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Showing posts from August 31, 2014

nabokov and a cold war trope

Sometimes, a phrase, an image, a reference, a term will catch one’s eye, revealing – not with the flag-like pomp of a theme, but like a firefly in the back yard as evening falls – some moment in history, some corner of the vast dark we call public opinion or the forces of history, which is not so much lit up as flickered up, unshadowed a bit. The master tracker of such firefly ideas is Carlos Ginsberg, who has shown how they can twist and turn – or be twisted and turned – over the longue duree, and how they can be connected, the historian’s construction being the promise that some living thing, some beat , is actually there. Parataxis promises continuity, our ellipsis waits for the pencil that draws the line between dot “a” and dot “b”, we feel the breathing of influence, but not, oh never, the palpable push of cause.     It is one of those ideas that I have been toying with ever since I caught it, again, in  Nabokov’s lectures on Russian history. Specifically, this is what tugged a

ISIS is not a terrorist outfit

I am sick to death of the definitional inflation of the word terrorist. Villifying one's enemies goes a long way back, but I think the modern use of terrorist to mean any enemy whatsoever was started by the Nazis, who labelled all resistance to them in the countries they conquered terrorist. Now, they could have called it simply resistance, but such a name would im ply that a total project could be resisted. I think that is where the terrorist idea gets its hot air from. In the case of ISIS, the difference between them and the "moderate rebel" groups the West supports is that they aren't moderate, that they are successful, and that they are gobbling up Iraq. These may well be good reasons for the US and its allies to try to destroy ISIS, War is about this kind of thing. But one must be clear about what is happening. For instance, ISIS is not attacking the US, the US is attacking ISIS. When one reads these panic inducing reports that ISIS may strike at US territory, th