Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Hitler was not an occultist": Mitch Horowitz is right but his sourcing is all wrong (Nazis & Christians & Pagans, Part Four)

A post ("Author Mitch Horowitz Says Adolf Hitler Was Not An Occultist") over at the always interesting blog Prometheus Unbound drew my attention to Alexander Zaitchik's recent review of Mitch Horowitz's book Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation. Here is a direct link to Zaitchik's review: "Into the Weird" (originally posted at Killing the Buddha, but also found at Alternet as well as The Witches Voice).

Of course Horowitz is absolutely right that Adolf Hitler was not an Occultist, and also that left/progressive movements in the US have had strong links with Esotericism (which I think is a better term that "the occult"). And Zaitchik is right to praise Horowitz for saying that. But it turns out there is a serious problem with how Horowitz supports what he says about the Nazi/Occult connection.

Here is what Horowitz says in his book:
Is there a natural affinity between fascism and the occult? Today commentators and historians increasingly speak of occultist and pagan influences on Hitler. The subject is a favorite of cable-television documentaries. It has even spawned a subgenre of historical literature, ranging from the speculative to the serious, that casts the Third Reich as an occult empire....

But the following cannot be stated clearly enough: Hitler was not an occultist. He contemptuously dismissed the work of fascist theorists who dwelled upon mythology and mystico-racial theories. In Mein Kampf, he specifically condemned "volkisch wandering scholars" -- that is, second tier mythically and mystically inclined intellects who might have belonged to occult-nationalist groups, such as the Thule Society, with which the Nazis shared symbols. From the earliest stirrings of Hitler's career in the tiny Germany Workers' Party and its street-rabble allies, he was consumed with brutal political and military organization, not theology or myth. He employed a symbol as a party vehicle when necessary and immediately discarded the flotsam around it, whether people or ideas. He castigated those members of his inner circle who showed excessive devotion to Nordic mythology, dismissing the theology of Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg as "stuff that nobody can understand" and a "relapse into medieval notions!"

Historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who has done more than any other scholar to clarify these issues, noted that:
Hitler was certainly interested in Germanic legends and mythology, but he never wished to pursue their survival in folklore, customs, or place-names. He was interested in neither heraldry nor genealogy. Hitler's interest in mythology was related primarily to the ideals and deeds of heroes and their musical interpretation in the operas of Richard Wagner. Before 1913 Hitler's utopia was mother Germany across the border rather than a prehistoric golden age indicated by the occult interpretation of myths and traditions in Austria.
Under the Nazi regime, Theosophical chapters, Masonic lodges, and even sects that had produced some of the occult pamplets that a young Hitler may have encountered as a Vienna knock-about were shunted or savagely oppressed, their members murdered or harassed. Despite astrology's well-publicized appeal to a few of Hitler's cadre, the ancient practice was effectively outlawed under Nazism, and many of its practitioners were jailed or killed. The man sometimes mislabeled "Hitler's astrologer," Karl Ernst Krafft, had no contact with Hitler but briefly reached the attention of mid-level Reich officials for predicting the 1939 assassination attempt on him. Krafft later died en route to Buchenwald. Nazi authorities sentenced Karl Germer, the German protege of British occultist Aleister Crowley, to a concentration camp on charges of recruiting students for Crowley, whom they styled a "high-grade Freemason.
[pp. 185-188]
The problem is that Horowitz cites, and extravagantly praises, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, who turns out to be the world's leading advocate of the very theory that Horowitz wishes to refute: that there is "an affinity between the occult and fascism"!!

The following is taken from Lapis magazine, it is "based on a talk he [Goodrick-Clarke] gave at the New York Open Center in April 1997":

How much of the original dynamic of Aryan racial cultist ideology was preserved in the Nazi party itself, once it was dominated by politicians, rather than occult cranks, is a matter of debate. It's fair to say that Hitler really wasn't an occultist in his own right, but he was certainly someone who could relate to gnostic dualism in a strong way. While he was raised as a Catholic, there's evidence to suggest that he tended towards that heretical side of Catholicism that sees the world in very sharp black and white terms. Certainly, Hitler's anti-Semitism owed much to the famous anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to which he was introduced by his mentors, Dietrich Eckart and Alfred Rosenberg. This notorious Jew-baiting document was first published in German in 1920, but had originated in Russia in the late 1890s. It was highly popular among Czarists during the Russian Revolution as a way of attributing the forces of disorder and radical change to the Jews. There's also very strong evidence to suggest that Hitler actually read Lanz's magazines in Vienna, before World War I. But after the war there was tremendous acceleration in Hitler's dualistic worldview - most probably due to the Protocols - that the world can be saved only if the Jews are destroyed. Many contemporary observers, people like Albert Speer and others who knew him very well and saw him daily right throughout the Third Reich, noticed that an almost eerie, strange light came into Hitler's eyes whenever Jews were the subject of discussion. He looked kind of haunting; he looked paranoid; he looked strange. He looked as if he was up against something he couldn't beat in the end, because ultimately it was a projection of his own fear. There was the sense that he was a prisoner of dualism.

The person who best exemplified this kind of messianic occultism was undoubtedly Himmler, leader of the SS, Hitler's terrifying police and security force, who was responsible for the administration of the Holocaust. The SS combined the idea of recreating a racial aristocracy on purely eugenic lines with the idea of an ideological elite representing wisdom derived from the Aryosophists. Himmler was totally dominated by these ideas. He maintained within his staff a private magus named Karl Maria Wiligut, who came straight out of the occult tradition. Wiligut was born in 1866, demobilized after a perfectly respectable and successful military career in the Austrian-Hungarian army at the end of World War I, went into retirement, but was hospitalized because he had a nervous breakdown and exhibited traits of schizophrenia and paranoia. Then in the late 20s, he moved to Germany and became a prominent figure within the Aryosophical underground. By 1933 he'd joined Himmler's staff on the recommendation of an SS officer who happened to be a member of Lanz's order. Wiligut was promoted from the rank of captain to brigadier and joined Himmler's private staff. His job consisted almost exclusively of recording myths and symbols and stories that he intuited from the ancient Teutonic past, because he, like List, considered himself an ancient priest king, a magician who had direct knowledge of Germanic traditions. From Himmler's archives we know that anything that Wiligut produced, Himmler read, marked with his signature HH, and assiduously filed. Wiligut also designed the death's head ring that was worn by all SS men and claimed by Wiligut to be his ancient family's seal. Wiligut also administered to Himmler all kinds of stimulants and special medications that unfortunately had a very damaging effect on his health. Himmler was aware of Wiligut's psychiatric history, and it was widely known that he'd been committed as a patient in Salzburg before 1933 and he was obliged to resign. But he made one final, extraordinary contribution to Himmler's SS mythology and ritual, and that was the design of a great medieval castle celebrating Teutonic glory, intended as a kind of pagan Vatican, a Germanic center in opposition to Rome and Christianity. The Nazis were ultimately determined to replace the Christian heritage of Europe with something that reflected their pagan past.

Such dreams and visions and beliefs were redolent with gnostic and manichaean heresies. But while Nazi racist beliefs have plenty of theological precedence, in terms of dualistic doctrine and a fanatical desire to change the nature of life on earth, such heresies had never ignited historical events of such consequence. I am convinced that the Nazi fantasies of being a missionary-elect, the Nazi pursuit of the millennium in the name of nationalist racist ideology, and the extermination of six million European Jews in death camps are political events which can be understood only in a theological context. It is perfectly consistent with earlier examples of militant heresy in Europe that the Nazis should have wanted to destroy Christian civilization in the name of a new dispensation under pagan influence. When endless columns of Nazi legionaries were marching beneath crooked crosses in the massive marshal displays at Nuremberg, Nazi Germany was effectively saluting its first founder-emperor and Führer of the new one thousand year Reich. But those feelings of exuberance and hope were matched by equally intense feelings of fear and a conviction that destruction of evil was a condition of this new age. Again I'm reminded of the eerie expression that Hitler allegedly wore whenever the word Jew was mentioned in his presence. The proposed shining eternal city of Germania, Hitler's resurrected Berlin, was to be the political center of a vast Germano-Eurasian empire, predicated upon a network of slave and death cities where the antagonists of the millennium would be worked to death or immolated in a holocaust conducted by god's chosen people, the Aryans. The Nazi crusade for a new eon was entirely dualistic in its conception of battling deities for good and evil, order and chaos, and Judeo-Christian in its adoption of cultural symbols involving the destruction of the followers of Satan in a lake of fire and brimstone.

In Auschwitz we see the stain that Nazism cast upon humanity as a whole, an undying testimony to its perverted crusade. The Nazi crusade failed, despite its appeal amongst eccentric apologists for new empires and faiths, because of its hysterical narcissism, its paranoid hatred of things outside itself. You could say that the fundamental pathology of Nazi Germany's hysterical rejection of things that were foreign to itself was a rather brittle talisman. If we think about the lessons of Nazism and the shadow within certain kinds of new age belief, it really comes down to the fact that there is a terrible risk in such projections. When you start to split the world into light and darkness, order and chaos, goodness and evil, it's important that we also bear in mind something that comes very strongly to us through Christian belief: the idea of mea culpa, my fault. List and Lanz, the founders of Aryosophy, cast themselves as shining knights. But their religious dualism was shot through with the idea that they were right and the rest of the world was inferior or wrong. It's this terrible danger of the narcissism and paranoia that run through these pseudo religions and their hysterical assertion of rightness against all that seems disorderly or different that constitutes the ultimate risk - the sense that one can only solve one's problems by destroying the other.
In summary of the above, according to Goodrick-Clarke, the Holocaust "can only be understood in a theological context." And this context is that the Nazis "wanted to destroy Christian civilization in the name of a new dispensation under pagan influence." This could only happen because the Nazis had abandoned "Christian" ethical principles in favor of Occultism, thus becoming morally debased because of the "narcissism and paranoia that run through these pseudo religions." Bah. This is exactly the bullshit that Mitch Horowitz wishes to argue against, and rightly so!!

In the first two sentences of the Author's Preface to the 2004 Edition of his The Occult Roots of Nazism (originally published in 1985) Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke could not possibly make himself any clearer:
As we witness the renewed growth of the far right across Europe and America and the former East Bloc, The Occult Roots of Nazism helps illuminate its ideological foundations. By examining the occult ideas that played midwife to the Hitler movement, the most destructive right-wing ideology in history, we can better understand their implications today.
So while it is true that Goodrick-Clarke concedes "that Hitler really wasn't an occultist in his own right," he nevertheless has literally made a career out of the following claims:

1. Nazism has it's "roots" in the Occult.

2. Occultism was the "the midwife" of Nazism.

3. Under the sinister influence of Occult ideas and neopaganistical "pseudo religions", the Nazis abandoned the "Christian" belief in personal responsibility ("mea culpa, my fault"), and therefore succumbed to the "terrible danger" of "narcissism and paranoia."

4. The Nazis "wanted to destroy Christian civilization in the name of a new dispensation under pagan influence."

5. The Occultism of the Nazis also provides the "ideological foundations" of the modern day "far right".

In this blog I have previously discussed the false claims that the Nazis were anti-Christian and were guided in some way by Paganism and/or Esotericism, in the following two posts (which both contain reliable and extensive sourcing):
European Christendom and the Historical Background of Nazism
Quotes Demonstrating the Christianity of the Nazis

In addition, we know that Christian missionaries working in Africa up through the mid 20th century incorporated scientific racism, especially in the form of the so-called "Hamitic hypothesis", into their strategy for spreading the Gospel on the Dark Continent. The point is that the Church itself saw nothing whatsoever problematic in the racial theories that are the heart and soul of Nazism. This has been discussed, and documented, at some length by me in the following two posts:
Preparing the Way for Genocide in Rwanda
"Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience"

This post is part of the series on "Nazis & Christians & Pagans":
[1] Nazis and Christians and Pagans, Oh My! (Part One)
[2] Christian Nazi Quote-fest (Part Two)
[3] Fascism, Islam, and Freedom of Expression (Part Three)
[4] "Hitler was not an occultist": Mitch Horowitz is right but his sourcing is all wrong (Part Four)
[5] Karla Poewe's "New Religions and the Nazis" reviewed by Richard Steigmann-Gall (Part Five)
[6] Rosenberg, Chamberlain, Harnack (Part Six)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fascism, Islam, and Freedom of Expression (Nazis & Christians & Pagans, Part Three)

Questions About Nazism and Fascism
Contemporary philosophers, historians and social scientists continue to disagree, often heatedly, over the true nature and even the history (or "roots") of Nazism and Fascism. Here are a dozen different areas of dispute (many more could be given):

1. What is the relationship between the two: is Nazism just a particular subset of Fascism, or is it a distinct phenomenon in its own right?

2. Was Nazi anti-Semitism rooted in previously existing anti-Semitism, or was it some entirely new thing altogether?

3. What are the commonalities among the major Fascist movements in Europe during the inter-war period, especially those in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Romania and Hungary?

4. What was the relationship between distinctly Fascist movements and parties on the one hand, and on the other hand the broader "right" or "conservative" political movements and parties? (Alliances with more mainstream rightists were essential to the political success of Nazism in Germany, for example.)

5. What is the relationship between Nationalism and Fascism?

6. What are the intellectual and cultural "roots" of Fascism? For example, what is Nazism's relationship to "Romanticism", or how much does Nazism owe to the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche?

7. What is the relationship of Christianity to Nazism and Fascism? Some claim there is no relationship whatsoever, others claim an intimate relationship exists. The same questions have been raised concerning the relationship of Nazism to Paganism, the Occult, Eastern religions and also Atheism.

8. What is the relationship of various contemporary political phenomena to Fascism and Nazism? Is Zionism Fascistic? Is Islam? Is Glenn Beck a Fascist? Is the Hindutva movement in India Fascistic? Is there a real danger of a resurgence of Fascism in the West, or anywhere else, and if so where does the danger come from?

9. Alternatively, should we refrain from using the labels Fascist and Nazi for contemporary persons and movements, because in doing so we trivialize the unique horror of these historical phenomena?

10. Just how aberrant were the racial theories of the Nazis at the time? Wasn't "scientific racism" a mainstream concept in western culture throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th?

11. What could have been done to prevent the rise to power of Fascism and Nazism in the 20's and 30's? And, today, should censorship and other restrictions of individual liberties be utilized as a means of guarding against a return of Fascism, or, more generally, of opposing the "promotion of hatred"?

12. If censorship is to be applied against Fascist literature and other materials that "promote hatred", how are we to determine what material this legitimately applies to?

Now let me give two examples of the kinds of disputes associated with the above questions. Christopher R. Browning has argued (especially in his Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution) that many (or even most) of those who participated directly in the Holocaust did so merely out of obedience to authority and peer pressure. Browning's position is in stark contrast to that of Daniel Goldhagen, whose Hitler's Willing Executioners argues that average, ordinary Germans were personally motivated by what Goldhagen calls "eliminationist antisemitism", so that they may have been (indeed, were) ordinary Germans, but they were no longer "ordinary men."

The difference between Browning's and Goldhagen's approaches to the basic question of why the Holocaust happened reflects a sharp divergence on the issue of Germany's Sonderweg, or "different way". More specifically, Browning and Goldhagen differ not only on the nature of Germany's "different-ness" from other European countries, but, even more importantly, they differ on just how much difference there really was between Germany and other European nations, with both historians focusing on the individual Germans who carried out the Final Solution. Browning emphasizes the "ordinariness" of these men, while Goldhagen portrays them more as monsters than as human beings at all.

A second example of a highly contentious issue is that of the relationship between religion and Nazism. Many historians have simply assumed that Fascism in general, and Nazism in particular, must be utterly at odds with Christianity, or at least with "true" Christianity. Moreover, it is often asserted that even though many Nazis publicly professed to be Christians, they were in fact strongly influenced by Pagan religious ideas of some sort (implying, so it seems, that while Nazis could not be "true" Christians there is no issue with their being "true" Pagans!).

An example of the above position, that of simultaneously distancing Nazism from Christianity while impugning a close relationship between Nazism and Paganism, is to be found in Wolfgang Behringer's Witches and Witch-hunts: A Global History. Behringer devotes a chapter to the subject of Old and 'New Witches', and that chapter is essentially an unhinged rant in which Behringer claims that not only modern Paganism, but feminism as well (along with vegetarianism!) are tightly linked to anti-Semitism, Nationalism and most especially to Nazism:
Neo-paganists today try to present themselves as an alternative to the Christian Church, with numerous sects all over the USA and Europe. However, the roots of the movement are not so pure as some members assume, because they point back to Nazi Germany.... It is not by coincidence that the Nazis used a (neo)-pagan symbol, the swastika, adopted shortly after the First World War, since this points back to their 'occult roots'.
[p. 233]

Quite surprisingly, it was not only neo-paganism that flourished in Nazi Germany, but also a form of radical-feminism, often combined with racism and anti-Semitism. Nazi feminists considered women to be the superior gender, and Aryan women the superior gender of a superior race.... During the upswing of post-Second World War feminism, similar ideas gained momentum.
[p. 235]

It was presumably not by coincidence that the notion of the historical witch-hunts as more terrible than the Holocaust of the European Jewry emerged at the interface of neo-paganism and feminism, where scientific research is replaced by feeling and believing. Although many feminist authors display a leftist attitude, the extremism of the right does not seem far away.
[p. 236]
In contrast to Behringer's view that Nazism is intrinsically hostile to Christianity and has it's spiritual roots in Paganism, there is the view of Richard Steigmann-Gall's Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, according to which the Nazis were just exactly what they always claimed to be: Christians. What's more, Steigmann-Gall also claims that even those Nazis who did dabble in the Occult (as a great many Christians have done throughout the history of Christianity) never came close to making a real break with Christianity (for example they continued, both publicly and privately, to voice great admiration for Jesus and Luther, and even Meister Eckhart). Numerous quotes from Steigmann-Galls' book are gathered together in a previous blog entry here. Richard Browning (already mentioned above in connection with his book Ordinary Men) has also written a book on The Origins of the Final Solution in which he very clearly places the Nazi Holocaust in the context of the long history of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe, and several excerpts from that book are in another earlier post here.

Censorship and Fascism
What is an individual to do who wishes to know more about Fascism and Nazism? Since "experts" have so many and such wide ranging and fundamental disagreements, it is especially important for a person who wishes to be well informed to have free access to the primary sources of Fascism and Nazism. Was Hitler a Christian, or a Pagan, or an Atheist, or what? If we feel that this is an important issue, and a great many people do, shouldn't we take into account what the man himself had to say on the subject of religion, in his own words, and in context?

But in the Netherlands, access to Hitler's writings, and Mein Kampf in particular, is subject to legal restrictions: "selling the book, even in the case of an old copy, may be illegal as 'promoting hatred,' but possession and lending is not. The matter is generally handled as a matter of copyright infringement against the Dutch government, who owns the translation, though it refuses to allow any publishing. In 1997, the government explained to the parliament that selling a scientifically annotated version might escape prosecution. In 2015, the government's copyright on the Dutch translation becomes void."

The quote given above about Dutch laws pertaining to Mein Kampf is taken directly from wikipedia. This is verified by information that is now becoming more widely and readily available thanks to the ongoing trial of Geert Wilders. The wikipedia entry also correctly describes the availability of Mein Kampf in the United States like this: "[Mein Kampf] can be found at almost any community library and can be bought, sold and traded from many websites like and Borders Book Store. The U.S. government seized the copyright during the Second World War as part of the Trading with the Enemy Act and in 1979, Houghton Mifflin, the U.S. publisher of the book, bought the rights from the government. More than 15,000 copies are sold a year." It provides as a reference the article Unbanning Hitler, by Julia Pascal in the June 25, 2001 issue of the New Statesman.

The same wikipedia entry lists Brazil, Mexico, the Peoples Republic of China and Austria as countries that completely ban Mein Kampf. No documentation or references are provided to substantiate that, but it is probably more or less true. Julia Pascal's article, referenced above, states
Officially, Mein Kampf cannot be purchased in Germany, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland, but the book is readily available in Russia, Romania, the United States and the UK (where it sells a regular 3,000 copies annually).
Geert Wilders has stated that he opposes all forms of censorship, and he has also called for "the withdrawal of all hate speech legislation in Europe", and, in the place of regulations on speech he has called, instead, for a European wide "first amendment". In the same speech (given in Italy in Feb. 2009, linked to above -- here's the video), Wilders said that not only are current restrictions on free speech inherently wrong, but they are even more problematic because of the lack of consistency in how they are applied. As an illustration, he stated that if the Dutch laws criminalizing "hate speech" were applied consistently, then the Koran would be banned just like Mein Kampf. This has been taken completely out of context to stand reality on its head in an attempt to portray Wilders as promoting censorship!

Freedom of speech is not a "left" or "right" issue. And for those who actually oppose censorship and believe in freedom of speech it is not necessary to decide which cases are important and which are not. Anytime that a government attempts to silence its citizens and keep them in ignorance by threatening them with criminal prosecution on the basis of speech and regulating what they are allowed to read, this is an important matter. Of course it is important to know the facts, and this includes knowing what the accused has actually said and written. And of course any thinking person is bound to agree or disagree with what the accused has said and written. But that is not the point, at least it is not the point of freedom of expression.

It seems to me that a great many liberals, progressives and leftists have abandoned the basic principle of free speech. They have decided that Geert Wilders should not have the freedom to speak his mind, because they do not like what he says when he does. He is branded as a "far right" politician, never mind the fact that central to his critique of Islam is his own support for gay rights and women's rights. He is branded as a "fascist", never mind the fact those who do so are themselves engaging in "hate speech" according to the very laws being used to try to silence Wilders!

I can actually remember a time (now it seems like a million years ago, but it was only a few years!) when principled people on the left and the right in the US were starting to come together based on opposition to the invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act. I don't really like rubbing shoulders with the right-wing yahoos who seem to be the only people in the US who are willing to come down on the side of freedom of speech in the Wilders case. And I don't trust most of them, either. I think they "support" Wilders only because they see it as amenable to their own political agenda. And for that matter Wilders himself is basically just another opportunistic politician.

As discussed in the first half of this post, there is much room for debate about the nature and history of Fascism, and also about the present day dangers of Fascism, or the lack thereof. There are also valid questions about the nature of Islam. The freedom to express ideas, and to debate them openly, should not be sacrificed in the name of fighting "hatred" or in the name of protecting Islam from "insults". I do find it amusing that many of the right-wingers who are thronging to Wilders' camp are themselves proponents of forms of Christianity that mirror the worst of Islam. I also find it to be an outrageous distortion of history to claim that freedom of speech is a "western" value which must be protected against "foreign" influences. Freedom of speech is relatively new to the West, and is far from "indigenous" to the European continent!

This post is part of the series on "Nazis & Christians & Pagans":
[1] Nazis and Christians and Pagans, Oh My! (Part One)
[2] Christian Nazi Quote-fest (Part Two)
[3] Fascism, Islam, and Freedom of Expression (Part Three)
[4] "Hitler was not an occultist": Mitch Horowitz is right but his sourcing is all wrong (Part Four)
[5] Karla Poewe's "New Religions and the Nazis" reviewed by Richard Steigmann-Gall (Part Five)

"What exactly is Geert Wilders being charged with?"

Below is an informative and fairly objective article from January 19th, the day before Geert Wilder's trial began. It was written by Folkert Jensma and it originally appeared in the online English language edition of the Dutch media outlet NRC Handelsblad.

(Also, here is a pdf of an English translation of the official "summons" to Geert Wilders, containing the charges against him.)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Has Wilders broken the law?

Published: 19 January 2010 17:45 | Changed: 20 January 2010 09:49

Geert Wilders’ inflammatory anti-Muslim statements are well known. Are they illegal?

By Folkert Jensma

Rumour has it that Geert Wilders, the leader of the populist PVV party, hopes to call Mohamed B., the man who killed Theo van Gogh, as a witness in his up-coming trial which starts this Wednesday. Probably to establish the connection between the Koran and violence that Wilders assumes. The prosecution, however, will focus on the Dutch criminal code, particularly the two articles the politician is alleged to have violated: 137 c and d. Wilders is charged with slandering a group and sowing hate, and discrimination on the basis of race or religion. He has targeted Muslims on the basis of their religion, the prosecution will argue, and non-western migrants or Moroccans on the basis of their race. The trial is expected to last months.


What exactly is Geert Wilders being charged with?

The case against him involves 21 pages of quotes drawn from interviews, newspaper articles, websites and a description of Wilder’s anti-Islam film Fitna. It was initially dismissed by the public prosecutor’s office which saw no chance of winning a conviction. The prosecutor consulted with its own expert think-tank on discrimination and two independent professors. All recommended against prosecution, stating that Wilders’ public statements would prove insufficient to win a conviction

Don’t politicians enjoy extensive freedom of expression?

Certainly. They cannot be prosecuted for what they say in parliament or local councils. But outside parliament, politicians are basically just citizens. There, they are governed by the normal limitations to freedom of speech established in article 7 of the constitution and in article 10 of the European treaty on human rights. Broadly interpreted, that states that freedom of opinion is a characteristic of democracy, including opinions that are “disturbing, shocking or hurtful”. Limits to that freedom can only be enacted by law and in situations where they are “urgently needed in a democratic society”. To prevent people’s (religious) feelings from being hurt for instance.

Where does the judge place the limits?

The judge examines whether a statement is “unnecessarily offensive” in relation to social discussion. Judges then carry out a “contextual examination”: who says it, what he says, and what is the origin of the statement. Politicians, artists, columnists, imams and other professional participants in public debate get extra leeway.

Why didn't the prosecutor want to try Wilders at first?

Wilders’ criticisms are largely limited to Islam, a religion, and that’s allowed, after all. In general, it is accepted that article 137c is intended to protect groups of believers from being attacked on the street. Not to prevent criticism of religion. The prosecutors’ office also doubts whether Wilders has committed a crime as defined in article 137d, “sowing hate”. Professor Henny Sackers said that wasn’t the case. It’s true Wilders has a clear aversion to muslims, he says, but “that’s all there is to it”. There’s no evidence of incitement or provocation. There’s no “implacable desire” to “exterminate” Muslims.

“Sowing hate” has been interpreted differently. Professor Theo de Roos thinks Wilders may have indeed infringed this article. He thinks someone has to express extremely rancorous opinions on Muslims, and promote these views to others. Wilders does do that, in his opinion, since he gives speeches and interviews and publishes statements. But is he “sowing hate”, which, according to the professor, implies “existential threat”? Considering his comparison of Islam and fascism, it is likely he is considering this. That comparison contains a threat of extreme violence.

Is that why the court forced the public prosecutor to try him?

The Amsterdam court of appeals found that Wilders was trying to drum up conflict and dissension. Group slander seems to be possible to prove. Wilders’ statements on Islam have been so consistent that it ‘seems clear’ he wants to use religion to hurt muslims as a group. The court found that freedom of political speech should lead to a socially acceptable contribution to public debate. This is not the case here. The criminal code therefore has a role to play if “the contribution to public debate is unnecessarily injurious to a group of believers in encroaching on their religious dignity, while that contribution simultaneously incites hatred, intolerance, enmity and discrimination”. There are citizens, and politicians, “who have been sentenced on the ground of less far-reaching statements than Wilders’,” the court stated last year.

Is there a chance that Wilders will be sentenced?

Yes, given the position the Amsterdam appeals court has taken. But the district court doesn’t have to follow that position and can make its own judgement. A conviction for group slander is least likely. How the Amsterdam magistrates will pass judgement on an important politician for sowing hatred and discrimination on grounds of race or religion, remains an open question. For now.

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The People's Historian: Howard Zinn 1922-2010

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that in America we treat Labor History as a kind of pornography, in the sense that it isn't really considered "proper" reading material, and there's something questionable about anyone who takes an interest in it.

My first encounter with Labor History was reading about the Anarchist Harmarket Martyrs in high school. When I discovered a big fat book on "The Haymarket Affair" (I think that was the title, I cannot remember the author!) in the school library, it called out to me with the siren song of forbidden knowledge. The more I read, the more thrilled I became and the more I could hardly believe what I had discovered!

And so when Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States came out (after I had graduated from college), that book was not a revelation to me. But it's popular reception was. Fidel Castro once quipped, "It is not enough for the truth to be true. The truth must also be told." But even that is not enough. The truth must be told well.

There are in fact many great labor historians and some of them have been very good writers. Samuel Yellen is one that particularly comes to mind. Philip Foner was the Grand-Master of the Craft in America, but he was never famous for his ability to thrill the reader. But it was not until Howard Zinn came along that we had someone who managed to write books that tell about the struggles of the working class, but that were also books young people would excitedly praise and lend to each other, like a new favorite album (er, CD, er, I mean pirated mp3 download).

Here's another nice, and much more thorough, appreciation by Paul Street over at Z Magazine: Howard Zinn: The People's Historian.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Cognitive Dissonance. It Tickles.

How many blogs simultaneously defend Geert Wilders' criticism of Islam (and not just his right to voice that criticism -- but that, too, obviously!), and also mourn the passing of the great historian and humanitarian Howard Zinn, who was one of the most important leftist voices in the English speaking world in the late 20th century and even well into the first decade of the 21st??

Not very freaking many. That's how many.

"If two people agree about everything, one of them is unnecessary."
Oscar Wilde*

*Oh, alright. Maybe it was Winston Churchill, or someone else. But Oscar Wilde obviously should have said it. I mean, anyone can see that, right?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

The following is taken from Jacob M. Appel's 2004 portait of Howard Zinn, who died today of a heart attack in Santa Monica, CA.
After "knocking around in various bad jobs"—digging ditches, waiting tables, working in a brewery—Zinn followed the GI Bill to New York University. Yet his undergraduate education was decidedly untraditional. "I was an older student, I was a ex-GI, I had a family," he explains. "I didn't hang around." He admits that he hardly attended classes. "If it was a choice between going to class and going to the library, I went to the library, because I found that I learned more from one hour in the library than from one hour in class." He cites an independent study in labor history as the most transforming academic experience of his undergraduate years. "There was no labor history at the time," he reflects. "There were no courses in labor history...and there was nothing in my textbooks about labor movements." Soon Zinn stumbled upon a relatively obscure book by a poet named Samuel Yellen that recounted crucial moments in the struggle of American workers—the railroad strikes of 1877, the Lawrence textile strike of 1912, and the San Francisco longshoremen's strike of 1934. "None of this had ever appeared in any of my classes, in any of my history books," explains Zinn. "I wanted to know: Why aren't they telling me about this?" While studying at NYU, Zinn also worked the "four to twelve shift" loading trucks and continued his union activism. Later, he wrote a master's thesis at Columbia University on the Colorado coal strikes of 1914. Among his teachers at Columbia—where he later penned a doctoral dissertation on Fiorello LaGuardia—were legendary figures Harry Carman, James Shenton, Henry Steele Commager, William Leuchtenberg and David Donald. Zinn recalls Donald, a southerner, speaking with tears in his eyes of the anti-slavery movement. "That impressed me enormously," Zinn recollects. "It was rare to find teachers with tears in their eyes.... you might say he influenced me in the sense of seeing how important it was for a teacher to be emotionally involved in a subject and not simply detached."

Zinn brought a similar passion to his own teaching career at Spelman. When Zinn first arrived at the all Black college, he was stunned to find that they offered no courses in African-American history. Instead, history majors were required to enroll in a yearlong course on the history of England. "I remember coming into my first class," says Zinn, "and seeing on the blackboard what had been left over by the previous teacher. It was this genealogical chart of the Stuarts and the Tudors. These young black women were expected to learn about the monarchs of England, the difference between Charles I and Charles II, but not anything about Black history." During his time in Atlanta, Zinn warmly recalls living on campus and—although a white northerner—essentially becoming part of the Black community. He taught Constitutional law at the height of the Civil Rights struggle and advised students who wished to protest against segregation along Atlanta's exclusive Peachtree Street. Zinn recalls that "reading Constitutional law...was especially revealing because what you could see [was] the huge gap between what the law said and what the reality was." He had to warn students that while their right to protest was constitutionally protected "theoretically"—the Supreme Court decisions were very clear on the right to distribute leaflets on the public street—"the reality was that the policemen's clubs were going to be more important than the Supreme Court's decision in Marsh vs. Alabama." He carried the lessons from these experiences to his teaching at Spelman and later at Boston University: "I discovered that if you go back and forth from the arena of social struggle to the classroom, your motivation for learning is enormous. It's very powerful motivation when you're looking at the law to see if people's rights are being violated."
If you don't freaking know who Howard Zinn is, then, well, find out.

UPDATE: You might have trouble getting connected to Zinn's website, linked to directly above, because of all the traffic going there since news of his death. His wikipedia entry is also very informative.

The Case of Geert Wilders: Islam, Free Speech, Tolerance, and Politics

It turns out that "tolerance" is a trick -- a cynical ploy foisted on our poor brains by right-wing liberal populist islamophobic elites.

The problem, according to Dutch Trotskyist Paul Mepschen, editor of the socialist webzine Grenzeloos (, is that these islamophobic elitists have cleverly wrapped themselves in the RAINBOW flag in order to mask their islamophobicness behind a pretense of non-homophobicness. At least this is what Mepschen argues in his recent contribution to the juggernaut that is Marxist Theory: Islam, sexuality, and the politics of belonging in the Netherlands. The article appears in the "Theory" section of the online Trotskyist journal International Viewpoint, under the subheading "Against Tolerance."

Dutch leftists (and western leftists generally) are in somewhat of a bind these days (well, for about half a century or so, really). Ever since the working class stopped giving a rodent's buttocks for Karl Marx, leftists have struggled to fill the void with single-issue "campaigns" and identity politics, preferably combining or at least overlapping both whenever possible. The goal being to replace the former ideal of a united working class fighting for a socialist "program" with a coalition of "oppressed groups" fighting for a laundry list of "demands". Of course that is a very old story already, as anyone who remembers the early 70's knows all too well.

I suspect that the main reason for Mepschen's Marxoid screed attacking tolerance as just another bourgeois myth, is that in the Netherlands "far right" bogeymen Geert Wilders has been campaigning for things like free-speech, tolerance, gay rights, women's equality and so forth. What the fuck is up with that? Nothing, really -- or at least nothing new. Wilders' co-optation of these issues is no more, and admittedly possibly no less, opportunistic than what the left has been up to oh these many decades. In particular, even if Wilders were really after something else, like promoting a selective xenophobia that only targets Muslims, well, hasn't the far left been exploiting the same groups and issues while all along really aiming for something else of their own, like the dictatorship of the freaking proletariat?

Wilders isn't racist, sexist, anti-semitic or homophobic. And on top of that he left the Catholic Church of his birth and now considers himself an Atheist, which makes him even more confusing than Andrew Sullivan (but not as much as you might think, since he still promotes "Judeo-Christian values"??). But he says unpleasant things about Islam (that is to say, he quotes from the Quran and the Hadith) and, therefore he is not only a right-winger, but part of the "far right", at least that is how he is invariably described in the press.

What are the bad things that Wilders says about Islam? Well, according to the charges brought against him, and accepted as a legitimate basis for prosecution by the Amsterdam Appeals Court, Geert Wilders has "insulted Islamic worshippers by attacking the symbols of the Islamic faith." In other words, Wilders is guilty of the same "crime" as Voltaire, Thomas Paine and Elizabeth Cady-Stanton, excepting only that their targets were Christianity and its "symbols", as opposed to Islam.

Paul Mepschen and many others on the left (including many folks who are far more "liberal" than leftist) are straining their brains trying to figure out new and inventive ways of opposing freedom of speech while claiming to be doing nothing of the kind. One very popular approach is for anyone who shows any sign of deviating from the "Islam is a religion of peace" party-line to be shouted down for the unforgivable sin of "hate speech".

But Mepschen demonstrates a willingness to go even further than mere old-fashioned thuggishness. He descends deeply into the depths of pomo lit-crit claptrap with declarations such as "tolerance, power and xenophobia come to be increasingly entwined." You see, tolerance is a "mystifying discourse veiling what is really at the heart of political and social struggle." Bah, seriously, I can't bring myself to repeat any more of the crap that Mepschen spews, but by all means exercise your rights while you still have them and go read what he has to say.

Geert Wilders trial for the high crime of "insulting Islam" got underway on January 20th, although there has been very little coverage of it in the English speaking press. Wilders has made it clear that he stands behind his statements about Islam, and that he intends to show that his statements can be shown to be objectively true, and plans to present witnesses and evidence to prove it (I mean, it's a trial, after all, right?).

In pre-trial statements, the prosecution has, however, declared that "It is irrelevant whether Wilder’s witnesses might prove Wilders’ observations to be correct. What’s relevant is that his observations are illegal"!!

Here is the transcript of Geert Wilders' opening statement:
Mister Speaker, judges of the court,

I would like to make use of my right to speak for a few minutes.

Freedom is the most precious of all our attainments and the most vulnerable. People have devoted their lives to it and given their lives for it. Our freedom in this country is the outcome of centuries. It is the consequence of a history that knows no equal and has brought us to where we are now.

I believe with all my heart and soul that the freedom in the Netherlands is threatened. That what our heritage is, what generations could only dream about, that this freedom is no longer a given, no longer self-evident.

I devote my life to the defence of our freedom. I know what the risks are and I pay a price for it every day. I do not complain about it; it is my own decision. I see that as my duty and it is why I am standing here.

I know that the words I use are sometimes harsh, but they are never rash. It is not my intention to spare the ideology of conquest and destruction, but I am not any more out to offend people. I have nothing against Muslims. I have a problem with Islam and the Islamization of our country because Islam is at odds with freedom.

Future generations will wonder to themselves how we in 2010, in this place, in this room, earned our most precious attainment. Whether there is freedom in this debate for both parties and thus also for the critics of Islam, or that only one side of the discussion may be heard in the Netherlands? Whether freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to everyone or only to a few? The answer to this is at once the answer to the question whether freedom still has a home in this country.

Freedom was never the property of a small group, but was always the heritage of us all. We are all blessed by it.

Lady Justice wears a blindfold, but she has splendid hearing. I hope that she hears the following sentences, loud and clear:

It is not only a right, but also the duty of free people to speak against every ideology that threatens freedom. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States was right: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

I hope that the freedom of speech shall triumph in this trial.

In conclusion, Mister Speaker, judges of the court.

This trial is obviously about the freedom of speech. But this trial is also about the process of establishing the truth. Are the statements that I have made and the comparisons that I have taken, as cited in the summons, true? If something is true then can it still be punishable? This is why I urge you to not only submit to my request to hear witnesses and experts on the subject of freedom of speech. But I ask you explicitly to honour my request to hear witnesses and experts on the subject of Islam. I refer not only to Mister Jansen and Mister Admiraal, but also to the witness/experts from Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Without these witnesses, I cannot defend myself properly and, in my opinion, this would not be a fair trial.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"End", as in Telos: More on Battlestar Galactica and Vergil's Aeneid

"All this has happened before, and all this will happen again."

Spoiler Alert: The following post discusses the way in the which the Battlestar Galactica TV series ends. You have been warned. Oh, and it also discusses the way in which Vergil's Aeneid ends. And it also discusses the similarities between the two.

For those unfamiliar with the Aeneid, here is an incredibly helpful online study guide. That page was created by William A. Johnson, professor of Classics at University of Cincinnati. He also has similar pages for the Iliad, the Odyssey and the Epic of Gilgamesh!

And for anyone unfamiliar with Battlestar Galactica, I have provided extensive linkage to the Battlestar Wiki.

Early on in the first season of Battlestar Galactica it occurred to me that there is a very broad similarity between how that story starts out and the beginning of Vergil's Aeneid. In both cases a sudden and cataclysmic military attack leaves only a handful of survivors who then set out on a long journey in search of a new home. Knowing how the Aeneid ends, but not knowing where BSG would lead, I wondered if the parallels would hold up over time. In particular I wondered whether or not the humans and Cylons would somehow reconcile, in the way that the Latins and Trojans do at the end of the Aeneid.

For those who know their Aeneid, you might be thinking: "Hey! The Trojans did not reconcile with the people who destroyed Troy (the Greeks), they reconciled with the Latins." Well, OK, sure. But first of all I am not saying that everything is exactly the same in BSG as it was in the Aeneid. And also there is, of course, a very important reconciliation, of sorts, in the alliance struck personally between Aeneas and King Evander (a Greek of Arcadian persuasion).

For that matter, those who know their Aeneid might also be thinking "Hey! Just what exactly do you mean by 'at the end of the Aeneid'!?" Naturally, I am of course referring to the "XIIIth Book" of the Aeneid, as written by Maffeo Vegio in 1428 (fourteen and a half centuries after Vergil's untimely death). Vegio's ending so seamless completes Vergil's unfinished story, and his Latin is so, well, Vergilian, that for centuries afterward, Vegio's thirteenth book was included as a matter of course in editions of the Aeneid.

Vegio's ultimate reconciliation of Latins and Trojans has the advantage of being well supported by and completely consistent with what Vergil had already written. In particular, the heroic leader Aeneas (quite unlike William Adama!) has no desire to fight the Latins in the first place, and King Latinus (unlike John Cavil and Boomer) also does not want war with the newcomers, and is in fact very favorably disposed toward Aeneas, whom he sees as the ideal son-in-law whose arrival had already been foretold by prophecy.

Wait, now that I think of it, it could be (and probably should be) argued that Cavil and Boomer (and especially Boomer considering how she ends up) better fit the role of Turnus. And that would mean that D'anna Biers is more like King Latinus, which is especially fitting given the fact that it was D'anna who foresaw the identities of the Final Five (just as Latinus received the prophecy about the coming of Aeneas), and the way in which D'anna dejectedly bows out of the action, by remaining behind on "earth", just as Latinus must sit by and is powerless to prevent his people from waging a war he knows should not be fought.

Oh, and another parallel between Boomer and Turnus is that Boomer's "swing vote" was decisive in paving the way for both the Cylon Civil War, and the continuation of the war with the humans. Just as Turnus was the decisive "vote" in turning the Latins against the Trojans.

Another possible candidate for BSG's version of Turnus, if only because of the timing of her death, could be the truly evil Tory Foster. Depending on how one reads the original character Turnus, though, there is a serious problem with the Turnus=Tory equation, and this is especially true to the extent that we accept Maffeo Vegio's version of the ending. However, for those who see Turnus as a pure villain, then this is a pretty good match.

Vegio places great emphasis on the manner in which Turnus is honored after his death. Vergil himself had made a point of almost sparing Turnus. Aeneas kills Turnus only because of the death of the young Pallas (Evander's son) at the hands of the Rutulian, and, most especially, because of the fact that Juturna's brother proudly wore Pallas' belt as a gruesome trophy.

Boomer dies heroically. She must pay for her many terrible deeds, but in the end she is the one who brings the child Hera back safely. But Athena will never forgive Boomer for kidnapping Hera in the first place, and, in the process, beating the frak out of her (Athena) and then frakking her human lover, Helo (who thinks he is frakking Athena, and that is what really and truly enraged Athena because Boomer proved that Helo couldn't tell the frakking difference).

But Tory does not die heroically. Nor is there really ever even a hint of anything that might make her character other than irredeemably evil and every bit as amoral as Cavil, but without his endearingly cynical witticisms. And yet really, when you think about, what else could Tory have done? Cally was going to kill Nicholas, whom everyone at the time thought was half-Cylon. Tory had to prevent that. Srsly. And there was no way for Tory to just save Nicholas and leave it at that. Cally would "out" Tyrol, Tory, Tigh and Anders as skinjobs and would probably never rest until she had finally murdered her son one way or the other, now that she knew he was half-Cylon. Did I mention that Cally really, really hates Cylons?

But Tory makes it clear that murdering Cally doesn't bother her even a little. The only times that she shows any concern are when she is worried that Galen might suspect, which he never does -- until, well, you know when Final Five all do the Cylon version of the Vulcan mind-meld thing.

Which brings us, finally, to Kara Thrace. You see, when Galen "sees" what Tory did to Cally, he predictably frakking loses it completely, and kills Tory then and there with his bare frakking hands. This obviously disrupts the "mind meld" process, rather irreversibly, thus seriously undermining the fragile human/Cylon truce which is based on the promise that the Final Five will provide the Cylons with resurrection technology in exchange for a permanent end to hostilities. The Cylons, well, the bad ones anyway, understandably believe that they have been duped and a rather one-sided gun-fight breaks out in the CIC, in which all the bad Cylons are killed (including Cavil -- who shoots himself).

Only, really, that isn't the real problem. The real problem is that a stray rock hits the Raptor that had been piloted by Racetrack and Skulls at just the right angle to cause Racetrack's dead hand to flop down on the launch button for the nukes that Racetrack and Skulls had decided to arm just before being killed by an earlier stray asteroid. These nukes blast apart the massive Cylon Colony, thus disrupting, rather irreversibly, the delicate gravitational balance that was allowing everyone to orbit around the Black Hole rather than being sucked down into it.

Adama orders Kara to jump the ship before it is gravitationally singularity-ized. Where to? It doesn't matter, Starbuck, just jump us out of here now!! Oh, OK. So, well, why don't I just punch in my favorite song from childhood in numerical form and see where that lands us? OK, just get us the frak out of here before we all find out what the view is like on the other frakking side of the event horizon!

And so Kara Thrace, the Herald of Death, She who is dead already, who knows she is dead, who has accepted her death and who has even said goodbye to herself, leads them all to their end. But it turns out that this is "end" as in telos. That is, "end" as in goal, purpose, destiny. Kara Thrace is Aeneas, the hero who has conquered death itself, who travels to the Underworld and returns to lead her people to a new home and a new beginning.

"Last surviving cast member of Bonanza dies."

One of the cool things about human languages is their infinite creative capacity. Every native speaker of any human language has the ability to create (and "emit") completely "new utterances" - meaningful strings of words that have never previously been spoken, but that are nevertheless immediately understandable by others.

Just the other day I saw posted to an internet discussion group the sentence "I am a Kemetic from New Jersey." (For those not up on their Paganese, a "Kemetic" is a person who follows the ancient polytheistic religious traditions of Kemet, the ancient name for what modern English speakers refer to as "Egypt".) When I read those words I had no difficulty in understanding them, but I also immediately thought that this was very likely to be a "new utterance", a string of words that had never been uttered in English before.

And then just this morning as I was glancing through the Huffington Post I saw the headline "Last surviving cast member of Bonanza dies." I'm pretty sure that is a "new utterance", too! Another likely candidate is the headline of a small item in todays India Express online edition: "Why this Republic needs more time zones." By their very nature, headlines probably have a higher than average probability of being completely new utterances.

Not to make light of the death of Pernell Roberts, who gained fame playing Adam Cartwright. It turns out Roberts was a pretty damned interesting guy. He liked to brag that "I distinguished myself by flunking out of college three times," after which he worked at such professions as tombstone maker and railroad riveter, before finally settling down and becoming a successful actor.

Many lesser actors would have been perfectly happy to have a central role in a hugely successful TV series like Bonanza. But Pernell Roberts thought his character, and the show in general, was poorly conceived and the writing especially left much to be desired. He finally left Bonanza at the height of the show's popularity and took a series a smaller roles until finally landing the lead in Trapper John, MD (a full 14 years after leaving Bonanza).

The ability of human languages to create ever new "utterances" was one of the key ingredients in Noam Chomsky's withering critique of B.F. Skinner and Behaviorism back in the late 50's and early 60's.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Alchemy, the Aeneid, and Battlestar Galactica

"You are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace. You will lead them all to their end."
The Hybrid to Starbuck

"The way to Hades is easy; night and day lie open the gates of death's dark kingdom: but to retrace your steps, to find the way back to daylight—that is the task."
The Sibyl to Aeneas

Destruction of the Colonies/Fall of Troy

The initial wanderings of the refugees in their ships

New Caprica/Carthage

Leaving New Caprica/Carthage

Death of Kara Thrace/Aeneas' journey to the Underworld

Divisions among humans and Cylons/War between Trojans and Latins

Final reconciliation of humans and Cylons/Reconciliation of Trojans and Latins

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Price of Monotheism in a nutshell

There are two kinds of religion. First there are those "primary" religions that spontaneously arise as a natural expression of the intrinsic spiritual urges of homo religiosus. These religions are polytheistic, tolerant, and ubiquitous throughout human history.

Then there are secondary religions. These arise first and foremost as a rejection of primary religion. "For these religions, and for these religions alone, the truth to be proclaimed comes with an enemy to be fought." That is how Jan Assmann describes these "counterreligions".

Sometimes the "success" (in terms of numbers of adherents) of these counterreligions is mistakenly seen as a sign of their spiritual/moral superiority over "primitive" "idolatrous" primary religions. But these counterreligions primarily (indeed, almost exclusively) gain converts by force, and their rapid spread has only been due to their ruthless predator-prey relationship with all other religions.

There's much more. Read the book to find out.

"Buddhist history does not show the kind of fanatic excesses familiar in the histories of Christianity and Islam."

What were Michael Jerryson and Mark Jurgensmeyer's goals in putting together a collection of scholarly articles under the title Buddhist Warfare? Jerryson explains in his Introduction that
The motivations for this volume are many, but chief among them is the goal of disrupting the social imaginary that holds Buddhist traditions to be exclusively pacifistic and exotic.
If you do a google search on "imaginary noun" the very first hit is an essay on "Critical Terms To Be Lined Up Against A Wall And Shot" by Associate Professor of English at Wesleyan University Sean McCann. McCann states, bluntly, that
My current vote for most annoying bit of lit-crit jargon is the ugly and omnivorous use of “imaginary” as a noun--especially in the currently familiar phrase “national imaginary.” What is up with that? It’s never been clear to me how imaginary in this usage differs from imagination--except, well, that it’s newer and more, um, problematized. But more importantly, it’s not clear to me at all how the term “national imaginary” (meaning, so far as I can tell, something like a nation’s psychic template) avoids the problem of imputing collective consciousnesses that has long been a problem for literary study. If you say a nation has an “imaginary,” you’re pretty much of necessity saying that it has a collective mind in which that imaginary operates. Why exactly would you want to do that?

I have my suspicions. But for the moment I just want to grumble about the way the critics who use this terminology--critics, I think it’s safe to say, who regard themselves as scrupulously skeptical of received ideas and popular mystifications, particularly of the kind that ascribe false group identities--recussitate in this usage one of the hoariest and most pernicious legacies of literary romanticism. It’s dumb. Nations don’t have imaginaries. There I said it.
As McCann correctly points out, Jerryson's invocation of a "social imaginary" requires that some social entity exist, and that this entity be in possession of a collective consciousness, and that within this collective consciousness the "imaginary" in question operates. Jerryson, however, adds to this "imagining" and even goes so far as to "imagine" himself (a white knight on horseback complete with crusader's cross painted on his shield?) in the role of self-appointed "disruptor" of this pernicious "imaginary" in question.

In a previous post (Attacking Buddhism in the Name of "Peace") I showed how Jerryson's quest is not really so much about "disrupting the social imaginary that holds Buddhist traditions to be exclusively pacifistic and exotic" as it is about the desire to drag Buddhism down to the level of Christianity and Islam, the religions that gave us the words Inquisition and Jihad. More specifically, what Jerryson wishes to "disrupt" is the Enlightenment Critique of Christianity.

Even more specifically, Jerryson would like to "disrupt" the contrast that has been sharply made, going back at least to Voltaire and David Hume, between religions that are inherently intolerant and violent (with Chritianity chief among them) and those that, in Voltaire's words are not "sullied with the same inhumanities" as Christianity.

Bernard Faure (was invited to write his "Afterthoughts" for the volume Buddhist Warfare, this taking the place usually occupied by a "Conclusions" section. One wonders if Jerryson and Jurgensmeyer got more than they had bargained for, unless of course what they had in mind was a scholarly anthology in which the "Afterthoughts" directly contradict the main argument of the "Introduction"!

Faure begins his "Afterthoughts" by delicately pointing out that the contributions to Buddhist Warfare "rarely deal with actual cases of Buddhist violence," and instead focus almost exclusively on "certain forms of discourse -- textual or oral, representing canoncial dogma or extracanonical doxa."

But toward the end of his "Afterthoughts" (after dutifully summarizing each chapter), Faure gets down to business (see page 218):
The claim that Buddhism is a tolerant religion is based on the fact that Buddhist history does not show the kind of fanatic excesses familiar in the histories of Christianity and Islam. Opponents of the Buddha may have been labeled as "heretical masters," but (in part for lack of an ultimate authority) the accusations of heresy rarely led to physical purges.
Faure then goes on to list several specific cases of intolerance and even of violent persecution that have occurred in the course of Buddhist history, only to state categorically:
But these cases are the exception that proves the Budhist rule, and they underscore the contrast with the practices of Inquisition in Christianity.
In other words, the notion that there is a fundamental "contrast" between Buddhism and Christianity with respect to violence is not some "social imaginary", but is, rather, based solidly on historical facts. Therefore, those who would obscure this very real distinction are not adding to our understanding of Buddhism, or to our understanding of the relationship between religion and violence. Instead they are conducting their own "propaganda" campaign, aimed at misrepresenting Buddhism.

[In addition to the post Attacking Buddhism in the Name of "Peace", already mentioned above, also see my other post on this subject: "Buddhist Warfare": Is Buddhism a "Religion of Peace"?]