We would all do well to read this

20 Jan

opendtheme2_logo Via Arts & Letters Daily just now comes The politics of ME, ME, ME by Keith Kahn-Harris and David Hayes.

This is not just a question of people with too much time on their hands beavering away at the keyboard on controversies that affect nothing – if it were “only” this, there would be little to worry about. The problem goes deeper. It is partly that so much of this activity is harmful and wasteful, in a context where intelligent citizens working in a spirit of constructive dialogue could in principle perform a useful role in clarifying issues and arguments and offering usable ideas to those seeking solutions to the conflicts concerned.

Even worse, this kind of internet politics is also engaged in by opinion-formers, major institutions and “the brightest and best” more generally. In the Jewish community – a world with which one of us is very familiar – those who are most committed and influential in what they view as the defence of Israel have, over the last few years, increasingly come to adopt the same style of politics and mode of address. They include (in the United States) high-profile intellectuals such as Alan Dershowitz and lobbying organisations such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) and (in Britain) organisations such as Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (Bicom). Pro-Palestinian activists, while usually less organised, also engage in these struggles with just as much fervid and driven commitment…

At root, these struggles can involve vital issues, but in the hothouse of the internet, they so often disintegrate into thousands of fragments – from the interpretation of an ambiguous phrase to the reliability of a single news item. The result of an internet war of attrition that produces an impenetrable fog of confusion – and must reinforce the indifference and alienation of the non-involved.

The latter point is vital, even though it may be of sublime indifference to the super-motivated partisans. The ultimate puerility of internet combat over the middle east means that the larger and most important issues – and the possibility of keeping in sight the big picture, a vision of a better future for the region – fade from view…

Don’t be satisfied with that gobbet. Read the whole essay.

The tools for a different kind of politics exist. What is needed is the will to turn away from self-obsessed and point-scoring politics to a politics that is actually about something. What is needed is a politics that reconnects individuals with each other, a politics that looks outwards as well as inwards, a politics that is not all about "ME".


Yes, I have noted the cognitive dissonance on many a left/secularist site, as has Atheists and Secularists for Gaza. I can think of one utterly egregious example, but I never link there any more…

Worth a look at that post though.

Everyone, myself included, needs, however, to mull over the main post above before next committing themselves to print on the matter.


Posted by on January 20, 2009 in blogging, Israel, Middle East, politics


2 responses to “We would all do well to read this

  1. tikno

    January 21, 2009 at 4:37 am

    I’m glad you post this topic. Very interesting at the last paragraph.

  2. Neil

    January 21, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Thanks, Tikno. I think it is a very important essay and hope many people read it.

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