Friday Ephemera

False Consciousness

Thanks to The Thin Man for directing my attention, via here, to this essay by Bruce Bawer on Johan Galtung and the “peace studies” movement. It’s a long piece, but worth reading in full as it illustrates just how readily reality can be inverted, not least by an unhinged Norwegian Marxist.

“[The] founding father [of the peace studies movement] is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed as a charismatic and grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that ‘our time’s grotesque reality’ was - no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West’s ‘structural fascism.’ …Though Galtung has opined that the annihilation of Washington, D.C., would be a fair punishment for America’s arrogant view of itself as ‘a model for everyone else,’ he’s long held up certain countries as worthy of emulation - among them Stalin’s USSR, whose economy, he predicted in 1953, would soon overtake the West’s. He’s also a fan of Castro’s Cuba, which he praised in 1972 for ‘break[ing] free of imperialism’s iron grip.’

…In 1973, explaining world politics in a children’s newspaper, he described the U.S. and Western Europe as ‘rich, Western, Christian countries’ that make war to secure materials and markets: ‘Such an economic system is called capitalism, and when it’s spread in this way to other countries it’s called imperialism.’ …His all-time favourite nation? China during the Cultural Revolution. Visiting his Xanadu, Galtung concluded that the Chinese loved life under Mao: after all, they were all ‘nice and smiling.’ While ‘repressive in a certain liberal sense,’ he wrote, Mao’s China was ‘endlessly liberating when seen from many other perspectives that liberal theory has never understood.’ Why, China showed that ‘the whole theory about what an open society is must be rewritten, probably also the theory of democracy - and it will take a long time before the West will be willing to view China as a master teacher in such subjects.’”

That much is certain. Take a few minutes to read the whole thing

Johan_galtungGaltung is the founder of the “peace university”, Transcend, which stresses “a new reality” in conflict resolution and reporting – one based largely on “recognising the validity of the other” and avoiding descriptive terms like “barbarous” and “terrorist”. How that “new reality” would address the actual realities of jihadist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah isn’t entirely clear; but it appears to involve squinting and delusion, along with the flattening of moral values, including basics like who did what to whom, or wishes to, and disdaining Western preferences as by default wicked and “self-righteous”, while excusing or ignoring the vividly self-righteous ambitions of the jihadist movements themselves and their ideological cheerleaders.

Interviewed for Australia’s The World Today, Galtung offered a reassuring, even whimsical, view of Islamic theocracy: “The basic point in democracy is that a rule is by the consent of the people, and in the Islamic world that consent is very much in terms of to what extent Islamic values are being enacted.” Again, it isn’t clear how this rosy formulation addresses the preferences and liberties of, say, women, non-Muslims or gay people, whose relationship with orthodox Islamic values and the politics of the mosque may be somewhat less congenial.

And one mustn’t forget Galtung’s appearance on Australia’s Late Night Live radio programme, in which he equated John Howard with the “more intellectual” Osama bin Laden and implied, somewhat improbably, that the Bali bombing and attacks on Hindus, Buddhists and Christians were prompted by righteous affront at visiting Australian paedophiles. Oddly, the actual perpetrators of the Bali atrocity, who made their motives quite clear, didn’t mention paedophilic tourism as their most pressing consideration. But such is the false consciousness “new reality” of the righteous Professor Galtung.

Related, this, this and this

Help fund my attachment to ordinary reality.



Here is a link to a great article on Fidel Castro that is definitely worth reading:

The Thin Man


Take great care when following links in comments; the above commenter puts heroic looking pictures of mass murdering cretin "Che" all over his posts.

I just almost threw up my lunch. It felt a bit like reading a blog-post on "protecting children" writen by Fred and Rosemary West.


Yes, I’m afraid love is blind. Ideological fantasy even moreso.

The Thin Man

I don't know who this Che guy was, but he sure sells a lot of T-Shirts

Try this as an antidote -

The Thin Man

Sorry to go on about this but:

"The fog of time and the strength of anti-anti-Communism have obscured the real Che. Who was he? He was an Argentinian revolutionary who served as Castro's primary thug. He was especially infamous for presiding over summary executions at La Cabana, the fortress that was his abattoir. He liked to administer the coup de grace, the bullet to the back of the neck. And he loved to parade people past El Paredon, the reddened wall against which so many innocents were killed. Furthermore, he established the labor-camp system in which countless citizens — dissidents, democrats, artists, homosexuals — would suffer and die. This is the Cuban gulag. A Cuban-American writer, Humberto Fontova, described Guevara as "a combination of Beria and Himmler." Anthony Daniels once quipped, "The difference between [Guevara] and Pol Pot was that [the former] never studied in Paris."

Are we feeling the left wing love yet?

""To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary...These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate. We must create the pedagogy of the The Wall! (El Paredón)" --Ernesto 'Che' Guevara"

If you want to know the real Che, try


Here’s a little more on Castro and Guevara’s concentration camps for the “bohemian elements” sullying their utopia:

And finally, a Che T-shirt everyone can enjoy.


Every time you use the term "jihad" or "mujahideen", you validate the world view of a murderer. Imagine, committing the worst atrocities imaginable, killing children by the dozens, raping and stoning women for the sin of being raped; and then your enemies acknowledge that you really are doing God's work, that you are a holy warrior and you are fighting a holy war. What kind of message are you looking to send here?

Start using the proper terms. They are irhabists or mufsidoon, what they wage is hirabah. Terrorist or evil-doer instead of holy warrior. Unholy war instead of holy war.

This is a media and propaganda war even more than it is a shooting war.



Unfortunately, as I said in the pieces linked below, the names jihadists give themselves are rather important, however disquieting this may be for some.

The terrorists’ chosen names highlight the theological imperatives (as perceived) and their roots in Islamic history, law and teaching, not least in the deeds and purported revelations of Muhammad himself. If one cannot draw attention to this rather important fact, it’s difficult to see how the fundamental concern – the role of jihadist theology and Muhammad’s own example – can be successfully addressed. It merely obscures the problem.

Flattering the sensitivities of believers, however well-intended, is, I think, a kind of denial and seems likely to perpetuate the ability of jihadists to recruit new members using Muhammad’s own actions and appeals to Islamic jurisprudence. When Mukhlas Imron invokes Muhammad’s exhortations and example as his motive and mandate, how are we – Muslim and non-Muslim - to respond? One might, as you suggest, denounce him as an “un-Islamic” deviant, but that doesn’t address the actual theological argument, rooted in the major schools of Islamic theology, that he and those like him advance, and will continue to advance.


Actually the whole deal about irhabists, mufsidoun, and hirabah was investigated by terrorism specialists like Walid Phares, and he discovered
that it originated with Salafists and Wahhabi clerics to disguise and dis-inform
exactly in the way that you fell for, Kevin, Beside irhabi, means spy in Arabic;
as the screen name of someone involved in one of the British plots, revealed.



You're wrong and here's why. They really _are_ jihadis, in exactly the sense that Muhammad would have used the word. But in civilized countries we call that mass murder, terrorism, and barbarism. Jihad is itself an evil idea, born of an evil man and beloved of evil men. We mustn't pretend that Islam is anything but a deranged cult of violence -- with a billion adherents.

Jihadi is the correct term: it means a barbaric mass-murdering Muslim terrorist. That's what they are. If Muslims can come to recognize it as a badge of shame, there may be hope for them. If they cannot, then I don't see how Islam can continue to coexist with the rest of the human species.


Does discontent with your own society make you fantasize about other societies? Galtung is one in a long line, that includes the Webbs (who thought Stalin's Russia was wonderful) and Foucault (ditto Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran). It's often precisely when these foreign societies are at their very worst that they're most applauded by such westeners - eg Stalin in the 1930s, Mao in the 1960s.

Anyone dissatisfied with unrestrained capitalism could easily point to, say, Galtung's own Sweden as a
more humane alternative. But an absolutist personality finds it hard to get excited by a society founded on compromise and consensus.



“But an absolutist personality finds it hard to get excited by a society founded on compromise and consensus.”

Well, I suppose one might draw tentative parallels between orthodox Islam and Communism, insofar as both claim to offer a Total Explanation, or something pretty close. This will appeal to a certain type of personality, for whom complexity and compromise are unattractive, along with reality more generally.

I always thought it was quite funny, and rather outrageous, that Marxists developed an idea to explain away the broad preference for capitalism over Marxism by invoking “false consciousness” – the notion that some institutional hallucination kept the proletariat from seeing “the truth”. In fact, one might argue that devout Marxists are the ones prone to fantasy, and that this delusion is reinforced by the language and assumptions of Marxism itself. As they say, to a hammer everything is a nail.



Interesting that you reject totalizing ideologies--as do I--but reject postmodernism, which is, after all, based upon a "distrust of metanarratives." [Lyotard]

I used to have a series of arguments with my old man about a million years ago. He was a Popperian, a positivist, and above all a scientist. He claimed that liberalism was non-ideological. I am confirmed in my belief that this Ishmaelism is fatuous (sorry, Dad). Of course liberalism and science are ideological, and totalizing. But I do not here wish to rehearse discussions we've already had, and I don't reject science in any case.

I recognize the problem with the notion of "false consciousness," which is akin to Freud's dismissal of his opponents as repressed. It's too easy an answer, if one wields it crudely. But I think that a case can be made for a weak form of it, nevertheless. Gramsci, of course, developed it into the notion of hegemony.

One does see people acting against their own interests all the time, despite the rational actor model, and it makes sense to ask why, when mere ignorance is clearly not the explanation in a lot of cases. For example, in Canada the facts are plain: unionized employees have better benefits, better wages, and better working conditions on the whole. Yet (as any organizer will tell you, and I've done some of that sort of thing myself) you meet extraordinary opposition during the process of unionizing, and much of that expresses itself in bald ideological terms, from people who would never imagine themselves as ideologues. Where does all of that come from?


Dr Dawg,

“Interesting that you reject totalizing ideologies - as do I - but reject postmodernism, which is, after all, based upon a ‘distrust of metanarratives’.”

Well, as I’ve pointed out here several times, I’m not convinced that politicised postmodernism *is* distrusting of “metanarratives”. The examples I’ve given suggest a disdain for certain, highly selective, narratives, while simultaneously advancing a fairly homogenous leftist narrative, or at least an anti-capitalist, anti-bourgeois posture. And one might call that a ruse.

“Unionized employees have better benefits, better wages, and better working conditions on the whole.”

I can’t speak to the particulars of that example, but one might want to consider the broader, negative, implications of leftist ideology, whether economic, private or social. It may remain an open question whether unionised labour is in fact in a person’s interest, or in the interests of the broader population. The broad effect of unionised labour and Labour ideology in the UK during the 70s was - how shall I put this - less than elevating. Don’t forget the UK had embraced Socialism to a very large extent and to emiserating effect, with enormous union power and stagnant state-owned monopolies billions in debt.

“Gramsci, of course, developed it into the notion of hegemony.”

Gramsci, of course, should have been strangled with piano wire.

Rich Rostrom

On the "jihadi"/"hirabah" issue: there's no good answer. As Phares notes, Islamist "jihad" is not that different from the traditional understanding of the term, so de-stigmatizing "jihad" enables Islamist recruiting. OTOH, "jihad" and "mujahideen", literally translated, correspond to positive terms like "crusade" and "patriots"; using them pejoratively, and so labeling Islamists, contributes to the perception of the U,S. and its allies as "anti-Moslem" and the Islamists as defenders of Islam.

As for Galtung, piano wire is too good for him.

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