Dirty Work

Kristof, whom I do like, hasn’t thought this through. Let’s see if you can spot the mistake.

Normally, the Chinese government downplays security risks, but human rights groups argue persuasively that China is using concerns about Uighurs as an excuse to crack down on peaceful Uighur dissidents. After 9/11, China declared its own war on terror in Xinjiang, but Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have documented that this often has targeted Uighurs who are completely nonviolent.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has largely backed this Chinese version of the war on terror. Indeed, a Department of Justice report this month suggests that American troops softened up Uighur prisoners in Guantánamo Bay on behalf of visiting Chinese interrogators. The American troops starved the Uighurs and prevented them from sleeping, just before inviting in the Chinese interrogators.

That was disgraceful; we shouldn’t do China’s dirty work. It was one more example of the Bush administration allowing the war on terror to corrode our moral clarity.

We should encourage China to tolerate peaceful protesters even as it prosecutes terrorists. But instead of clarifying that distinction, in recent years we have helped China blur it. The risk of terrorism during the Olympics is real, but that shouldn’t force us to do violence to our principles.


Found this on openDemocracy

A comprehensive FBI report published recently has highlighted the threat from domestic, home-grown extremists from a variety of groups, including those on the “extreme fringes” of social movements such as the “Animal Liberation Front” (classified as “special-interest terrorism”) to far right groups which often take “racist and racial supremacy and embrace antigovernment, antiregulatory” platforms.

The toD verdict: Since 9/11 and the inception of the “war on terrorism”, the threat posed by “domestic terrorism” has been conflated with Muslims residing in the US. Yet, an astounding 23 out of 24 terorrist attacks domestic terrorist attacks that took place between 2002-2005 were carried out by ‘special interest’ terror groups. As the report points out, the greater threat arises from fascist, right wing groups.

On Racism and similar matters

Nicholas D. Kristof in a recent column pointed something out which should be pointed out time and again, but strangely enough isn’t:

Much of the time, blacks have a pretty good sense of what whites think, but whites are oblivious to common black perspectives.

This is applicable not only to blacks and ‘whites’ in America, it’s of course something that describes most majority/minority constellations in the West. An interesting area where this is applicable, as Archbishop Williams has pointed out in his thoughtful speech, is in Western discussions of Islam, terrorism, the Enlightenment etc. The sheer refusal to view an issue from the minorities’ point of view has taken on an aggressive shape when it comes to talking about Muslims.

The passive ‘not listening’ has slowly but surely turned into an aggressive droning on and on over increasingly loud voices of protest. This is not simply speaking: it’s preaching. It’s applying ideas such as ‘secularism’, freedom of the press, etc., which could be applied to many different disquieting events, to only this single religious group: Muslims. It appears as if something needs to be talked out of existence, something so alien that the usual rational discourse doesn’t appear to be appropriate any more.

The vehemence with which this version of ‘not listening’ is carried out is shocking sometimes to the humble writer of this blog. Yes, as a reasonably well read person, one is used to racist diatribes, but the fact that, these days, these diatribes, hateful in content and righteous in tone, are coming from educated, smart persons, sends shivers down my spine. These are the people who, for better or worse, make politics. If they are conquered by hate, where is this society headed? I’m worried.

Subliminal Racism?

Prof. Patterson in the NYTonline on the questionable red phone ad of Ms. Clinton’s:

I have spent my life studying the pictures and symbols of racism and slavery, and when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.

The ad could easily have removed its racist sub-message by including images of a black child, mother or father — or by stating that the danger was external terrorism. Instead, the child on whom the camera first focuses is blond. Two other sleeping children, presumably in another bed, are not blond, but they are dimly lighted, leaving them ambiguous. Still it is obvious that they are not black — both, in fact, seem vaguely Latino.

Finally, Hillary Clinton appears, wearing a business suit at 3 a.m., answering the phone. The message: our loved ones are in grave danger and only Mrs. Clinton can save them. An Obama presidency would be dangerous — and not just because of his lack of experience. In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within.

Did the message get through? Well, consider this: people who voted early went overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama; those who made up their minds during the three days after the ad was broadcast voted heavily for Mrs. Clinton.

Almost two months ago, in a Slate commentary, Hitchens drew our attention to the Clintons’s questionable behaviour with respect to race:

How can one equal Bill Clinton for thuggery and opportunism when it comes to the so-called “race card”? And where does one even start with the breathtaking nastiness of his own conduct, and that of his supporters, in the last week?

Feminism & Language

A well reasoned mini-rant on the log attacking a common and tiresome position on feminism and how it destroys language.

[David Gelernter’s] claims are apocalyptic. Although English “used to belong to all its speakers and readers and writers” it has now been taken over by “arrogant ideologues” determined “to defend the borders of the New Feminist state.” A major “victory of propaganda over common sense” looms: “We have allowed ideologues to pocket a priceless property and walk away with it.” The language is on the brink of being lost, because although the “prime rule of writing is to keep it simple, concrete, concise”, today “virtually the whole educational establishment teaches the opposite”. This is the mild part. Soon he gets more seriously worked up, calling his opponents “style-smashers” and (I’m not kidding) “language rapists”, and claiming that “they were lying and knew it” when they did what they did.

What, then, is the terrible thing that the style-smashers have done? The following is (and I stress this) a complete list of all the facts about English usage he cites:

* Some writers now use either he or she, or singular they, or purportedly sex-neutral she, instead of purportedly sex-neutral he, to refer back to generic or quantified human antecedents that are not specifically marked as masculine.
* Some people recommend the words chairperson, humankind, and firefighter over chairman, mankind, and fireman.
* Some try to avoid using the phrases great man when speaking of a great person, or using brotherhood when making reference to fellow-feeling between human beings.


Gelernter insists on the beauty and clarity of “Shakespeare’s most perfect phrases”, calling them “miraculously simple and terse”; […]

Gelernter huffs and puffs a lot about the use of he or she, but this is only a prelude to something more serious: a furious condemnation of singular antecedents for they (“a student who lost their textbook”). In his telling of the story, the feminist language terrorists weren’t content with imposing he or she on us, a phrase that is merely clumsy; worse was to come when grammar itself “collapsed in a heap after agreement between subject and pronoun was declared to be optional”, i.e., they was permitted to have singular antecedents.

But his ignorance of the history of English literature on this point is breathtaking. It is quite clear that he has no idea Shakespeare used they with singular antecedents […]

Gelernter also specifically singles out Austen for praise: “The young Jane Austen is praised by her descendants for having written “pure simple English.” He obviously is not aware that Jane Austen is famous for her high frequency of use of of singular-anteceded they […].

Gelernter thinks singular they was invented by post-1970 feminist “ideologues”, rather than a use of pronouns having a continuous history going back as far as a thousand years. One might think it remarkable that someone this ignorant of the history and structure of English would nonetheless presume to pontificate, without having checked anything. But not if you read Language Log. We have noted many times the tendency to move straight to high dudgeon, skipping right over the stage where you check the reference books to make sure you have something to be in high dudgeon about. To take a random example, when Cullen Murphy accused three word-sense usages of being modern illiteratisms, Mark Liberman showed that in fact all three were the original meanings from long ago. And then a couple of months later Mark found John Powers had made an exactly analogous mistake with three other words. People just don’t look in reference books when it comes to language; they seem to think their status as writers combined with their emotion of anger gives them all the standing they need.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire (Remarks on Daniel Pipes)

This is always a fun game. Look at the truth and tweak it so it still looks like the truth, sharing most facts with it but is actually a malicious lie. People like Daniel Pipes, Oriana Fallaci and Henryk Broder are adept at this tactic when writing their hateful screeds against Islam. A case in point is Daniel Pipes’ treatment of the Westerhoff affair. While Angry White Man/columnist Christopher Hitchens uses the expression “alleged plot”, Daniel Pipes indulges in a bit of his usual hate informed tweaking and describes the affair thusly:

This month, Denmark’s police foiled a terrorist plot to murder Kurt Westergaard, the cartoonist who drew the strongest of the Muhammad pictures, prompting most of the country’s newspapers to reprint his cartoon as an act of solidarity and a signal to Islamists that their threats and violence will not succeed.

Nice. By the way, this is a different way to look at the affair

Virtually the entire media in Denmark reprinted the notorious caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on February 13.
The decision to re-print came just one day after three men, two Tunisians and a Danish national, were arrested for an alleged plot to kill one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard. At least 15 papers across Denmark reprinted images of the cartoons, in what can only be described as a calculated provocation. Despite having no evidence regarding the guilt of the three detained, since the security service claimed it moved on suspicion and did not have enough grounds to charge the men, the Danish media raced to be first to print the cartoons, supposedly to underline their defence of “free speech.”

Funny, how the second statement fits in better with reports like amnesty international’s which claimed

In its report on Denmark, published in May, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) expressed deep concern at worsening intolerance and xenophobia against refugees, asylum-seekers, minorities in general and Muslims in particular. ECRI noted with concern legislative provisions disproportionately restricting the ability of members of ethnic minorities to acquire Danish citizenship, to benefit from family reunification, and to access social protection. ECRI also highlighted an atmosphere of impunity, created by the low rate of prosecutions for incitement to racial hatred despite, among other things, inflammatory statements by some politicians and the media.

Funny, eh? Ah, it’s always the same. It’s just redundant to write about the likes of Pipes. So predictable (as I am, eh?). In contrast even someone like Hitchens, the “football hooligan of rational thought”, is refreshing in that he bashes Muslims but also bashes Christians, Jews etc. and he is not afraid of clobbering those who hold opinions close to his own.

Here’s a fitting exemplification of this. After digging around a bit I discovered this 2003 essay by Hitchens on Pipes and found it described the man well:

I am not myself a pacifist, and I believe that Islamic nihilism has to be combated with every weapon, intellectual and moral as well as military, which we possess or can acquire. But that is a position shared by a very wide spectrum of people. Pipes, however, uses this consensus to take a position somewhat to the right of Ariel Sharon, concerning a matter (the Israel-Palestine dispute) that actually can be settled by negotiation. And he employs the fears and insecurities created by Islamic extremism to slander or misrepresent those who disagree with him.

[…] To put it bluntly, I suspect that Pipes is so consumed by dislike that he will not recognize good news from the Islamic world even when it arrives. And this makes him dangerous and unreliable.


On more than one occasion, Pipes has called for the extension of Israel’s already ruthless policy of collective punishment, arguing that leveling Palestinian villages is justifiable if attacks are launched from among their inhabitants. It seems to me from observing his style that he came to this conclusion with rather more relish than regret.

You see? That’s why I’m suddenly beginning to like Hitchens. People like Pipes and Broder show me how much worse hateful polemicism can get. Hitchens isn’t racist, unlike Pipes et al. He’s just a wee bit daft, but I tell ye, I’ll take daft over racist anytime. If that were the choice, I’d say thank God for daft people.

Richard Flanagan: The Unknown Terrorist

Persons and actions of this story are invented. If the description of certain journalistic practices shows ressemblances to the practices of the Bild newspaper, that’s because these ressemblances are not intended nor accidental, they are inescapable

The Unknown Terrorist, Richard Flanagan’s novel, is, as he himself says at the back of his forgettable new book, a modern take on Böll’s Verlorene Ehre der Katharina Blum. And it is basically the same story. Woman fucks stranger, stranger is suspected of terrible crime, woman is suspected of being an accomplice. And I really like the Böll novel. Must be my favorite novel of his. So why was The Unknown Terrorist such a mess of a novel?

Can’t be the writing. Heinrich Böll is not a great stylist. What success his novels and stories have, style has nothing to do with that. Flanagan is, if anything, a better stylist. Much of the novel drags and much is functional at best, but there are outstanding passages as well. Can’t be the writing? Characters, maybe. That, actually, is the first problem. Although Böll’s characters are cliché characters, they need to be for the story to work in the little space that is allotted to them and Böll is a master in making even cliché come alive. Not so Flanagan. For one thing, he overdoes the cliché, adds many more layers of schlocky details. And then he just lets his characters get away with this. He doesn’t even try to make the characters believable. No Sir. When he slips his characters into the pockets of the story, he adds just the most necessary characterization. He sticks to the dolls (ironic, eh?) he constructed. Interaction between characters is unbelievable, as a rule.

But that is not his main error. The main problem with the novel is the old show-don’t-tell idea. He lets us know what people are thinking. Not just the protagonist, but also the journalist, the cops, and others. Every aspect of the story is examined and explained. It’s as if he was expecting his readers to be less smart than fourth graders. No guesswork for us. And this is where the novel goes terribly wrong. Yes, that’s tedious to read. But the political aspect of it is softened to an extent that is almost criminal. The hard criticism of mass media of Böll’s novel is softened to bad individuals who do know better but decide, greedily, to go ahead with the “story”. Whereas the only dedication of Flanagan is to David Hicks, a victim of misguided governmental policy, Böll’s reads like this:

Personen und Handlung dieser Erzählung sind frei erfunden. Sollten sich bei der Schilderung gewisser journalistischer Praktiken Ähnlichkeiten mit den Praktiken der Bild-Zeitung ergeben haben, so sind diese Ähnlichkeiten weder beabsichtigt noch zufällig, sondern unvermeidlich.

(Persons and actions of this story are invented. If the description of certain journalistic practices shows ressemblances to the practices of the Bild newspaper, that’s because these ressemblances are not intended nor accidental, they are inescapable). Lots of misguided governmental policies in his time, too. However, that’s plainly not his point. It’s about how the mass media distorts something if it conforms with certain bourgeois stereotypes.

This would have worked fine with The Unknown Terrorist, too. Slutty woman? Check. Arab terrorist? Check. Etc. And these stereotypes are seen to be at the basis of the journalist’s doing the story the way he does. However, it stops at this point. Richard Cody. And he does know better, but his greed for money and fame blinds him. Böll exposed the stereotypes that govern the press. Maybe a ‘real’ Richard Cody would not need the incentive of greed. The stereotypes alone are more than enough. This would have made an incisive commentary on the state of our nations. Look at the inane and inherently racist coverage of the remarks of Archbishop Williams, or check out the coverage in Danish newspapers of the alleged plot to kill the damn cartoonist. Or German newspapers covering that. Hell, mainstream coverage of muslims by privately owned media. Daily Express, anyone? Henryk M. Broder? Broder writes the stories Cody would write had he Broder’s erudition or style. Or check out how much of a deal it is that a photograph was published with Barack Hussein Obama wearing a turban.

No, The Unknown Terrorist is not tidy nor subtle. It doesn’t have to. It’s an angry book, wearing its moral indignation on its sleeve. But it is on this account, the political sphere, that it fails first and foremost. It attacks a government who uses a Patriot Act-like legislation to exert pressure on people. But the main protagonist’s life is not destroyed by that. It’s destroyed the hateful discourse taken up and whipped up by the press. Böll’s novel got him into a pickle with the press which launched a spite-and hateful campaign against the little indignant writer, a campaign that lasted years. No such chance with Flanagan, I presume. The boring little antepodean shit.

Denmark, again. Cartoons, again. Racism, again. The old drill, eh?

This is noteworthy and also parts of it resound with basic ideas of the archbishop’s lecture (see here):

Republication of the cartoon has reignited anger

At Friday prayers this mistrust of the media is bubbling close to the surface. One furious man comes and tells the people I am interviewing not to trust journalists. This was after Danish intelligence said they had uncovered a plot by three Muslims in Denmark to kill one of the cartoonists. “We were all punished by the printing of those pictures,” says the imam in his sermon.
He is angry that none of the men accused of masterminding the plot are being put on trial – the Danish intelligence services say revealing their evidence would compromise their intelligence network. Instead, they are expelling two of the suspects who do not have Danish citizenship and freeing the third who does. “How does it make sense that a person who is trying to kill somebody is being arrested, charged, interrogated and then released and yet still we should feel that he’s a terrorist?” asks Imran Hussein, who runs Network an advisory body for Muslim organisations in Denmark. Like many Muslims here he was appalled by the discovery of the plot to kill the cartoonist but now he is more sceptical.
“A lot of people are afraid of Islam today in Denmark and when they are afraid of Islam it means they are afraid of me too,” says Sofian, who was born in Denmark but feels he no longer has a future there.
“I am hurt, as I was the first time,” says Feisal, who works in marketing and was also born in Denmark. He believes the problem is not Danish society but the media.
Feisal says he cannot understand why the media keeps focusing on the idea that Muslims are trying to take their freedom of speech away from them.
“I will never feel one hundred percent accepted here in Danish society,” says Imran Hussein, who has tried hard at integration, getting involved in local politics. He says the cartoons were just part of a bigger picture. “It’s just getting worse and worse because the daily spoken language about immigrants and the portrayals of Muslims specifically are getting worse worldwide, so of course that’s had an effect in Denmark as well,” explains Imran.
Radical Islamist parties have been quick to channel this sense of alienation. Hizb ut Tahrir in Denmark organised a protest against the reprinting of the cartoons. Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets of Copenhagen shouting “God is Great!” and “Freedom of Speech is a plague!” Some Danes looked rather surprised.
Outside the cafe, under the guidance of Hizb ut Tahrir, Danish Muslims were chanting “Khilafat” – supporting the party’s demand for the creation of a caliphate to unite Muslims worldwide.

So far Muslims in Denmark have been talking about discrimination and the need for more respect. But the more they feel nobody is listening to their anger the more susceptible they will be to the message of radical political Islam.


Catch 22 [Hazing (fee fi fo fun for me) Update IV]

After four previous posts, this one looks like the final post. There’s nothing to be added, really. This is from Froomkin’s column in the Washington Post

President Bush would authorize waterboarding future terrorism suspects if certain criteria are met, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said this morning, one day after the director of the CIA for the first time publicly acknowledged his agency’s use of the tactic, which generally involves strapping a prisoner to a board, covering his face or mouth with a cloth, and pouring water over his face to create the sensation of drowning.

and now check out this brazen explanation:

Knox writes that Fratto “rejected charges that the tactics the Central Intelligence Agency calls ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ amount to torture.

“‘Torture is illegal. Every enhanced technique that has been used by the Central Intelligence Agency through this program was brought to the Department of Justice and they made a determination that its use under specific circumstances and with safeguards was lawful,’ he said.”

And here’s the kicker: “Asked whether the White House’s reasoning was that torture is illegal, the attorney general has certified that the interrogation practices are legal, therefore those practices are not torture, Fratto replied: ‘Sure.'”

Oh! Oh! Sarko, c’est rigolo!

The President of France, Sarkozy, who supports the highly problematic idea of DNA tests for immigrants, (which, granted, isn’t racist per se, this is dependent on the exact phrasing)has once more shown his colors. Among many other things he said today in a speech in Dakar two frankly outrageous thing, which should lead to his having to resign, but most likely won’t have any effect like that. Bernard, in a piece for the online edition of le monde, highlights them:

Fidèle à lui-même, le président a absous les colonisateurs qui, certes, “ont pillé des ressources” et “ont eu tort” de le faire, mais étaient “sincères”.

le président a présenté l’Africain comme un homme prisonnier de sa culture, marqué par l’irrationalité et l’incapacité d’envisager le futur. “Le drame de l’Afrique, a-t-il déclaré, c’est que l’homme africain n’est pas assez entré dans l’Histoire (…). Jamais il ne s’élance vers l’avenir (…). Dans cet univers où la nature commande tout (…), il n’y a de place ni pour l’aventure humaine ni pour l’idée de progrès.”

The great thing is that Le Monde has posted the whole speech and it is loads of fun to revel in it. After having first said, through various uses of the sentence “Ils ont eu tort” (they were wrong), that the European colonizers of Africa did wrong in colonizing it and doing it the way they did, he continues to somewhat absolve the colonizing movement of their guilt (if you wonder why I quote so extensively from the speech, Le Monde’s online edition isn’t online for free for longer than a week or so, so this post will still be readable when some of the links become defunct)

Le colonisateur est venu, il a pris, il s’est servi, il a exploité, il a pillé des ressources, des richesses qui ne lui appartenaient pas. Il a dépouillé le colonisé de sa personnalité, de sa liberté, de sa terre, du fruit de son travail.

Il a pris mais je veux dire avec respect qu’il a aussi donné. Il a construit des ponts, des routes, des hôpitaux, des dispensaires, des écoles. Il a rendu fécondes des terres vierges, il a donné sa peine, son travail, son savoir. Je veux le dire ici, tous les colons n’étaient pas des voleurs, tous les colons n’étaient pas des exploiteurs.

Il y avait parmi eux des hommes mauvais mais il y avait aussi des hommes de bonne volonté, des hommes qui croyaient remplir une mission civilisatrice, des hommes qui croyaient faire le bien. Ils se trompaient mais certains étaient sincères. Ils croyaient donner la liberté, ils créaient l’aliénation. Ils croyaient briser les chaînes de l’obscurantisme, de la superstition, de la servitude. Ils forgeaient des chaînes bien plus lourdes, ils imposaient une servitude plus pesante, car c’étaient les esprits, c’étaient les âmes qui étaient asservis. Ils croyaient donner l’amour sans voir qu’ils semaient la révolte et la haine.

La colonisation n’est pas responsable de toutes les difficultés actuelles de l’Afrique. Elle n’est pas responsable des guerres sanglantes que se font les Africains entre eux. Elle n’est pas responsable des génocides. Elle n’est pas responsable des dictateurs. Elle n’est pas responsable du fanatisme. Elle n’est pas responsable de la corruption, de la prévarication. Elle n’est pas responsable des gaspillages et de la pollution.

I cannot possibly comment on that without writing at least 20 pages of rebuttal, but this part of his speech is so blatantly ignorant, that it provides its own commentary, basically, doesn’t it? With texts like these, quoting them is more than enough to expose their authors. The other scrumptious parts I let Bernard quote, and apart from these passages, the speech basically becomes a plea for “young africans” to stay at home (don’t come to us) and rebuild their…er…country? Yes, it’s ONE country, Africa, didn’t you know that. Oh God. One might think of pushing books by Paul Gilroy (see also my blog entry on Gilroy here) for this on Sarkozy, and Frantz Fanon as well, who would come in handy in many other places in his fun speech. Even a text that doesn’t carry as much philosophical weight as it used to like Said’s Orientalism (still a very readable book) would broaden this president’s horizons, one feels. As an aside, doesn’t he remind you of Giuliany a lot as well? Strange.
Whatever. Finally, he wraps his speech up by telling the “young africans” that they can change their country all by themselves, with a little help by their French friends. The gall! I’ll quote a good portion of it:

Jeunes d’Afrique, vous voulez le développement, vous voulez la croissance, vous voulez la hausse du niveau de vie.

Mais le voulez-vous vraiment ? Voulez-vous que cessent l’arbitraire, la corruption, la violence ? Voulez-vous que la propriété soit respectée, que l’argent soit investi au lieu d’être détourné ? Voulez-vous que l’État se remette à faire son métier, qu’il soit allégé des bureaucraties qui l’étouffent, qu’il soit libéré du parasitisme, du clientélisme, que son autorité soit restaurée, qu’il domine les féodalités, qu’il domine les corporatismes ? Voulez-vous que partout règne l’État de droit qui permet à chacun de savoir raisonnablement ce qu’il peut attendre des autres ?

Si vous le voulez, alors la France sera à vos côtés pour l’exiger, mais personne ne le voudra à votre place.

Voulez-vous qu’il n’y ait plus de famine sur la terre africaine ? Voulez-vous que, sur la terre africaine, il n’y ait plus jamais un seul enfant qui meure de faim ? Alors cherchez l’autosuffisance alimentaire. Alors développez les cultures vivrières. L’Afrique a d’abord besoin de produire pour se nourrir. Si c’est ce que vous voulez, jeunes d’Afrique, vous tenez entre vos mains l’avenir de l’Afrique, et la France travaillera avec vous pour bâtir cet avenir.

Vous voulez lutter contre la pollution ? Vous voulez que le développement soit durable ? Vous voulez que les générations actuelles ne vivent plus au détriment des générations futures ? Vous voulez que chacun paye le véritable coût de ce qu’il consomme ? Vous voulez développer les technologies propres ? C’est à vous de le décider. Mais si vous le décidez, la France sera à vos côtés.

Vous voulez la paix sur le continent africain ? Vous voulez la sécurité collective ? Vous voulez le règlement pacifique des conflits ? Vous voulez mettre fin au cycle infernal de la vengeance et de la haine ? C’est à vous, mes amis africains, de le décider . Et si vous le décidez, la France sera à vos côtés, comme une amie indéfectible, mais la France ne peut pas vouloir à la place de la jeunesse d’Afrique.

Some days ago, Sarko visited the US and had an enormous success, according to an assessment in the NYTimes

“It’s safe to say that you’ve impressed a lot of people here on your journey,” Mr. Bush said, calling Mr. Sarkozy “the kind of fellow I like to deal with.”

Really telling was this remark, which should have prevented us (well, me) to be surprised by Sarko’s disastrous speech in Dakar today

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said of Mr. Sarkozy’s performance: “You just heard a Ronald Reagan speech from a president of France. It was an almost out-of-body experience for all of us.”


In his speech and the news conference with Mr. Bush, Mr. Sarkozy pledged to be a strong partner with the United States against terrorism and to keep French troops in Afghanistan as long as needed in the NATO-led mission to bring stability.

Hitchens at work

This is from a NY Times review of John Updike’s most recent collection of nonfiction by Christopher Hitchens. It’s nicely written, informative and all that. We also learn that Hitchens writes “Yuck” and ticks in the margins of his books, but, as I said in a German text on this blog, certain minds seem to be unable to refrain from mentioning Islam in a stupid and self-revealing way. I wonder if a get-together of Hitchens and his editor looks like Fawlty Towers all over again, just this time nobody cries: DON’T MENTION THE WAR but DON’T MENTION ISLAM, however, given the frequency of Hitchens’s Islambashing this is improbable. Though I must admit, he does kinda remind me of John Cleese’s character. Here’s the fun part of his so-so review

Discussing Grass’s rather recent discovery that Germans had also been the victims of atrocities, Updike asks:

“Can a nation war against a regime without warring against the people the regime rules? Is the very concept ‘war crime’ tautological, given the context of determined violence? As Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, said a few weeks ago, ‘War is always a catastrophe.’ Are discriminations possible between appropriate and excessive bombing, between legitimate and atrocious ship-sinkings, between proper combat of armed soldiers and such tactics as using civilians, including children, as human shields or disguising an ambush as a surrender? An American soldier recently wounded in such an ambush, when interviewed on television, shrugged and, with striking dispassion, conceded that, given the great imbalance of firepower between the Coalition and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, he could hardly blame his attackers for their murderous ruse.”

This is evenhandedness taken almost to the point of masochism. (What of the “imbalance” between the jihadists and the girls’ schools they blow up?) And Updike doesn’t choose to answer any of the questions — familiar enough at a sophomore level, as is Annan’s affectless remark — that he poses. I have the suspicion that he is overcompensating for the rather lame defense of the war in Vietnam that he mounted in his memoir “Self-Consciousness.”

For balance (?) here’s Kakutani’s good review of Mr. Updike’s most recent novel, Terrorist.
And now, in comes Basil Fawlty (yes, any review of a book an Islamism will mention Islam, several times, but read on, you’ll see what I mean)in his own review of that book

Indeed, Updike continues to offer us, as we have come to expect of him, his grueling homework. The sinuous imam of the local mosque (Shaikh Rashid) does not try to impress the half-educated and credulous Ahmad with the duty to fight the enemies of the Prophet. Far from it. He prepares him for stone-faced single-mindedness with some intricate Koranic hermeneutics, designed to shake his faith. And guess which example is adduced? The theory of the German Orientalist Christoph Luxenberg, who has argued that the “virgins” promised to martyrs in Paradise are actually a mistranslation for “white raisins.” Bet you never heard that! My feeling — call it a guess or an intuition — is that this is not how madrassas train their suicide bombers. My other feeling is that Updike could have placed this rather secondhand show of his recent learning in some other part of the novel.

It sorta makes me wonder whether he’s drunk when he’s writing his essays. Or high on some very damaging drugs.

Islamofascism (bits and pieces)

Prompted by a new piece by Eboo Patel who tends to make mostly correct statements in ridiculously short postings in his portion of the great Washington Post On Faith blog (a treasure trove)on Islamofascism awareness week, this. First the quick definition of the wiki entry

Islamofascism is a controversial neologism suggesting an association of the ideological or operational characteristics of certain modern Islamist movements with European fascist movements of the early 20th century, neofascist movements, or totalitarianism.
The word is included in the New Oxford American Dictionary, defining it as “a controversial term equating some modern Islamic movements with the European fascist movements of the early twentieth century”. Critics of the term argue that associating the religion of Islam with fascism is offensive and inaccurate.

Second the relevant portion of Patels text

What would you think if I told you every high school kid in baggy pants was a drug dealer?
Or every woman wearing lipstick was a prostitute?
How about that every black man on the street was getting ready to rob you?
Or every Italian guy was a mobster?

Then you should be equally offended by IslamoFascism Awareness Week because it employs the same twisted logic as the revolting statements above and its objective is equally ugly: every time you see a Muslim, the organizers of IslamoFascism Awareness Week want you to think “terrorist”.

One of the founding fathers of my country, Thomas Jefferson, had enough respect for Islam and Muslims that he owned a copy of the Qur’an. Another one of my founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, declared that the pulpit of a hall he helped build in Philadelphia would be open to a Muslim preacher.
The America that I love faces real threats from terrorists. Too many of those terrorists call themselves Muslims. Victory requires that we focus like a laser beam on these enemies.

Third, here’s a link to a good article against Islamofascism Awareness Week.

Finally, as the warped idea of Islamofascism seems to take hold mostly in the poor minds of those who think that nowadays it’s valid to equate Islam with Islamism I recommend READING. Books would help but they are often difficult to come by in dumbland, so the Internet can be of help as well. Daniel Pipes in particular, who has defended highly questionable ideas such as racial profiling, offers nice bits of counterargument against embracing the benighted idea of islam=islamism.
For instance here

“Moderate Unicorns,” huffed a reader, responding to my recent plea that Western states bolster moderate Muslims. Dismissing their existence as a myth, he notes that non-Muslims “are still waiting for moderates to stand and deliver, identifying and removing extremist thugs from their mosques and their communities.”

It’s a valid skepticism and a reasonable demand. Recent events in Pakistan and Turkey, however, prove that moderate Muslims are no myth.

In Pakistan, an estimated 100,000 people demonstrated on April 15 in Karachi, the country’s largest city, to protest the plans of a powerful mosque in Islamabad, the Lal Masjid, to establish a parallel court system based on Islamic law, the Shari‘a. “No to extremism,” roared the crowd. “We will strongly resist religious terrorism and religious extremism,” exhorted Altaf Hussain, leader of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, at the rally.

Also, for those who can read french, it’s an option to consider Mohamed Sifaoui, writer, journalist, muslim and declared secularist who writes books against forms of radical Islam, who fought for Charlie Hebdo’s right to print the damn caricatures (I still think printing them in Germany was unconstitutional but well, trust German courts to uphold the flag of whiteness, er, free speech), but who’s a rather stupid man, well that doesn’t change much, does it.

Today, in a lucid review of The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism by Norman Podhoretz, Kakutani (whom I tend to criticise from time to time) wrote something which, as does Mr. Podhoretz’ book, relates to this posting’s topic

For that matter, Mr. Podhoretz lumps together Muslims opposed to the United States, a “two-headed beast” of “Islamofascism,” whose objective he says is “to murder as many of us as possible” and destroy “the freedoms we cherish and for which America stands.” Such characterizations not only try to draw parallels between radical Muslims and the Nazis, but also gloss over the many schisms and conflicts within Islam that have pitted Shiites against Sunnis, Iranians against Iraqis, religious fundamentalists against more secular Baathists.

9/11 and Feminism

In a recent book review of Susan Faludi’s new book The Terror Dream (I like her book Backlash a lot, polemical and wrong as it may be in parts)Michiko Kakutani points out its many many logical flaws, starting with

To begin with, the reader wants to ask: What disappearance of female voices? What “bugle call” to “return to Betty Crocker domesticity?” Since 9/11, Hillary Rodham Clinton has become the leading Democratic contender in the race for the White House, with a good chance of becoming the first female president in history; Katie Couric was named anchor of the CBS Evening News; and women like Lara Logan of CBS and Martha Raddatz of ABC have been reporting from the frontlines of the war in Iraq. Ms. Faludi asserts that the 9/11 widows “the media liked best” were the fragile, dependent ones, “who accepted that their ‘job’ now was to devote themselves to their families and the memory of their dead husbands.” But even she has to acknowledge that the so-called “Jersey Girls” (Kristen Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg, Patty Casazza, and Lorie van Auken) played “an essential role in forcing the creation of the independent 9/11 Commission,” and helped strong-arm “top White House officials into testifying before the commission.”

Kakutani does say that Faludi explains that these women were the exception to the rule but it doesn’t seem to bother her. Nor the fact that Faludi points out that in places central to the frontier myth, women have been underrepresented or excluded, as the stewardesses who boiled water on Flight 93 to throw it on the terrorists (nice nugget, there, as a fighting action it’s in conflict with the myth but broken down in its component parts, it’s actually pretty similar to women who in frintier times prepared the means with which men fought. Curious conflict there)

She writes that post-9/11 marketing efforts “had succeeded in darkening the image of the sexually liberated single woman,” even though “Sex and the City” remained a hit TV show in the years before and after the attacks.

It would have been nice of Ms. Kakutani to have recalled Backlash a little bit better and the part of it, which was itself at the time not new, but it was for the first time presented in a nationwide nonfiction bestseller (we all would love for Irgigaray and Butler to sell big but that’s not going to happen, is it), which discusses the so-called ’emptiness’ of the career woman. Much of what Ms. Faludi has written about that is admirably compatible with Sex and the City (I’ve written some remarks about that show in this short essay of mine as well)however, that show, for whatever reasons, did run out in the years when the infamous War on Terror began (does Kakutani presume that this process is exact? The second the myth begins everything is being adjusted? Those things take time), which could provide material for a neat discussion of the closeness of the show to the myth and the reason for its incopmpatibility with the similar problematic surrounding the stewardesses on Flight 93.
The most striking part of Kakutani’s criticism of Faludi’s book, as well as the most telling, is this one:

And she writes that television and other pop culture manufacturers dispensed “the consolations of a domestic idyll where men wore all the badges, and women wielded all the roasting pans,” even though high-profile shows like “Scrubs,” “CSI: Miami” and “The Osbournes,” which had their debuts in the year or so after 9/11, hardly illustrate this theory, and television has more recently seen the emergence of shows (like “Damages,” “Saving Grace” and “The Closer”) featuring feisty middle-aged heroines as tough-talking lawyers and cops.

Granted, I don’t remember enough of Backlash [and I don’t find my copy. Anybody who’s willing to buy me a new one is welcome! ;)] to retrieve from memory to what extent Faludi has understood the gender/sex divide, but what’s interesting about these new shows, as well as about Scrubs is that these shows work with a strong sense of what “masculine”/”feminine” is and of how masculine/feminine a man/woman should be to be normal, which makes shows like these hasten to show that, looking at The Closer, for instance, despite being a “tough cop”, Chief Brenda Johnson is still very feminine, she may fulfill the gender role of a man, down to her behaviour at home, but ‘deep down’ she’s still a woman, an insidious argument if I ever saw one. If that show wasn’t so enjoyable… Point is that although Faludi’s arguments abour rebuilt attitudes should not be taken too literally, these arguments are indeed forceful and they describe a troubling development.
However, Kakutani may be right about one thing.

Ms. Faludi’s overarching thesis in this book rings false too. In fact, her suggestion that the 9/11 attacks catalyzed the same fears and narrative impulses as those unleashed by our frontier ancestors’ “original war on terror,” leading to a muffling of feminist voices and a veneration of “the virtues of nesting,” runs smack up against her own “Backlash,” which suggested that similar assaults on women’s independence were being unleashed in the 1980s — a time not of war or threat but a decade that witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the coming end of the cold war.

It might, after all, not be due to the horrible specter of 9/11. How people behaved in the face of 9/11 might have been due to what they were thinking all the time. Maybe it’s just that with faminism it’s as with civil rights, people no longer look too closely at what’s happening if they are so afraid some muslim Terrorists might destroy their homes and their ‘freedom’ that they don’t notice the infringement of said freedom by their own elected government and nonelected media.

Hazing (fee fi fo fun for me) Update

Very interesting piece in today’s Washington Post. on a group of WW II interrogators.

When about two dozen veterans got together yesterday for the first time since the 1940s, many of the proud men lamented the chasm between the way they conducted interrogations during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects.

“I feel like the military is using us to say, ‘We did spooky stuff then, so it’s okay to do it now,’ ” said Arno Mayer, 81, a professor of European history at Princeton University.

“We did it with a certain amount of respect and justice,” said John Gunther Dean, 81, who became a career Foreign Service officer and ambassador to Denmark. The interrogators had standards that remain a source of pride and honor.

In contrast, Bush minces words again, which reminded me of Krugman’s recent remark on the lighthearted cruelty of many Republican politicians.


ps. I have to refer back to my last piece on hazing and esp. to the nunberg link when I see that Le Monde, with this title

M. Bush nie l’usage de la torture dans les geôles de la CIA, malgré la multiplication de pièces accablantes

are missing the point about Bush’s denial and the remarkable cruelty that accompanies the President’s choice of words, completely.

Understanding Language in Babel-17

[If you want to support me or this blog, click here. ;)]

Kingsley Amis wrote in his treatise on Science Fiction that the motto „‘Idea as Hero‘ is the basis“ (137) for SF. In Babel-17, Samuel R. Delany’s sixth novel, the importance of language and linguistics is emphasized. It does both to an extent that is very unusual in a SF novel (cf. Aldiss and Wingrove 292) and its interest in language runs deeper than in the ordinary SF novel, where strange words abound or some new language or dialect is invented, as in Burgess‘ A Clockwork Orange. Evidently, language is this novel’s hero.

Babel-17’s interest in language and how it portrays the mechanisms behind language is the subject of this paper. It has the goal of mapping out the political and the epistemological consequences of the text’s treatment of language, which, as will be made clear, works in several ways. Some of the examiniation is done out in the open by Rydra Wong, a famous poet who is commissioned to decipher Babel-17, a code allegedly used by terrorists to coordinate their acts of sabotage, which soon turns out to be a language. In other parts, the examinition is provided by the character’s actions and emotions and by the events. Finally it will be pointed out, that the interest in language even informs the structure of the novel down to the generic markers it employs. It will be seen that SF is a kind of language itself which has to be understood by the reader of SF, because „knowing a genre is also knowing how to take it up“ (Broderick 39).

This is also the way most criticism has been reading the novel, but none of that criticism has noted, that it’s not just ‘about’ language, it is about understanding language as one of the basic givens of humanity. Its influence reaches deeply, into communication and thought. That is what the first two parts are trying to show. The last part amply demonstrates, that even when something in not language, is may be language-like, such as the genre SF.

SF is „What If Literature“ (Landon 6) and, as remains to be shown, Babel-17 poses some of the more powerful what if questions, trying to help people to recognize science’s „potentialities for social change“ (Asimov 162). This paper’s thesis is, that at the end of the trail that this reading of Babel-17 provides, one can see some possibilities of a brighter, more humane future, or a darker future. Babel-17 indicates the potentialities of communication and language that humanity has squandered for thousands of years and it poses some potent questions about free will and about the truth we take for granted. What questions these are, this paper will attempt to demonstrate.

Babel-17 is written in English and the characters that shape events, or are shaped by them, are speakers of English. One might be tempted to think that this impression only derives from the fact that the novel is written in English, just as an English novel about France would feature no, or not very much, French dialogue, even if all the characters were French. It becomes clear, though, that the first impression is correct once we note that comparisons to other languages always are comparisons of English to other languages (cf. Delany, Babel-17, 111). Also, the English-speaking characters never have to translate anything, everybody who takes part in this novel’s events speaks English and should be able to communicate perfectly with anybody else.

Although English is the predominant language, it is not the only one. The political background to the story is a war between the Alliance, part of which forms the earth , and the Invaders. Both probably consist of several nations, having several languages each (cf. 24). Of the Invader’s languages we encounter none. Eight earth languages are mentioned, other than English: Finnish, Sioux (as an example for North American Indian languages in general), French, Hungarian, Spanish (all five: cf. 111), Basque (cf. 77), Old Moorish (cf. 115) and an unnamed african language that is spoken in the „N’gonda province in Pan Africa“ (54, cf. 51f.). Sample words are not provided from Basque, Finnish, Hungarian or Sioux, only one word from Spanish and Old Moorish each, about five French words and generous eight sentences of the African language. These languages are not important to the story, they only demonstrate certain linguistic points, such as the grammatical differences between Sioux and and Finnish noun cases.

Thus, the main focus, of course, is on the mysterious language, Babel-17. Babel-17 is described as „the most analytically exact language imaginable“ (210). It does not know the words ‚you‘, ‚I‘ nor the words derived from them, such as ‚your‘ and ‚mine‘ (cf. 139) so speakers of it cannot even conceive of the principle of the subject. Also, Babel-17 „contains a preset program […] to become a criminal and saboteur“ (215). This means it curtails the range of options the speaker of Babel-17 has so severely, it even imposes a „schizoid personality into the mind of whoever learns it“ (215), which means that a second personality is programmed into the person that can even grab hold of all the willpower of this person. The speaker of Babel-17, who thinks only analytically and cannot talk or think in categories of subjectivity, is massively hindered in the choices his mind allows him to make, for example „thinking in Babel-17 [you might] try and destroy your own ship and then blot out the fact with self-hypnosis“ (215).

In trying to crack the structure, the grammar and vocabulary of Babel-17, Rydra Wong, the poet that turned linguist by virtue of her „total verbal recall“ (9), finds that it „scares“ (22) her. For a language that one does not understand, this, introduced at an early point in the narrative, is a novel idea. Everybody would agree that it is possible to be afraid from something said and understood or even by a menacing way of delivery that a language can have, but being afraid of the language itself must seem strange to the reader.

As we have seen, there are passages in Babel-17 that compare different languages to each other. This process, however, is never focused on. The comparisons are drawn to make points about the nature and the properties of language itself. The vocabulary that is often used to make these points is scientific vocabulary, stemming from linguistics, but the person doing the scientific work is not a scientist. Rydra Wong, as mentioned above, is an artist, a poet, whose linguistic explorations are more of a hobby or a vocation. There are many weighty passages treating issues of linguistics but they are counterbalanced by the epigraphs introducing the five chapters, taken from Marilyn Hacker‘s poetry.

The differences sketched here between science and art run deeper. The first thing that is learned about language is that it is not a code and that the two should not be confused. A code can simply be deciphered, but a language has to be understood in a more organic way (cf. 6ff.). Suddenly voices, circumstances, contexts become important. An artist‘s intuition becomes useful, her „knack“ (10). This intuitive approach is contrasted with the government scientists, who, „although they know a hell of a lot about codes, […] know nothing of the nature of language“ (8). This kind of disparagement has lead some to claim that, in this novel, language is part of the arts and not of science (cf. Weedman 136). This approach mistakens the pervasiveness of science. If in this text art is valued more highly, it is only because „today a person who learns the rules of art well is a little rarer than the person who learns the rules of science“ (48).

So, even if Rydra’s advantage might be her intuition, her art still has to confer to rules. More often than not, she uses linguistic terms to talk about these rules, in a word, she uses science. As Walter E. Meyers points out though, she misuses these terms often enough: „The uninformed reader of Babel-17 receives misinformation“, and the novel „is inaccurate at almost every turn“ (both: Aliens and Linguists 180). It seems as if all the linguistic terms that are heaped up (cf. Delany, Babel-17, 111) are nothing but words, or names. Outside the text the rules spread out in the pages with linguistic rambling might be scientific nonsense or inaccurate, but in this text, her rules lead Rydra Wong to an understanding of Babel-17.

The critic who tries to establish a rift between science and art in Babel-17‘s treatment of languages is mistaken because he does not understand that the novel’s discourse is concerned with language itself. Language is its own „ordering principle“ (Fox 97), not art or science. The two ways to approach the nature of language, art and science, do not preclude one another. It is important to note, that each takes part in solving the mystery of Babel-17. So cannot be about linguistics or poetry, it is about their object, language.

The most important fact is the all-pervasiveness of language. Early in the novel, a customs officer has some kind of sexual encounter and, trying to cope with the ensuing depression, he turns to the means of language. He tries to describe his loneliness in a way that perfectly describes one of the limits language imposes on its speakers, the emptiness of language (cf. 47). In the dense phrasing of structuralism: you „cannot ‚mean‘ and ‚be‘ simultaneously.“ (Eagleton 170), the thing you talk about is absent in the language, language is empty. Later Rydra, awakening from sleep, is caught between English and Babel-17 and thereby experiencing a kind of double consciousness (cf. Littlefield 223). She is not able to gather her thoughts, reflecting on the nature of language: „If there’s no word for it, how do you think about it?“ (Delany, Babel-17, 111). The nature of language, one learns from Babel-17, evidently is defined by the limits it imposes on us.

During a voyage through space we learn of ghost-like beings, called ‚Eye‘, ‚Ear‘ and ‚Nose‘, who are part of a space ship‘s crew, and who are responsible for sensual reconnaissance. They report how an approaching space port looks like to the captain of the ship who has no windows or anything to „see“ for herself (72f.). Through a helmet she can partake of the three sensory impartations, each of which can explain the whole situation as is witnessed by the simultaneous answers to the captain’s question of where to dock in the space port and for the verbal description of each the words seem deficient.

„In the sound of the E-minor triad.“
„In the hot oil you can smell bubbling to your left.“
„Home in on that white circle.“ (73)

This passage amply illustrates the point, that language is not enough, but everything recurs to language, in the end, you have to listen and make the best of it. Aristotle said man is a social being and society consequently depends on communication, or, to phrase it differently, on language.

Limited as we might be because of language, we might think, that we might possibly cope completely without language. The one area, though, where everybody might agree that language is essential, is communication. And it is communication that turns out to be one of the three most important aspects of language in Babel-17, the other two being the diversity of languages and language itself.

This novel is shock full of characters who try to communicate with others and fail or who don’t even try. The latter case is evident in the interplanetary war between the Invaders and the Alliance. In the whole novel there is not a single instance where the two parties communicate in any way. Until the last chapter, the Invaders are only twice encountered in person and then from a considerable distance, only as a red light on a radar screen (cf.124ff.). The unspoken question lingers in the text whether the war could have been evaded or, once under way, stopped by both parties communicating their differences. There are indications of both possibilities in the text. For one thing, both parties refer to the other party as the „one-who-has-invaded“ (215), which implies a misunderstanding . For another, as Rydra Wong sets out to put an stop to the war at the end, one of the first measures she takes, is to talk to the Invader’s Commander (cf. 218).

More interesting than the political misapprehensions are the numerous implications that aberrations in communication might be part of the conditio humana. The thought of the General: “Sequestered, how could this city exist?” (3) might well be applied to humans in general, as this same General, becoming infatuated with Rydra, mentally despairs of not being able to tell her his feelings, thinking: “My god […] all that inside of me and she doesn’t know! I didn’t communicate a thing!” (14), even though Rydra understands him perfectly through his non-verbal language, the “[b]reathing pattern, curls of hands in lap, carriage of shoulders” (197), also called “[m]eaningful motion [or] kinesics” (Meyers, Aliens and Linguistics, 59) in linguistics. This communication comes so naturally to humans that its total absence can cause “horrifying” (Delany, Babel-17, 197) shocks. The Butcher, as a speaker of Babel-17 loses the concept of ‚I‘, he is badly handicapped when it comes to communicating with others, but as he does not have the verbal means to efficiently communicate subjectivity the Butcher subconsciously resorts to non-verbal language (cf. 151), such as thumping his breast to express something that would be filled by speakers of English with the word ‚I‘ or ‚me‘ . Obviously, even if we do not talk we always use language or language-supplements such as a gesture to communicate.

Sometimes in Babel-17, communication takes place neither through speech nor through non-verbal language. Sometimes it takes place through telepathy, which is interesting, considering the interpretation of the General’s statement stated above: sequestered from other people, how can man exist? Telepathy is often seen as a way out of the solitariness of modern man (cf. Milner 298) and a way to cut the distance to others and to short-circuit communication if problems arise (cf. Bogdanoff 247). It is consequently of high importance that the person who solves the communication problems surrounding Babel-17, Rydra Wong , is telepathic (cf. Delany, Babel-17, 198).
Reading the thoughts of animals she comes up with pictures (cf. 205), but with humans the mind-reading always results in grammatically correct sentences. The difference between man and animal must clearly be language . Humans being „creatures whose choices are limited to killing or talking“ (Meyers, The Language and Languages of Science Fiction, 211), the emphasis on good communication in Babel-17 indicates a strong inclination to the latter, moreover it demonstrates a way to circumvent the former, if we bear in mind the political misapprehensions we talked about.

As we have seen, language has many uses in Babel-17, reaching from a comparison of different languages to an examination of the nature of language and, further still, to the necessity of communication. Communication has been the bottom line of all these implications of language. There is one other use of language, though, which concerns the practice of ‚naming‘ things.

The first kind of naming, using names as intertextual devices in a way that Bakhtin labeled „discourse“ (Eagleton 146), enables communication, not between the characters but between the reader and the text, as well as between this text and others. It is obvious at first glance that names are eminent for the construction of the text, as the five parts of Babel-17 are each named for one character, thereby signifying his or her importance for that particular part. Names, apparently, carry meaning in this text.

Most names in the text are invented, they seem like anagrams but there is no way to determine from the text itself where they point to, they might as well be part of the strange names of SF . The first of the three which are indeed decipherable is the name of the battleship on which Rydra encounters the Butcher, the only person really speaking Babel-17, though not uttering a single word of it in the text, and learns that language: Jebel Tarik. We are informed, that this means ‚Tarik’s mountain‘ in Old Moorish (cf. Delany, Babel-17, 115). It also is the Old Moorish name for the small peninsula called Gibraltar, one of the pillars of Herakles. What exactly this reference means we can only speculate upon. One way this can be construed is that it is indeed Herakles, the hero of greek myth, who is meant. This is indicated by the only openly mythical reference in the text (cf. 126), which also refers to greek myth and Herakles‘ quest , two parts of which took place on Gibraltar. As Babel-17‘s events ressemble a series of quests (cf. Barbour 26), calling the battle ship ‚Jebel Tarik‘ might be a move of the text placing the novel’s events square in ancient quest traditions.

The second name is the name of the novel as well as of the mysterious language: Babel-17, which is obviously a biblical reference to Babel, also known as Babylon. There are two significant biblical passages pertaining to Babel-17. The first is situated in and is concerned with God punishing Babylon for its arrogance. The punishment consists of „confound[ing] their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.“ (Pinker 231) This passage may well be read as a mythical explanation for the diversity of languages, the origin of many misunderstandings that arise in human communication. The second one is found in , where the downfall of the Great Whore Babylon is described in detail. At first glance, this passage might seem a little weird, having nothing to do with language or communication at all. Maybe, on second glance, it describes the consequences of mis-using language, of failed communication, of using words for war-mongering. In this reading of Babel-17, could the accusation that „die auf Erden wohnen, sind betrunken geworden von dem Wein ihrer Hurerei“ () not be talking about humanity whose mind was clogged by misleading words? In short, clogged by the limitations of language, just as, in a more obvious way, the Butcher’s mind is clogged by Babel-17.

The last name is less complicated than the first two. It is the protagonist’s name: Rydra Wong, which, spoken aloud, sounds like „right or wrong“ and may be a play both on critical processes within a language and on sublime messages in otherwise inconspicuous speech. The first reference might have something to do with the fact that within Babel-17‘s structure everything that can be said seems logically correct and intrinsically right, including the criminal actions programmed into it. It takes Rydra Wong to detect the manipulation inherent in the language. SF-editor Hartwell claims that „the dream of SF is to control reality by creating it“ (95) and Babel-17 tries to do just that. It creates a world where all possible propositions are true, it pretends that that each and every possibility is exhausted. As Wittgenstein said: „Man kann [einen Satz] verstehen, ohne zu wissen, ob er wahr ist.“ (33). Babel-17 pretends that every proposition that can be understood is true. This pretension is questioned by Rydra, introducing external criterias for evaluating truth into the language.

Names are of a great value to the structure of Babel-17. This holds true, as we have seen, for some particular names. Also, as we have seen, the process of naming things, for instance naming chapters or naming the novel, is an important part of the process of developing Babel-17‘s themes. We get an idea of exactly how important the process of naming actually is if we read that „[w]ords are names for things.[…] But were words names for things, or was that just a bit of semantic confusion? Words were symbols for whole categories of things“ (Delany, Babel-17, 112; italics his).

What I mean by „process of naming“ is the process whereby someone or something gets assigned a name and, through the name, the person or thing suddenly can be categorized, be used as a thing one can finally be sure of. Naming is trying to rid yourself of issues of undecidabilities, trying to rid yourself from ambiguities inherent in the person, thing or idea. Naming is a continuous series of „attempts at ‚image control‘“ (Tucker 13). That process is nicely illustrated early in the text, when a customs officer sees something he has never seen before, he is intimidated accordingly, so he tries to name the thing. He starts by calling it „the Silver Dragon“ (35), a name, that is more like a title than a name. Its gender or sex is not specified yet, that happens in the next sentence, starting off with „[s]he“ (35). The naming is complete, relieved that he could assess the creature, the customs officer can now allow himself to be astounded and exclaims: „It‘s a woman!“ (35). The same reasoning leads him shortly afterwards to tag someone a „Pervert[]!“ (43). This quick tagging seems to be the easy way of handling complicated situations.

There are two more ways that naming is employed in the text. One is the use of euphemisms and codes. A euphemism occurs, for example, when the General talks about the terroristic sabotage as „accidents“ (12). Codes are used far more often and in these codes names are used as simple placeholders for the encoded words, for example in radio contact in a space fight (cf. 129) or, more simply in assigning a code name to the language which the terrorists use to communicate with each other, Babel-17.

The last crucial act of naming concerns the naming of one’s self. According to Jacques Lacan, we are least ourselves while we talk about ourselves (cf. Eagleton 170), yet the attempts to define one‘s self by talking or thinking about it crowd the text. Be it the elusive desire that one wants to seize by naming it (cf. Delany, Babel-17, 14) or one’s vague feelings that seem less vague once they are named: „I am amazed, surprised, bewildered.“ (5). This process is reflected in the text itself in a most interesting way: when Rydra is trying to teach the Butcher the concept of ‚I‘ and ‚you‘, he turns that same concept nearly on its head by turning ‚I‘ and ‚you‘ respectively into proper names.

The main concern of naming is finding the „real name“ (69) of things, and thereby their irrefutable meaning. Later Rydra asks herself „[i]f there‘s no word for it, how do you think about it?“ (111), how do you assess it? This question echoes the questions that arise from the posthumously published works of American linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf, his central claim being the following:

We are thus introduced to a new principle of relativity, which holds, that all observers are not
lead by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic
backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated. (Whorf 214)

The so-called principle of linguistic relativity states that fundamental differences in grammatical categories or in categories of words correspond to fundamental differences in thought. We cannot think independently of the language system we are part of, because „we cannot but ‚see and hear and otherwise experience‘ in terms of the categories and distinctions encoded in language“ (Lyons 304). This is the strong formulation of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, which is highly controversial.

The weak formulation ‚merely‘ states that „the structure of one’s language influences perception and recall“ (307), meaning that memory is selective and depending on the language systems it will recall different things in different language systems. Some hold, that, although Whorf might have been wrong in his strong hypothesis, the weak version ist too weak and they formulated their theory between these two versions, taking into account the culture as a whole of the society in question (cf. Gipper 225).

In respect to two different language systems, the last issue to be discussed is the difference between translation and understanding. Even if it were true that translation is impossible, because metaphors and connotations are seldom translatable and never without losing some of the connotation, this would not mean that understanding is impossible (cf. Lakoff 311). It is crucial to differentiate between two languages having a different „conceptual system“ (311), which is what makes translation difficult (cf. 311f.), and the „conceptualizing capacity“ (310), of which Lakoff assumes that it is shared in general by people. This capacity allows for understanding even in cases when the conceptual systems are radically different (cf. 311f.).

One need not go very far in looking for an example of the difficulties implied by the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in Babel-17. The two most significant languages in the text, English and Babel-17, are not very similar to each other, their conceptual systems are fundamentally different. Babel-17 is “an exact analytical language” (Delany, Babel-17, 215), while English is claimed to be “analytically clumsy” (210). Speakers of Babel-17 seem to have an “angular brutality” as well as an “animal grace” (both: 131). The English language, by contrast, lends itself well to poetry, it is beautiful when it is polished, it is a very subjective language, expressing peoples thought and opinions (cf. 17f.), whereas in Babel-17’s conceptual system the grammatical category of subjectivity and self-reflexiveness is missing (cf. 139).

These conceptual differences make translation difficult, certainly. That is why the Butcher, the original speaker of Babel-17, who does not speak a single word of it within the text, has trouble communicating properly in English, he sounds harsh and brutal (cf. 146ff.). These difficulties do not, however, prevent him from learning in English the concepts of ‘I’ and ‘you’ that are missing in the conceptual system he operates with. His being able to understand Rydra’s teaching is the proof that the text offers for the validity of Lakoff’s distinction between understanding and translation.

The closest the text gets to simply restating Whorfian theory is when Rydra claims that “language is thought” (23, italics his) and the closest it gets to refuting the same theory is by saying that although “the original words were lost, the translation remained” (77). What may seem simply like a contradictory statement turns out to be, another one of the textual tactics of Babel-17, namely intrducing a contardiction to shake the readers grip on the meaning of the text and to leave him with questions. Similarly, the explanation of Babel-17’s function as programming its speaker “to become a criminal and a saboteur” (215) is so blatantly unscientific and implausible that it should quickly be realized that the text is not concerned with simple endeavors such as fictionally exploring Whorfian theory. On the contrary, it uses Whorf’s theory to make its own points.

Sometimes the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is also called Sapir-Whorf-Korzybski Hypothesis, named after the founder of General Semantics, whose Motto is ‘The Map is not the Territory’ (cf. Eco 124f.), something we already encountered in Lacan’s thesis. Interestingly, this corresponds nicely with Broderick’s assertion that SF “maps utopia” (107). This connection should encourage us not to look for literalizations of utopias in works of SF, but to look instead for hints, absences, the “naturwissenschaftliche Wunderbare” (Todorov 54). Also, we should remember Moylan, who claimed, that we should not expect utopias in modern literature but only expressions of utopia (cf. Moylan 36). A cursory glance at Babel-17 reveals that there is no utopia in the narrow sense of the word. Still, there is a map of a certain, utopian change, as closer scrutiny will show. Babel-17 traces the contours of that change in the murky waters of language.

Naming things and using manipulated speech have been part of everyday language for several years now. The text shows just how manipulative everyday language can be by using the extreme example of the schizophrenia-inducing Babel-17 in several subtle ways. For instance it is pointed out that Babel-17 manipulates its speakers by using manipulative vocabulary: “the word for Alliance in Babel-17 translates literally into English as: one who has invaded.[…] It has all sorts of little diabolisms programmed into it.” (Delany, Babel-17, 215). This particular diabolism it shares with English, as we never get to know the word for the Invader’s home planets, they are just that: Invaders, meaning, those-who-have-invaded.

It is not easy to blame Babel-17 on the Invaders, as they used Babel-17 as a tool which only worked because it turned a weapon which was the Alliance’s all along, against the Alliance (see footnote 6). Babel-17 encourages us to look at language as an object, not as a given. “[T]he tool is not the weapon; rather the knowledge of how to use it” (213). This is where linguistic relativism comes into play. Some, among them Robert Anton Wilson, have claimed, that English is a highly manipulative language, with lots of possibilities to shroud the speaker’s intentions. That’s why they invented E-Prime, which appears to be sort of a new and improved English, wherin one is not allowed to use the verb ‘(to) be’ or any of its compound varieties (cf. Wilson 97-107). Changing the conceptual system changes minds, they claim. Exactly the same claim is made by Rydra Wong. After having uncovered every secret of Babel-17 and having stopped the sabotage she corrected Babel-17 “to build it towards truth” (Delany, Babel-17, 218).

Turning around what I said in the previous paragraph, I may also claim that its easy to blame Babel-17 on the Invaders, because the names suggest that. It is an „alien language“ (7) and the nameless Invaders wrought havoc with it (cf. 214f.). Sure, the Butcher was the Alliance’s tool, but it took the Invader’s cunning , the „knowledge how to use it“ (213) to make him a weapon. If it is that easy to change truths, how can Rydra believe herself to be able to make Babel-17 truthful?

Wittgenstein famously wrote: „Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen“ (Wittgenstein 111). Not to talk about something equals in this case not being able to say anything about that something that can have any claim to truth. Babel-17‘s status as a work of fiction and the loads of contradictions of which we have encountered several already, almost represent that Wittgensteinian silence. At the end of the day, what, really, has been said? What has been named? If „[a]ny given fiction reveals what it excludes“ (Broderick 133) the possibilities of what is revealed in Babel-17 are great, as it nearly never mentions the government, society, anything that borders on the issues of language is excluded from the text but not from the text’s discourse. Some kind of utopia is discernible in the text, but it’s precise shape is never named, which makes it all the more pervasive.

In Babel-17, we have earned, language is present in many ways, as language, linguistics, poetry and in the process of naming. There is one last aspect left, the one about the language-like qualities of SF. Samuel R. Delany encourages the reader of SF to think of it „as a language that must be learned or as a mode of writing as distinctive as poetry.“ (Landon 7). Each SF text is embedded in a „generic [SF] megatext“ (Broderick 59), which consists of all the other SF works that have been written and all the works that will be written. This means that every SF text has numerous references to numerous other SF texts which must be „not so much understood as simply recognized as proper names.“ (Broderick 57). Most importantly among those references figure certain stock terms that keep cropping up and the individual SF text is characterised by the way he takes up these stock terms and uses them in his own narrative.

This, of course, is nothing else but the notion of intertextuality that we already discussed. It is only now, however, that all the necessary elements for a sensible discussion of the dialogical functions of the SF megatext have been gathered. Babel-17 „showcas[es] the possibilities of SF’s invented languages“ (Malmgren 9) and a comparison with the SF megatext shows that Sfspeak is just another language in the bulk of the many already presented, but it is the process of naming that will become most important for the discussion of SF vocabulary.

Many SF texts play on the so-called „quest formula“ (Aldiss and Wingrove 393). These texts constitute a whole subgenre of SF: the space opera, which first appeared in the 1920s in pulp magazines such as Amazing and Astounding. (cf. Landon 72 ff.). Kingsley Amis remarks that what space operas resemble most are „horse operas“ (44) and Susan Sontag noticed, apropos of SF films, that their predictability remind her of Westerns (cf. 209). Space opera’s plots involve all the magic ingredients, space ships, black holes, hideous aliens, big guns and in a focal position: the heroic men who conquer the unknown universe (cf. Bogdanoff 82 f.). Space operas not only reinforce certain stereotypes, they also have social relevance in their advocacy of capitalism and colonialism (cf. Bogdanoff 85f.) They are propelled by a „missionary fervor and a sense of purpose“ (Landon 81). This crusade leads to frequent encounters with aliens. These encounters can be subsumed under the so-called first contact theme.

First Contacts are not restrained in their appearance nor are they more likely to appear in a space opera than in any other SF subgenre. They are first contacts with that which is alien, that which is the other. This theme is so pervasive that it has lead Broderick to say that SF both „writes the narrative of the other“ and „the narrative of the same, as other“ (51, italics his), which is a major insight, as C.G. Jung points out: „the alien is that which exists within humanity but which civilized humanity believes to have conquered“ (Golden 73). Also, according to C.G. Jung, the quest of the hero is a new myth (cf. 31) and corresponds with „the perennial human quest for meaning and wholeness“ (29). Fighting a war against an alien perceived as hideous would mean what the hero really fights is that within himself which he perceives as hideous. He finds himself a substitute enemy.
Turning to SF it soon is noticeable that the main problem in first contact scenarios is a failing of all kinds of communication, verbal as well as non-verbal (cf. Bogdanoff 244). In SF films the appearance of the alien usually is accompanied by silence (cf. Seeßlen 435), which in written SF texts is impossible to realize. As in the movies, however, the appearance of the alien has its importance. According to Bogdanoff communication works better the more human the alien appears. (cf. 230). This raises the question of what is really human: the humans, their shadow counterparts or both? What makes someone human ? It might well be language.

When talking about mythical references in the novel we already noticed the quest motive in Babel-17. Indeed, the novel has been derisively called a space opera often both by members of the academia (cf. Schulz 151) as well as by members of the SF ‚scene‘ (cf. Keim 503). It has been claimed that space opera’s underlying world view prevents any criticism of society or language (cf. Keim 514). In contrast, I would claim that the text „shows the need to understand codes and conventions“ (Samuelson 168) in order to work with them.

The stereotypes of space opera are conspicuously absent. The hero is a woman, who has weak moments (Delany, Babel-17, 15f.). She is a poet, not a warrior and although fights take place they have nothing to do with what turns out to be the hero’s victory. There’s none of the stereotypical male cocksureness in the events. It is poetry, science and Rydra and the Butcher‘s love that wins the day, not the big guns. The crew on Rydra‘s ship which is all the society the text permits us to see works in ways together that seem more like kibbutzim, working together as equals, work and love closely related. There is no trace of capitalism; colonialism, however, is hinted at, the headquarters of the Invaders are in a city called „Nueva-nueva York“ (218), a clear reference to New York and American colonial history. The missionary fervor, too, has its place in Babel-17, but it is a different fervor, a different purpose. In the end, Babel-17 is accorded no cultural value that could result in a cultural colonisation, it is assigned to other tools, it works as a go-between.

Speaking ‘SF’ means understanding the stereotypes and using them. Moylan wrote that he believed the productive powers of phantasy were situated in art (cf. Moylan 33). Using one’s phantasy to speak to the reader with the intent of swaying him to the cause, that aspect of Moylan’s belief are well taken care of by SF.

The key to the space opera motive in Babel-17 is found in Jung‘s observation as stated above: „the alien is that which exists within humanity but which civilized humanity believes to have conquered“ (Golden 73), a dark force within humanity. And language is exactly that, a manipulative force that we believe to have conquered through writings, through codes, through the disambiguation that we believe to occur in the process of naming. By transposing the palpable figure of the alien with something as vague as language, Babel-17 demonstrates what we should be afraid of: ourselves. „Who is this animal man“ is asked early on (Delany, Babel-17, 3). If we as human beings dump our fears of our shadowy side on the character of the Alien, this process assures that in the figure of that Alien can we ourselves be traced (cf. Golden 161). In language we can also be traced with all our arrogance in full display, all our weaknesses.

Language in space operas, we have found, mirrors the capitalist society from when they originated. Language mirrors our selves, but, as we learned, those same selves are absent in the language. Compared to other utopias, the traces of utopia visible in Babel-17 are not to do with enshrining a particular language or culture, as utopias generally have the tendency to do (Gordon 205). Languages, we learn, are deficient. English as well as the mysterious Babel-17. Communication also is deficient, personal as well as global, we have learned that, too. Maybe society, and we, too, who are mirrored in it are also deficient.

Language is mended as the events turn to a close (218f.). Another thing that is on the way to being mended is the political situation, meaning the interplanetary war, as Rydra and the Butcher are resolved to stop it. About earth society we receive nearly no information, we only encounter two earth people from the government, the General and a customs officer. Both are unhappy. The General, because he thinks that he cannot communicate with others. The customs officer seems to be unhappy with his whole life situation. He changes because he communicates with others, he changes his language system in parts: the process of naming is recognized as bad. This, actually is not portrayed in the novel, but when Rydra returns to earth the customs officer’s lifestyle resembles a lifestyle he claimed was perverted (cf. 191f.). Rydra’s quest, one might assume, mirrors the officer’s journey through his language in an allegorical way.

In his foreword to Delany’s seventh novel The Einstein Intersection, Neil Gaiman reviews some of the ways that particular novel has been read by all kinds of readers and interpreters. He closes that section of the foreword without passing judgement on the validity of these readings but instead he comments: „if that were all the book was, it would be a poor type of tale, with little resonance for now. Instead, it continues to resonate.“ (Gaiman ix). That holds equally true for Babel-17, which has been read as a black novel (cf. Weedman), as a gay novel and as an arrogant and trashy novel (cf. Keim)

SF, Delany says, is „a tool to help you think about the present […] in a way that allows you to question them as you read along in an interesting, moving and exciting story“ (Landon 35). This statement perfectly captures the effect of Babel-17, an exiting story about language and its mechanisms, questioning our sense of ourselves. Notions of free will and truth are under fire in this novel. That its narrative is open-ended is fitting. It leaves us with questions, not with answers. Questions that are about language, not about codes.

Languages have to be understood. When Rydra sits down with her tapes and transcriptions and works out all the grammar and vocabulary before passing judgment on Babel-17, maybe that is the text’s way of telling us to sit down likewise and consider the implications.Rydra’s understanding of herself and her understanding of the language happen at the same time. Babel-17 suggests, that it is always that way as understanding ourselves means understanding language first.

SF „shows human kind groaning in chains of its own construction, but nearly always with the qualification that those chains can be broken if people try hard enough“ (Amis 77) In Babel-17 these chains are language. Changing your life means changing your language. This is where mainstream criticism errs, which assumes that Babel-17 is about language and problems of language. They cannot see that it is about change. Trying hard enough not to succumb to the manipulations of language or to reflect the manipulation. These consequences are political as well as epistemological. Changing society also means changing yourself and your language, which is the lesson Wilson implemented when he started to advocate E-Prime.
As always, if you feel like supporting this blog, there is a “Donate” button on the right. I really need it 🙂 . My other posts may not be *as* thorough as this one, but maybe still worth supporting? If you liked this, tell me. If you hated it, even better. Send me comments, requests or suggestions either below or via email (cf. my About page) or to my twitter.)

6. Bibliography

Aldiss, Brian W., David Wingrove. Trillion Year Spree: the History of Science Fiction. London:
Victor Gollancz, 1986.
Amis, Kingsley. New Maps of Hell: A Survey of Science Fiction. New York: Harcourt, 1960.
Asimov, Isaac. „Social Science Fiction“ Modern Science Fiction: its Meaning and its Future. Ed.
Reginald Bretnor. 2nd Ed. Chicago: Advent, 1979. 157-196.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and his World. Cambridge: The M.I.T. Press, 1968.
Barbour, Douglas. Worlds out of Words: the Science Fiction Novels of Samuel R. Delany. Frome:
Bran’s Head, 1979.
Baudrillard, Jean. Transparenz des Bösen: ein Essay über extreme Phänomene. Berlin: Merve, 1992.
Bogdanoff, Igor, Grichka Bogdanoff. La Science-fiction. Paris: Seghers, 1976.
Broderick, Damien. Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction. London, New York:
Routledge, 1995.
Bozzetto, Roger. „Fantastique, Science-Fiction et Archéologie“ Les Ailleurs Imaginaires: les Rapports
entre le Fantastique et la Science Fiction. Ed. Aurélien Boivin et al.. Québec: Nuit Blanche,
1993. 195-204.
Delany, Samuel R. Trouble on Triton. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1996.
—. The Einstein Intersection. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1998.
—. Shorter Views: Queer Thoughts & The Politics of the Paraliterary. Hanover: Wesleyan UP, 1999.
—. Babel-17. New York: Vintage, 2001.
Die Bibel: nach der Übersetzung Martin Luthers. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1985.
Eagleton, Terry. Literary Theory: an Introduction. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota P., 1983.
Eco, Umberto. Zeichen: Einführung in einen Begriff und seine Geschichte. Frankfurt a. M.:
Suhrkamp, 1977.
Fox, Robert E. Conscientious Sorcerers: the black postmodernist fictions of LeRoi Jones/Amiri
Baraka, Ishmael Reed and Samuel R. Delany. New York, Westport, London: Greenwood
Press, 1987.
Gaiman, Neil. Foreword. The Einstein Intersection. By Samuel R. Delany. Hanover: Wesleyan UP,
1998. vii-xi.
Gipper, Helmut. „Is there a linguistic relativity principle?“ Universalism versus Relativism in
Language and Thought: Proceedings of a Colloquium on the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Ed. Rik Pinxton. The Hague: Mouton, 1976. 217-228.
Golden, Kenneth L.. Science Fiction, Myth and Jungian Psychology. Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter:
The Edwin Mellen Press, 1995.
Gordon, Joan. „Utopia, Genocide, and the Other“ Edging into the Future: Science Fiction and
Contemporary cultural transformation. Ed. Veronica Hollinger and Joan Gordon. Philadelpia:
U. of Pennsylvania P., 2002. 204-216.
Hacker, Marilyn. Selected Poems: 1965-1990. New York: Norton, 1994.
Hartwell, David G. Age of Wonders: Exploring the World of Science Fiction. New York: Tom
Doherty Associates, 1996.
Keim, Heinrich. „New Wave“: die Avantgarde der modernen Angloamerikanischen Science Fiction?
Meitingen, Corian-Verlag, 1983.
Koch, Markus. Alien-Invasionsfilme: die Renaissance eines Science-Fiction-Motivs nach dem Ende
des Kalten Krieges. München: diskursfilmverlag Schaudig und Ledig, 2002.
Lakoff, George. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: what Categories reveal about the Mind.
Chicago: U. of Chicago P., 1990.
Landon, Brooks. Science Fiction after 1900: from the Steam Man to the Stars. New York: Routledge,
Lee, Penny. The Whorf Theory Complex: A Critical Reconstruction. Philadelphia: John Benjamins,
Lyons, John. Language and Linguistics: an introduction. 15th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002.
Littlefield, Ralph E. Character and Language in eight Novels by Ursula K. LeGuin and Samuel R.
Delany. Diss. U. of Florida, 1984. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1985.
Malmgren, Carl. „The Languages of Science Fiction: Samuel Delany’s ‚Babel 17‘“ Extrapolation 34
(1993): 5-17.
Meyers, Walter E.. Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction. Athens:
U. of Georgia P., 1980.
—. „The Language and Languages of Science Fiction“ Essays and Studies 43 (1990): 194-211
Milner, Max. „Entre Fantastique et Science-Fiction: le Thème de la Communication à Distance“ Les
Ailleurs Imaginaires: les Rapports entre le Fantastique et la Science Fiction. Ed. Aurélien
Boivin et al.. Québec, Nuit Blanche, 1993. 285-303.
Moylan, Tom. Das Unmögliche verlangen: Science Fiction als kritische Utopie. Hamburg: Argument,
Murail, Lorris. Les maîtres de la Science-Fiction. Paris: Bordas, 1993.
Pinker, Steven. The Language Instinct: the New Science of Language and Mind. London: Allen Lane
The Penguin Press, 1994
Rabkin, Eric S. „Metalinguistics and Science Fiction“ Critical Inquiry 6 (1979): 79-97.
Schulz, Hans-Joachim. Science Fiction. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1986.
Samuelson, David N.. „Necessary Constraints: Samuel R. Delany on Science Fiction“ Review of
Contemporary Fiction 16 (1996): 165-169.
Seeßlen, Georg; Jung, Fernand. Science Fiction: Geschichte und Mythologie des Science-Fiction-
Films. Bd. 1. Marburg: Schüren, 2003.
Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Picador, 2001.
Todorov, Tzvetan. Einführung in die fantastische Literatur. Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1975.
Trousson, Raymond. Voyages aux Pays de nulle part: Histoire littéraire de la pensée utopique.
Brussels: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles, 1999.
Tucker, Jeffrey Allen. A Sense of Wonder: Samuel R. Delany, race, identity, and difference. Hanover:
Wesleyan UP, 2004.
Weedman, Jane. „Delany’s Babel 17: The Powers of Language“ Extrapolation 19 (1978): 132-137.
Whorf, Benjamin Lee. Language, Thought and Reality: Selected Writings. Ed. John B. Carroll. 6th Ed.
Cambridge: The M.I.T. Press, 1971.
Wilson, Robert Anton. Quantum Psychology. New York: New Falcon, 1990.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung: Tractatus logico-philosophicus. Frankfurt
a.M.: Suhrkamp, 2003.

As always, if you feel like supporting this blog, there is a “Donate” button on the right. I really need it 🙂 . My other posts may not be *as* thorough as this one, but maybe still worth supporting? If you liked this, tell me. If you hated it, even better. Send me comments, requests or suggestions either below or via email (cf. my About page) or to my twitter.)