EssaysFascism: Old and NewLiberal Democracy in Question

Fascism on Trial: Greece and Beyond

Last week, Greeks woke up with a shocking phone video that was posted on the newspaper Kathimerini’s website and then went immediately viral on the Internet. A toddler dressed in a traditional Greek uniform, bearing a Nazi armlet on his right arm, and holding a Nazi flag, was being taught by an adult how to perform the Nazi salute and say Heil Hitler. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionRace

Cop Violence and the Order of Urban Terrorism

Immediately after Ferguson, MO cop Darren Wilson murdered unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, the city’s police mounted a show of militarized power that represented the rising tide of police-state terrorism in growing numbers of urban communities throughout the United States of America. Treating the community as a war zone, the cops occupied the streets, ostensibly to protect the city from the violence of black protestors. Rather, the militarized cop presence in the city of Ferguson only served to exacerbate community anger, outrage, and resentment. Young Brown’s parents, Leslie McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., were left to grieve for their son, who was left dead in the street for four hours. Since the murder of Michael Brown, killer cop Darren Wilson has not been seen in public, nor has he been charged with a crime; rather, he has been allowed to walk free and has gone into hiding. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Islamists and the Perpetuity of Catastrophe

Islamist governments in the Middle East have provided the perfect breeding ground for religious extremism. In the mean time, intoxicated by the prospect of a holy war, European Muslim youth are pouring into Syria in order to participate in the spectacle of terror. This new breed of fanaticism is mobile, highly networked and capable of orchestrating a global media campaign to intimidate large segments of populations.

Now in panic, many of the peaceful Muslim associations are trying to prove that Islam has nothing to do with this form of extreme-extremism. But it is a bit too late, and a bit too soft. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

What Changes and What Remains the Same in Brazil

The electoral setting vs. the political-institutional setting in the 2014 presidential election

Until recently, candidate Eduardo Campos was playing a supporting third-place role in the Brazilian presidential race. His tragic death in a plane crash has revolutionized the Brazilian electoral setting, where the first round of presidential elections is scheduled for October 5, 2014. Despite this change, and the consequent rise of Marina Silva, the political-institutional setting remains unchanged in the country, regardless of what will be the outcome of elections.

Brazil, the largest democracy in Latin America, has been undergoing one of the most hotly contested presidential elections of its recent history. This intensity is due to an unusual event: the death of the third place candidate Eduardo Campos (PSB, Brazilian Socialist Party) in a tragic plane crash on August 13. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Can I be a Pragmatic Pacifist?

This is a gently updated version of a post I originally published in Deliberately Considered. I post it now, thinking about the latest chapter of the never ending story of the war on terrorism.

I remember struggling with this question as a young man. Subjected to the draft during the Vietnam War being a very early and precocious opponent to the war, I tried to convince myself that I was a pacifist. Wanting to avoid conscription, I read the writings of Gandhi and A.J. Muste. I looked into the pacifist activities of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Although I realized that making the claim of being a Jewish pacifist would be practically difficult, I wanted to explore possibilities. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionMedia & Publics

9/11: A Most Restless Event

The video below was produced between the Fall of 2001 and the Spring of 2002. It was first screened as a final project for the class Semiotics for Digital Producers, taught by professor Paul Ryan, as part of the graduate program in Media Studies of the New School for Public Engagement in New York City. Twelve years later, I revisited it editing and showing it for a second screening on the occasion of the memorial for Ryan in the Orozco room of the New School in April 2014.

I have returned to the video while reading the article “Theorizing the Restlessness of Events” by Professor Robin Wagner-Pacifici, thinking about issues of temporality, event, perception, performance and meaning. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

How to Deal with Extremists? Post European Election Reflections

Considering the dilemmas of dealing with parties suspected of wanting to undermine core elements of liberal democracy

In the wake of this past spring’s European elections, in which far-right parties did very well, an old conundrum for liberal democrats is posed with renewed urgency: how to deal with extremists? Should one talk with them? Or should one only talk about them? Or not even that — in other words, should they just be ignored, or perhaps be contained with a cordon sanitaire that all other political parties agree on? The answer cannot be given in a vacuum — much depends on the nature of the party in question and on the political system in which it operates. Intellectuals and scholars who pretend that political philosophy or history provide easy answers are likely to do more harm than good here. …

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EssaysLiberal Democracy in Question

Obama Channels Reagan in Estonia

In the days leading up to President Obama’s state visit to Estonia on September 3rd, the eve before the NATO summit meeting in Wales, details of his schedule, travel plans and meetings were meticulously scrutinized. As streets closed and helicopters circled, the contrast between the heavy security surrounding the Commander in Chief and his message of freedom couldn’t have been starker. Obama’s visit dramatically underscored the complex relationship between freedom and security in a post-9/11 world. …

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