words, in this way kidnapped meanings, which correspond with overt, evidential reports, replace scary covert warning alerts. I assert that this subversive manipulation of human minds is an unethical act. It is another version of brain washing in the framework of liberal democracy, which even more intensifies the gap between calculative reasoning and ethical judgment.
Lyotard titled ‘the Differend’ as “the case of conflict between two parties that cannot be equitably resolved for lack of a rule of judgment applicable to both arguments.” The ‘ Differend’ illustrates precisely the logic of the dominance of discourses that are relied upon, and at the same time support experiential evidence. As such, it marks a point of incommensurability. Scientism is typical of genres which attempt to increase harmonious consonance by ignoring alternative discourses that confront us with an absence of rules for a clear-cut judgment. The legal system, in the course of liberal democracies, relates to harm assessments and evidential proof in order to validate statements. But, there is no simple viable route for moral or ethical proof. Even if there are rules for what should be described as judgment, they are inaccessible because of their ethical nature. When the issue at stake is justice, legality, which has to do with the complications of statutes, belongs to a calculative culture, so it needs proofs, supported by factual evidence, but for moral judgment there are no simple proofs.
In the course of the liberal paradigm, the variety of interests and traditions necessitates a state apparatus accepted by all. Secular liberalism established the civil legal system as an all-embracing means for stabilization, the resolution of conflicts and the legitimization of its rule. Thus, in liberal regimes, rhetoric turned from being concerned with how politics is supposed to cope with ethics, into trickery, an instrumental maneuver attempting to find the means by which to adjust the law to politics. According to the utilitarian approach, ethics became a calculative apparatus for the assessment of harm caused by the ‘evil other.’ Liberal democracy put a barrier between morality and ethics on the one side and legality on the other. Even the notion of the word innocence as related to terror(ized) victims is weighed in accordance with the ideological affiliation of the victims. In reference to Israeli spokesmen, democratic civilian victims are innocent compared with Palestinian kids (always killed by mistake).
There is relief in the act of philosophizing even though one is not a philosopher. The populist current view referring to reality as a ‘vocabulary of things,’ i.e.: representation, prevents an encounter with the sublime. The ‘Black Box’ propaganda style blocks the ability to contemplate vague positions that entail doubts and uncertainties. Thus, the citizens of liberal democratic countries are left defenseless as an easy prey in the hands of a subversive- persuasive rhetoric.
Faith in clusters of data presented by ‘Black Boxes’ expertise leads to civic irresponsibility and alienation. I would say that despite the song of praise to ‘democracy’ we are likely to find ourselves withdrawing to the pre-democratic era!

[1] The behaviorist argument which was pointed out by B. F. Skinner in Science and Human Behavior (1953), was elaborated by Carl Hempel as the Theoretician’s Dilemma.’
[2] Wilden Anthony (1987), The Rules are no Games, (London: Routlage & Kegan Paul) p.48
[3] By 'scientism' I mean an excessive belief in the power of scientific knowledge and techniques, as well as a belief in the applicability of the methods of the physical sciences to othe fields, especially human behavior and the social sciences

[I wrote this paper for the 27th IMISE conference, The University. of Klagenfurt, Austria (2003).
[I am aware that our present days are loaded with too many disastrous events, and thus some of my case studies might be considered 'long forgotten'. They are displayed just to support my argumentation regarding the authoritarian rhetorical power of philosophical Behaviorism. I am convinced that undermining the Black Box deceitful devices of propaganda, which are rampant in western democracies, particularly since WW2, necessitate a well established discussion that reveal the way liberal democracies are safeguarded and even armored by techno-scientific calculative modes of reasoning. I hope that by epitomizing the way calculative thought takes over all other modes of human thinking some of the subtleties found in the EYE FOR AN EYE and the other article will be clarified. ]

Ariella Atzmon