Belmont Club


A damaged van, believed to be the one used in the attack (Rex Features via AP Images)

Today ISIS claimed responsibility for a van attack on a pedestrian mall in Barcelona that left 13 dead and a hundred injured.  Suddenly the War on Statues was thrown off the front pages by the War on Terror.  Events can overwhelm the Narrative through a process called burn-through. When the signal from events exceeds the power of a jammer it is said to “burn through”.

Narratives are powerful but not omnipotent.  The Lone Wolf Narrative can be sold to the public only while attacks fall below a certain frequency. Once the attacks happen too frequently the script fails and the public begins to wonder if the Lone Wolves aren’t really a pack. Even the immense media resources at the disposal of progressives can be overcome by a strong signal from events.

The presence of jamming can sometimes be inferred from an excessive number of “sudden” or “unexpected” events that appear in full blown form without the slightest warning. Their sudden onset is explained by the pop out when they pass the filter.  When things appear suddenly and very close at hand it might be because they’re past the blinders. The presence of too many sudden and unexpected events of the same type could be a sign that a filter is in operation.

A little processing can help clarify the picture.  The frequency of events is an important indicator of their true proportion.  The low frequency of past white supremacist marches could be because there really aren’t that many Nazis around. If there were so many Nazis around why are they so few and why was their flagship website on GoDaddy?  If they are on the rise then why are “white supremacist” statues so old instead of so recent?

On the other hand, if Islamic extremism were so rare why are attack frequency counts rising instead of falling?  Skewed assessments are not necessarily caused by malice. The relative weakness of the Nazis vis a vis Radical Islamism can explain the emphasis on “right wing extremists”. The well-known Drunkard’s Search effect describes the “tendency for people to search in the easiest places, rather than the ones that are the most likely to yield results. The name comes from the idea of a drunkard seeking his car keys under a street lamp because the light is better instead of where he most likely lost them.”

Since it’s relatively easy to go after Nazis or dead Confederates compared to radical Islamists backed by oil money and guns it is human nature to go after the low-risk bad guys. Our unwillingness to go up against a hard target explains why the last half dozen presidents were so chummy with Saudi Arabia.  It also explains why Antifa feels more comfortable opposing the “alt-right”.

The Antifa and the Greatest Generation are not the same because the GG went after the Nazis when they had Tiger tanks, ME-262s and V2s. Today the Nazis can only boast of GoDaddy websites and tiki torches. It’s the Islamists that have the Scuds, poison gas, AK-47s and suicide bombs. Therefore it is the latter, not the former who are avoided like the plague.

Modern Nazism is to all intents and purposes, a dead movement. Their only real value today is to serve as decoy jammer; a minor or spurious target whose goal is to draw attention away from a real threat.  One famous example of a decoy operation was the D-Day Glimmer operation that used chaff and radar reflectors to make the Germans think the landings would be in the Pas de Calais.  Political disinformation still works the same way. If you want to keep the public from locking in on the actual target give them another.

Robert Shibley is puzzled by the apparent decision of the local and campus leaders to let violence start in Charlottesville. “State, local, and even college campus leadership appear to be telling police to stand by while some degree of unlawful violence takes place right before their eyes. Yet when that violence predictably spirals out of control, the authorities profess their inability to have done anything to stop it. Meanwhile, those inclined to violence are emboldened, secure in the knowledge that the publicity payoff is high and the odds of punishment low.”

But Shibley needn’t be baffled. Violence works like a radar reflector that returns a big fat target the media can’t help but lock on to. Consequently a few hundred neo-Nazis temporarily become the center of the media world while everyone was locked on the offending statues — until something burned through.

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The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency , by Chris Whipple. The book offers an essential portrait of the toughest job in Washington. Through extensive, intimate interviews with all seventeen living chiefs and two former presidents, Whipple pulls back the curtain on this unique fraternity and revises our understanding of presidential history.

The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President, by David Aaron Miller. The book explores the concept of greatness in the presidency and the ways in which it has become both essential and detrimental to America and its politics. Miller argues that greatness in presidents is a much overrated virtue, too rare to be relevant in the country’s current politics and, driven as it is by nation-encumbering crisis, too dangerous to be desirable. The preoccupation with greatness consistently inflates people’s expectations, skews the debate over presidential performance, and drives presidents to misjudge their own times and capacity. The book helps readers understand how greatness in the presidency was achieved, why it’s gone, and how they can better come to appreciate the presidents they have, rather than being consumed with the ones they want.

The Pragmatic Superpower: Winning the Cold War in the Middle East, by Ray Takeyh and Steven Simon. Foreign policy experts Takeyh and Simon reframe the legacy of US involvement in the Arab world from 1945 to 1991 and shed new light on the makings of the contemporary Middle East. Cutting against conventional wisdom, they argue that, when an inexperienced Washington entered the turbulent world of Middle Eastern politics, it succeeded through hardheaded pragmatism, and secured its place as a global superpower. Amid the chaotic conditions of the twenty-first century, they believe that there is an urgent need to look back to a period when the US got it right.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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