Belmont Club

The Power of Symbols

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If symbols were nothing then the lengths to which the narrative makers go to control them would be incomprehensible.  The war of symbols is all about filtering, conjuring and transforming memes. In the beginning there was the word. And the word still matters.

  • “As Americans, we will not or ever be at war with Islam.” — Barack Obama, September 11, 2010
  • Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus translated as “Yesterday’s rose endures in its name, we hold empty names” — Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
  • Nunc ubi Regulus aut ubi Romulus aut ubi Remus? / Stat Roma pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus. — “Now where is Regulus, or Romulus, or Remus? / Yesterday’s Rome stands only in name, we hold empty names” — Bernard of Cluny
  • A video of a man burning a Koran at Ground Zero in 2010 and arrested on the spot, now marked as potentially offensive by YouTube.

Soledad O’Brien and the Imam Rauf on Larry King Live, Sept 8, 2010.

RAUF: So the Cordoba house —

O’BRIEN: –though, right, isn’t that causing to some degree an instability and a risk, a risk of safety? I mean, there’s an address now that has become the flash point for a lot of anger. Isn’t that a risk to Muslims and Americans?

RAUF: There is a certain anger here, no doubt. But if you don’t do this right, anger will explode in the Muslim world. If this is not handled correctly, this crisis could become much bigger than the Danish cartoon crisis, which resulted in attacks on Danish embassies in various parts of the Muslim world. And we have a much larger footprint in the Muslim world. If we don’t handle this crisis correctly, it could become something which could really become very, very, very dangerous indeed.

O’BRIEN: Do you ask yourself how did you miss that? I mean, it’s been your life’s mission, and you and I have spoken in the past years, to build bridges and reach out. And yet, given what you know now, would you have built?

RAUF: As I mentioned it, this story is not new. People knew about it.

O’BRIEN: Right, but given what you know now, would you have said, listen, let’s not do it there? Because it sounds like you’re saying in retrospect wouldn’t have done it.

RAUF: Well, yes.

O’BRIEN: You would not have done it?

RAUF: If I knew this would happen, this would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn’t have done it. My life has been devoted to peacemaking.

O’BRIEN: There are so many people who say, so if you’re saying it was a mistake, then why can’t you get out of it and not do it?

RAUF: Because we have to now make sure that whatever we do actually results in greater peace, not in greater conflict.

Irony is a Lost Cause

Open thread.