Salvo 11.13.2023 13 minutes

Radical Roots of the DEATH Cult


The Left has always worshipped violence, so its recent exuberance is no surprise.

Radical ideology takes many forms: Marxist, Islamist, a combination of the two (termed the red-green alliance), anarchist, what was once called Third Worldist and is now rebranded “postcolonial theory,” intersectional and anti-TERF feminism, and so on. What too many variants share is a visceral attraction to fantasies of transformative, retributive violence.

In roughly psychoanalytic terms, they gravitate toward alibis for sadism, humiliation, and even outright murder of the hated, fantasized object or “other” standing in the way of their “progress.” They seek a “permission structure” to vent their spleen. According to René Girard, these befuddled victimizers of innocents—ironically enough, most convinced of their own moral purity in the very commission of their crime—hunger for sacrificial scapegoats, designated essentially arbitrarily as responsible for the ills of the world, and bond together as a solidaristic community of the (self-)righteous in the act of executing them together. And if they can’t actually be there for the event itself, they applaud as spectators from a distance.

Add to that the predominance of “woke” progressive ideology on the American college campus today—a wooly-minded mélange of every sort of anti-civilizational, anti-systemic “thought”—and what you get is the uninhibited cries of bloodlust, worthy of a proud troop of resentful Raskolnikovs on the loose, their shrieks echoing through the halls of academe. But will these pyromaniacs in expensive sneakers and fancy eyewear ever undergo Dostoevsky’s antihero’s redemptive acknowledgment of a guilty conscience? At present it seems doubtful.

Instead, unmitigated support for a vindictive justice that makes no distinction between armies at war and revelers at a rave is the hideous result that plainly follows from the grotesque miseducation foisted on our young for decades. And with no end in sight, as the Israel-Hamas War following the October 7 “Black Saturday” massacre is still just beginning—so that one can be sure of more hysterical shouts on campus howling “From the river to the sea,” “We don’t want a Jewish state, we want ‘48,” “Death to Israel,” and even “Gas the Jews” in coming days. Hair-raising denunciations of the Jewish state defending itself are sure to resound for the foreseeable future.

Some rather mad cries have been sounding for some time. Let’s not forget the BLM mayhem of not so long ago, and before that the freakout over Donald Trump’s election to the presidency in 2016, the mendacious insanity of the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh—all of it betokening the impending arrival of “fascism” in America. Nonetheless, the cumulative results of so much activist indoctrination in the school of bloody-minded nihilism, systematically foisted on our young, have yet been on display more starkly than ever, since October 7.

For the “resistance” is being celebrated, despite the fact that many of the terrorists’ victims on that wretched day in southern Israel were denied even the mercy of a swift death—or, rather, as one senses, in fair measure because of it. Remember, we’re talking about a kind of human sacrifice, the ritualistic if frenzied enjoyment of cruelty in the service of supposed transcendent imperatives.

Thus, many had their hands tied first, then were laid on the ground, then stabbed, then set on fire, then shot. Including children. This is what decolonization looks like? While university administrators have been wringing their hands about “micro-aggressions,” it turns out the English department and Gender Studies program have been softening the ground for their students to exult in the face of macro-aggressive butchery.

Israel as Synecdoche, Metonymy, and Metaphor for Western Perfidy

To those paying attention, of course, as already alluded, this is nothing so new. “Shocking” to be sure, as they say, “but not surprising.” The pedagogy of hate—first of all for one’s own country, Western civilization as a whole, and by extension the West’s oldest progenitors and newest defenders—has been going on, in some form or other, for decades. Indeed, as Seth Barron perceptively observes, it is in this climate that “Israel [has become] a synecdoche” for everything most frowned upon today, perhaps first of all the cardinal sin of racism, or, in today’s preferred terminology, “white supremacy.”

This despite the obvious fact—obvious to anyone who knows anything about the place—that Israelis come in all shades of color, from black and brown to white and (increasingly, as its diverse population mixes) shades of caramel. The Israelite “race” being a spectacular blend of Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, and Ethiopian refugees from Europe, Africa, and the Arab world. Though Jews may be “hyper-white” to the deranged mind of the radical Left and its fellow travelers, try explaining that to an Israeli. I can promise you they won’t know what you’re talking about.

Since the “long march through the institutions” began in the sixties (with even Weather Underground members emerging from hiding, in due course, to take up plum positions at leading institutions of higher learning, beside former Black Panther and Communist Party member, Angela Davis, today a UCSC professor emerita and leading advocate for the anti-Israel BDS movement), eventually feeding into the “political correctness” of the late eighties (“Hey, ho, Western Civ has got to go!”) and the nineties (when still it was yet barely possible to deny the threat by putting it to the back of one’s mind, treated by some as little more than a joke or passing fad), things have in fact only gotten worse. PC has morphed of late into “woke,” an even more potent strain of deadly, gain-of-function enhanced, anti-intellectual virus (for which an effective vaccine has yet to be found). It is no joke.

It is all of a piece, however. In retrospect, how could anyone not have seen this coming?

For today, nobody can fail to hear woke’s unmistakably bloodthirsty, antisemitic ululations, the sound of those rejoicing over October 7’s mass slaughter, rape, and kidnapping of nearly 2,000 Jews (the largest massacre of “Semites” in a single day since the Holocaust, estimates now ranging as high as 5,000 casualties in all, with at least 1,400 murdered outright) at once-respected American universities from Berkeley to Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Michigan State, Stanford, UCLA (my own beloved alma mater, how she has changed!), University of Pennsylvania, and Yale, among others.

Students have been egged on by professors, too, like Columbia University’s Joseph Massad, and have drawn inspiration from MacArthur “Genius” Grant winner Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Jemma Decristo, Assistant Professor of American Studies at the University of California at Davis, tweeted “one group of ppl we have easy access to in the US is all these zionist journalists who spread propaganda and misinformation. they have houses w addresses, kids in school. they can fear their bosses, but they should fear us more,” followed by emojis of a knife, an axe, and three large drops of blood.

Cornell history professor Russell Rickford told a campus rally on October 15, “What has Hamas done? Hamas has shifted the balance of power. Hamas has punctured the illusion of invincibility.” The Hamas Pogrom, he went on, was “exhilarating!” and “energizing!” Rickford closed his remarks on a personal note by declaring: “I was exhilarated!” The crowd then erupted into thunderous applause and chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a barely disguised euphemism for the eradication of Israel/Israelis. After all, if “Palestine” extends from the (Jordan) River to the (Mediterranean) Sea, where are they supposed to go?

A Stanford lecturer was suspended after instructing Jewish and Israeli students to “identify themselves” before telling them to grab their belongings and stand in a corner, admonishing, “This is what Israel does to the Palestinians” (also reported by The Forward). “How many people died in the Holocaust?” the teacher then asked the Jewish students, to which they replied, “Six million.” To which he allegedly responded, “Colonizers killed more than six million. Israel is a colonizer.” The histrionic historian also reportedly stated that Hamas represents the Palestinian people and the acts committed on October 7 were 100 percent legitimate. Students identified the instructor as 46-year-old Ameer Hasan Loggins, a lecturer at Stanford’s Introductory Studies; the university has kept his identity secret.

But this is far from a phenomenon confined to elite institutions, star-system profs, media darlings, and fringe groups (as Jonathan Greenblatt’s ADL yet misleadingly persists in suggesting). It is everywhere, even at my own little state university in the northern Midwest, for example—where books by Davis and Coates are assigned routinely, along with Joe Sacco’s “graphic novels” depicting Israelis as Nazi-like invaders, akin to modern Spanish conquistadors in the Americas, and with no more right to be there, or a band of pirates washed up on some random shore to loot and pillage. Ubiquitous are the works of Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, and other “postcolonial theorists,” demonizing and dehumanizing (the first step in any genocide campaign) the West, along with the U.S. and its allies, as warped people who cannot be reasoned with.

Woke antisemitism, in sum, has now shown its true face to the world at large, after having grown out of control in the petri dishes of the university’s misbegotten laboratory, from which it seems to have escaped to infect the population. They were telling us who they were for a long time, these mad scientists of subversion; we should have believed them.

For now, in the wake of this month’s “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood,” as its sympathizers pretentiously call the heinous war crime, there can be no doubt any longer as to what the advocates of CRT, DEI, BLM, and intersectionality really stand for: DEATH, “Derangement, Enmity, Antisemitism, Terrorism, and Hamas.” These neo-Jacobins are at last getting a taste of what they had been longing for, preparing for, and now unabashedly consume while demanding more of: Jewish blood.

We All Live and Die on Campus Now

Moreover, with higher education having long since become a truly mass phenomenon, could the links be any clearer between these campus-centered currents of “thought”; governmental policy making at the national level; local legislation; otherwise stale postmodernist clichés about the indeterminacy of all meaning (who’s to say what’s true and false, just and unjust); today’s “decolonial” revamping of what used to be called Third Worldism (haven’t the “wretched of the campus” got a right to see oppressors’ heads served up on a platter?); and contemporary exterminationist antisemitism (“from the river to the sea”)? If only Fanon, Said, or the author of the Black Notebooks himself, for that matter, the National Socialist philosopher and “grandfather” of postmodernism, Martin Heidegger, had lived to see this.

Aside from readers of journals like this one, however, who besides the “theorists” themselves (and maybe not even some of them) wanted to take seriously the real danger they posed? How much easier it once was (a few weeks ago, in another world) for their moderate leftist sympathizers to view them as basically well-intentioned progressives armed with a novel vocabulary, if at times overzealous in their rhetoric; or for right-wing critics concerned with more important things to see them as a distraction, primarily of concern to those few remaining partisans of an outdated “liberal education,” yet clinging to their faith in the Western canon of Great Books, as it was being vandalized or “deconstructed” by the semi-illiterate gatecrashers in keeping with their multicultural agenda (but so what).

Kid stuff, it turns out. Peanuts, compared to what is at stake.

Indeed, as I warned in the pages of Fathom in 2014, leading philosophers and academics had already by then (and considerably before, in fact) taken to openly supporting Hamas. “I’d like to shoot those Zionist bastards,” said the well-known, highly-regarded Italian Heideggerian thinker Gianni Vattimo as Israel was embroiled at the time in “Operation Protective Edge,” defending itself against rockets from Gaza then raining down upon its civilian population (intentionally targeted as such, since for terrorists there’s no such thing as “collateral damage”).

Vattimo was by no means alone in his perverse embrace of Hamas as a “progressive” organization. Judith Butler, for example, had helped pave the way for solidarity with such terrorist groups as well, years before admonishing that one must recognize “Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of a global left.” Is it a surprise that students of teachers like this cannot tell up from down, north from south, or right from wrong?

Deconstructing Operation Shylock

In that same spirit, a book edited by Vattimo and Michael Marder called Deconstructing Zionism had just come out shortly before (also published in 2014), assembling a remarkable array of forward-looking theorists—Butler herself, Marc H. Ellis, Luce Irigaray, Michael Marder, Walter Mignolo, Slavoj Zizek, and other lesser luminaries—together advocating for a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Or, in other words, for “deconstructing Zionism” by disassembling and wiping the Jewish state off the map. Yes, yes, “from the river…”

In that volume, Vattimo went yet further still, openly supporting the dictatorial Iranian regime he hoped would do the job:

For good reasons of international stability, one never dares—or almost never, except in the case of Islamic heads of state like Ahmadinejad—to question the very legitimacy of Israelexistence…. When Ahmadinejad invokes the end of the State of Israel, he merely expresses a demand that should be more explicitly shared by the democratic countries that instead consider him an enemy.

Vattimo sadly passed from this planet just a few weeks before the events of October 7, which he surely would have celebrated.

Another erudite contributor to the same academic volume, issued by a purportedly respected press, Marc H. Ellis, no less committed to the cause of Jewish-Israeli extirpation, unflinchingly drew the inevitable conclusion of such a friend-enemy distinction by welcoming the idea of a “mass exodus” of Jews from Israel to Europe—in a grotesque, parodic inversion of aliyah, or the reversal of the Jews’ nearly miraculous return to their indigenous homeland in the years leading up to and after the Shoah. Not forgetting, incidentally, that the refugees of Europe and the Middle East did so legally, purchasing land, or that many had never left, despite repeated attempts to disperse them. 

Not since Philip Roth’s 2000 satiric novel Operation Shylock had something so crazy been dreamed of. In Roth’s parody of the antisemitic Left, one is asked to imagine Europeans “ecstatically welcoming back their Jews” in the name of Zionism’s antithesis: diasporism. By contrast, it is the Zionist dream that now threatens Jewish survival, since “Israel is no longer in the Jewish interest. Israel has become the gravest threat to Jewish survival since the end of World War Two,” as Roth’s mad doppelgänger lectures audiences in Jerusalem. 

Moreover, in a somewhat less unrealistic if more nightmarish vision (which is to say, totally unrealistic as to Israel’s long-term prospects, which remain excellent, but less fanciful about hypothetical European sentiments), the dean of Israeli historians, Benny Morris, writing in the pages of Haaretz in 2019, envisioned a future in which, “The Jews of the country would flee, as Jews in Algeria and Libya and Egypt and Syria and Iraq and Yemen did.” He continues:

A one-state solution with Jews and Arabs is a recipe for endless violence and anarchy that would ultimately lead to a country with an Arab majority—and a persecuted Jewish minority that would do anything to escape, as the members of Jewish communities in Arab countries did when their neighbors chased them out between 1948 and 1965.

Let there be no mistake about what these forces together stand for, then, in a convenient shorthand that I repeat—forget all the rest of the alphabet soup, DEI, CRT, etc.—theirs should simply be designated as what it is, DEATH. If one cannot see that much now, then the only explanation is willful blindness, and hence, by extension, complicity by association in the horrors of October 7; not to mention encouragement, if not incitement, with regards to the surrealistic nightmare as yet still following in its wake on campuses. A bad dream in which Israel is denounced and Jewish American students are hunted as among the presumed “guilty” parties responsible for provoking their own attack. Yes, “hurt people hurt people”; we know. But moms’ reassuring homilies will not do here.

There can be no middle ground. You are either with us (peace-loving Jews and Arabs, Christians, Muslims, and Druze, white, black, brown, and caramel colored Israeli citizens, American college teachers who still want to teach and college students who yet wish to learn), or you’re with the theorists.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

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