No First Amendment Here: French Court Finds Me Guilty in Al-Dura Affair Philippe Karsenty **** I’ll have to pay the 7,000 euros. On June 26, the Paris Court of Appeals found me guilty of defamation against television station France 2 and broadcaster Charles Enderlin. After waiting one long week following the verdict, I was finally able to get the written arguments of the judges. The arguments state that — […]


The Banality of Hannah Arendt – In a new movie, Margarethe von Trotta attempts to fight Arendt’s battles over Eichmann in Jerusalem; she doesn’t understand those battles any better than Arendt herself understood Eichmann. Margot Lurie, Standpoint.

“So,” the motherly brunette asks conspiratorially, a billiard cue slung below her arm, “Was he the greatest love of your life?”

No, it’s not a scene from the latest chick flick; it’s from Hannah Arendt, Margarethe von Trotta’s new biopic about the German-Jewish political theorist. The questioner is the American critic and novelist Mary McCarthy, and she is referring to none other than Martin Heidegger, the controversial Nazi-aligned philosopher. The film’s central plotline follows Arendt’s coverage of the 1961 Eichmann trial and its aftermath. Particular attention is given to disputes about the “banality of evil” — Arendt’s notorious thesis intended to explain why the Nazi leader took care of the trains while letting the categorical imperative run on empty. But Geschichtsphilosophie this ain’t.

Part of the problem is that the film leans heavily on the correspondence between Arendt and McCarthy: long stretches of dialogue are taken verbatim from their letters and recast as verbal exchanges. This is curious, for in recent years more information has become available on the Eichmann trial and especially Arendt’s perspective on it than ever before. So why is von Trotta relying largely on the chatty, theatrical exchanges of McCarthy and Arendt for her source material?

Both Arendt and McCarthy are the subject of seemingly endless fascination and study. And no wonder: they led extraordinary lives. McCarthy, born in Seattle in 1912, became a famously cutting wit among the Partisan Review crowd. Arendt, born in Hanover in 1918, studied under (pun sadly intended) Heidegger and went on to write her dissertation with Karl Jaspers. Arendt’s topic was love: specifically, the idea of love in Augustine. McCarthy’s topic was sex: her taboo-busting, bestselling novel The Group included frank treatments of lesbianism, birth control, and sex from the woman’s point of view.

While the friendship, however unlikely, was a deep and loving one, Arendt’s temptations and querks of character — exhibitionism, imprecision, imperiousness — emerged dramatically under McCarthy’s influence. Each woman’s work came to betray the stamp of the other’s thought. While writing Eichmann, Arendt breathlessly read McCarthy’s essay “General Macbeth”, in which the Shakespearean murderer emerges a petty bourgeois bureaucrat:

“The idea of Macbeth as a conscience-tormented man is a platitude as false as Macbeth himself. Macbeth has no conscience. His main concern throughout the play is that most selfish of all concerns: to get a good night’s sleep.”

In these lines, McCarthy replaces the usual understanding of Macbeth’s driving force as ambition with a sense of his generality (yes, the title is a pun) — just as Arendt would later replace the usual understanding of Eichmann’s driving force as vicious anti-Semitism with that of unreflective conformism. McCarthy doesn’t use the word “banal”, but there’s enough to suggest that Arendt’s understanding of Eichmann follows McCarthy’s understanding of the Scottish lord.

So it was literary ingenuity and verve that the two women encouraged in each other — and not necessarily truth. This was the case from the start: the friendship almost didn’t take, after a disastrous first encounter.

It happened at a party in New York in 1945. Mary McCarthy (herself possessed of a Jewish grandmother) expressed pity for Hitler, “who was so absurd as to want the love of his victims”. Arendt was furious. “How can you say such a thing in front of me — a victim of Hitler, a person who has been in a concentration camp!” Amends were only made three years later, when McCarthy apologised, and Arendt conceded that she had not in fact been in a concentration camp, but rather a French internment and refugee camp from which she escaped after a few weeks.


The difference between history’s winners and losers obviously depends on the criteria we adopt to discriminate between success and failure on the level of nation, culture and civilization. For the purposes of this article, I will leave the display of military splendor and the creation of great art out of the equation. Neither military parades in a public square nor architectural wonders constitute a boon for ordinary people, even if they produce a feeling of national pride. Rather, I define success as a function of three complementary factors: the ability to survive intact for extended periods; the achievement of approximate prosperity in a largely impoverished world; and the fostering of a relatively free, confident and vigorous citizenry. (Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian calculus developed in his A Fragment on Government [1], based on “the greatest happiness of the greatest number,” plainly does not consort with these observations, since happiness is both an ambiguous concept and a non-measurable “quantity.”)

Naturally, political and social conditions will differ markedly owing to the contingencies and realities of the epoch in question, but these three criteria appear essentially stable. I should also specify that the term “winner” in this context does not designate mere brute power leading to longevity but comes with a moral valence as well, ideally, a quality of mercy [2], respect for one’s fellow citizens and the sane administration of reasonable laws. President Kennedy was no paragon of virtue and some of his pronouncements are distinctly troubling; yet he clearly recognized the moral component of national success when he wrote, in his Cuban Missile Cris address [3] of October 22, 1962, in refutation of Thrasymachus’ “might is right” doctrine in Plato’s Republic [4]: “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right.” It should be noted, too, that the three basic factors I have outlined do not necessarily apply as an indivisible unit; sometimes one, sometimes another, will predominate, but no single one is sufficient in itself.

MARILYN PENN: THE SNEAK ATTACK **** For more than half its running time, “The Attack” is an absorbing film about an outstanding, prize-winning Palestinian surgeon working in Israel and clearly meant to represent the hope of moderate Jews and Arabs living together peacefully and productively.  We see Amin’s competence under the intense pressure of saving victims of a recent suicide […]


Turkey has never been, and will never be, welcome in the EU.

[On the Corner, Daniel Pipes notes that Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, has expressly stated that “Turkey is not part of Europe” and should never be “accept[ed] as a full member” of the European Union. This is a refreshing bit of honesty. It is a commonplace for European elites to hold this view privately while publicly supporting an “integration process.” In shrewd irony, Turkey’s Islamic-supremacist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has capitalized on this phantom process to facilitate his goal of re-Islamizing Turkey — i.e., destroying the secular underpinnings of Ataturk’s state, which looked to Western liberalism, rather than sharia, as its model. In Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, I outline how Erdogan has exploited the EU Integration Charade. This column is adapted from that section of the book.]

In 2002, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Freedom and Justice Party (AKP) won just 34 percent of the vote in Turkey’s national elections. It was only by a quirk in Kemalist law — a quirk that, ironically, was designed to keep Islamic supremacists out of power — that the AKP wrested control of the government. The new prime minister realized he was in no position to challenge head-on the “deep state” — the elite inner sanctum of military, bureaucratic, and judicial officials that has historically served as Ataturk’s secular bulwark against ever-thrumming Islamist ambitions. Erdogan would have to find ways to erode and nullify it. Still, he had cards to play.

The deep state cared passionately about Europe and America. It had been a Kemalist dream to integrate fully into the West: to be accepted into the European Union; to strengthen ties with the United States — with which the Turks, singularly among Muslim peoples, ingratiated themselves by their membership in NATO as well as their warm trade and military relations with Israel.

Ingeniously, Erdogan grasped the brute, unspoken truth of this dynamic: Turkey would never in a million years be admitted into the EU because Europe’s leaders would never tolerate it. But, of course, to say this aloud would be so déclassé, so downright Islamophobic, that the French and German elite would rather be caught sipping California wine. So rather than be forthright, they constructed for Turkey an open-ended European integration “process.” It is a limitless series of hoops for the Turks to jump through, at the end of which Ankara will be admitted to the club, probably right around the time hell freezes over or the euro becomes the world’s reserve currency.

Like all Islamists, Erdogan has contempt for Europe and the West. The objective of Muslim supremacists is to dominate and Islamize Western countries, not emulate them. Yet Erdogan is resourceful enough to exploit to his advantage the Kemalist dream of European integration, and Europe’s responsive gamesmanship. For among the steps Turkey must theoretically climb on the ladder to Euro-worthiness are religious liberty, the separation of religion and the state, and civilian control of the military.

Erdogan has expertly leveraged these metrics to cow the deep state into abiding an Islamic cultural revival. Under the guise of improving religious liberty, he has maintained — even enhanced — governmental supervision of religious institutions, but he has replaced secularist bureaucrats with adherents of the Muslim Brotherhood’s brand of Islamic supremacism. Most significantly, Erdogan has subdued Turkey’s armed forces as a threat to his power. Pointing to Western admonitions against military interference in government, he forced the generals to back down from their threat to block his ally, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, from becoming president. He then used his control over prosecutorial authority to trump up sedition cases that purged his opponents from the military’s upper ranks.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to arrive in the Middle East at the end of this week to engage in another round of shuttle diplomacy. It is possible that his trip will be cancelled, however, as his wife suddenly fell ill a few days ago.

Well, he would do far better to stay by her side — where his presence might actually have a beneficial effect — than to honor his commitment to arrive for what will have been his sixth endeavor at peace-brokering since March.

It is true that Egypt is now on the brink of a bloody civil war; Syria’s population is still being slaughtered; Turkish strife is escalating; and Iran’s race for nuclear weapons is becoming a sprint, rather than a marathon.

It is also clear that American interests are not being served by any or all of the above. But none of it is even remotely related to the purpose of Kerry’s repeated visits to the region.

No, what the America’s top diplomat is obsessed with is mediating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And because the latter’s goal is the elimination of the former, the only possible progress Kerry can make involves pressuring Israel to agree to a slew of Palestinian preconditions — not for peace, but for “peace talks.”

Even if such preconditions (i.e., the 1949 armistice lines as the starting point and the release of massive numbers of terrorists in Israeli prisons) did not constitute suicide for the Jewish state, meeting them would not result in anything resembling peace.

Last week, while State Department representatives remained in Israel to continue persuading “both sides” to sit down at the negotiating table — and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he has been prepared to do so all along, without preconditions — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ official television station treated its viewers to a sweet little feature, ahead of the Ramadan holiday that begins Wednesday. In it, two little Palestinian girls recite a poem, introduced by a doting TV host. The broadcast was released by Palestinian Media Watch on Sunday.

DANIEL MANDEL:How Ian Fleming Masterminded the Invasion of Sicily **** World War II abounds in gargantuan invasions, massive blunders, ferocious set-piece battles and scenes of hellish slaughter worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. The effort to avoid one such bloodbath originated Operation Mincemeat, one of the war’s most celebrated and quirky intelligence efforts. Specifically, the conundrum for the Allies was: how to save the lives of […]

JONAH GOLDBERG: OBAMA WINGS IT IN EGYPT Who says President Obama isn’t a unifier? Last week, Edmund Sanders of the Los Angeles Times reported from Cairo: “As rival camps of Egyptians protest for and against the toppling of President Mohamed Morsi, there is a rare point of agreement: America is to blame.” Both the Muslim Brotherhood and the coalition arrayed against […]

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ INTERVIEWS KEVIN WILLIAMSON AUTHOR OF “THE END IS NEAR AND IT’S GOING TO BE AWESOME” My colleague Kevin D. Williamson is a fountain of unique optimism in his book, The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome: How Going Broke Will Leave America Richer, Happier, and More Secure. It’s a book worth reading — original, entertaining, smart, and engaging. As I wrote a few weeks ago, I […]

Evolution at Harvard How Financier Jeffrey Epstein Changed the Course of Evolutionary Studies at Harvard. By Christina Galbraith

If the scientist’s job is to ponder the stars, the banker’s is to funnel his vision into stellar panels. For while scientific theory can be enthralling, it’s in danger of racking up lost gigabytes and circuitry dust. But when a smart businessman and a top scientist get together, not only can the partnership lead to pragmatic accomplishments, it can actually change the course of scientific inquiry.

Such has been the case at Harvard. The study of evolution is always moving, but nowhere has it been livelier than in Brattle Square, where, ten years ago, a financier named Jeffrey Epstein set up the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics with a $30 million gift to the university, $6.5 million of which was a current-use gift to the PED. His mission was not to coddle neo-Darwinian theorists (because, honestly, couldn’t $30 million be used to vaccinate the entire country of Zaïre?) but to embolden a pragmatic use for the study of natural selection.
It was in August 2003, with the cooperation of Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, that the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics set up for business, and, under the direction of Martin Nowak, a professor of mathematics and biology, it revolutionized the way in which evolution is studied and utilized. PED became one of the first programs to give a high priority to the use of mathematics in studying the evolution of microbiology. It also became one of the first departments to develop a mathematical model of how human cancer cells evolve, as well as infectious bacteria and viruses such as HIV. The program’s models have led to key discoveries toward combatting diseases of all kinds and have encouraged researchers around the world to make new discoveries of their own.