Thursday, December 23, 2004
YOU REALLY THOUGHT THIS WAS EVER ABOUT PRINCIPLE?:
While Publius’s post is something one would like to see more of from conservative hawks (not quite tautological, even now, and probably less and less so in a few months), he makes one astonishing display of naïveté:Leaving aside the Marxist/Rousseauian/French Revolution aspects of this vision, it rests on one critical assumption – that America is a force for good. Without that pillar, the entire neoconservative edifice comes crashing down. Unless you’re morally superior (or at least "good"), there is no moral justification for ignoring international law and abandoning international institutions. These are not people who simply think “might makes right.” Like the French Revolutionaries, there’s a deep moralistic streak in their vision. America is good. If she acts boldly, others will follow and the world would be better. The justification of invading Iraq in spite of world opinion depends upon this assumption that we are a force for good.
So you believed this, didn’t you?
You scoffed and sneered back before March 19 when we told you this sort of thing could and would happen. You wondered why we weren’t so eager to be the liberals you thought John F. Kennedy would have been.
You didn’t understand what we were saying then, and still don’t now: The war was inherently bad. It did not go bad. These things — a shortage of troops, a chronic and deadly insurgency, the likelihood of atrocities against the civilian population of Iraq — were all in the cards when they were in Kuwait. Every deficiency was noted and available for public discussion then.
Yet you didn’t want to hear it. You instead worshipped the Gods of the Market, who promised these beautiful things.
The war did not fail. It could never have succceded. Not planned the way it was.
However, it has succeeded in a way those conservatives who now cry “Alack, why do they so?” fail to grasp. Rove and the Bushies know that those awful pictures actually help them with the only authority that matters — the Republican qaa‘idah, the Freepers and talk-show callers, the people who know they don’t need to independently verify that Christmas is in trouble, the faith-based community. These people have seen Ay-rabs suffering, paying the price for what they did to America and they are satisifed. The only difference between them and the Palestinians dancing in the streets at news of the latest “martyrdom operation” is the language they speak.
Hawkish yet intellectual conservatives, having ridden in on this particular horse, have all to answer for. We do not.
For, as Kipling concluded in the ever-more-relevant poem we linked above:Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew.
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return
“No man must pay for his sins” ... yup, that’s the Bush administration alright.
That Kipling ... he just kicks ass sometimes.
posted by Sully 12/23/2004 10:50:00 PM
HE CAN GET THREE GUEST BLOGGERS, BUT NOT ONE OF THEM EDITS HIS OWN POSTS?:Hanson’s defense is that the humber of troops is not as important as their successful deployment.Maybe because he’s at least learned to edit HTML.Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny wrote the book target="_blank" on this stuff.
posted by Sully 12/23/2004 10:40:00 PM
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT:
Andrew’s contribution to this somewhat entertaining dorm-lounge discussion that he has temporarily let his blog become (it’s sort of like to it what SCTV was to regular TV), besides the pithy Kos bash noted below, is a long quote from Tony Blair.
UPDATE: Steve Brady has the last word on Huey, Dewey and Louie.
posted by Sully 12/21/2004 10:44:00 PM
BUT WHO TOLD US THIS BEFOREHAND?:
If he wants to take Kos to task from admitting a negative which now will forever remain hypothetical, he ought to recall something that popped into his head before the election:BY THE WAY: I wonder if either candidate has pondered the benefits of actually losing this election? If Kerry wins, you can see how the Republicans would then blame all the inevitable mess in Iraq on his vacillation (even if he doesn’t budge an inch), and marshall a Tet offensive argument that implies that if only Washington hadn’t given up, the Blessed Leader would have seen the war to victory. Kerry wouldn't be able to win, whatever he does. And because he’d be more fiscally responsible than Bush (could anyone be less fiscally responsible?) he wouldn’t have much in the way of domestic goodies to keep his base happy. But if Bush wins and heads into a real, live second Vietnam in Iraq, his party will split, the country will become even more bitterly polarized than now (especially if he’s re-elected because he's not Kerry) and he'll become another end-of-career Lyndon Johnson. The presidency of the U.S. is never an easy job. But it could be a brutal one these next four years. Which sane person would want the job?
Note, especially, that he admitted there that the Republicans would never have given a Kerry presidency a chance.
posted by Sully 12/21/2004 10:29:00 PM
Monday, December 20, 2004
YOU GOT THAT RIGHT:... thanks so much to Andrew for giving us the chance to play in his sandbox ...Who’da thunk? The guest bloggers have a more realistic take on his blog than he does.
posted by Sully 12/20/2004 02:19:00 PM
Sebastian, who lives in Germany and should know, takes issue with his unwusst correspondent.
posted by Sully 12/20/2004 01:40:00 AM
Sunday, December 19, 2004
HOW TO DO IT:
Well, now that Sullivan’s off to drown himself in creatine-laced eggnog, we can address some other topics if we don’t find anything in his substitute bloggers worthy of harassment.
Back after the election, we like so many others threw in our two cents on what to do now.
In that post we talked about how good it felt to be let out of the rhetorical cages finally, and counseled you to follow our example by adopting certain techniques and devices in that department which had proven so successful in the hands of conservatives:... always remember to paint all Republicans and conservatives (increasingly one and the same) with the same broad brush, to tar them all with the failings of particular individuals, to make those at whom you take aim take sides, make them make choices in response that they may not feel comfortable making. Nuance and delicacy are luxuries we cannot afford.Today we commend to you a comment we made in response to this post at Eschaton on the issue of abortion rights (and since this issue is so near and dear to our hearts we are pleasantly surprised and surprisingly pleased that it came there) as a way of leading by example.
The Lisa Montgomery case is a golden opportunity to point out everything that’s wrong with the underlying arguments of the
Consider that Ms. Montgomery, growing up deep in the heart of red America, in the Kansas of which Tom Frank has written so memorably, was inundated with “pro-life” propaganda about how important the life of the fetus was, about how it was so much important than the life of the woman around it, even if she never took part in it as her cause. We can take it as a given that at some point in her life she probably saw Bernard Nathanson’s ridiculous and misleading Silent Scream, which never once considers the woman carrying the fetus as a real person, merely some incredible biotech incubator; a film worthy of Goebbels and Riefenstahl at their best.
Should we be all that surprised, then, that she treated Bobby Jo Stinnett as an inconvenient impediment to her desire for the baby she just had to know Jesus wanted her to have, entitled to no more of her consideration or sympathy than those little plastic wrappers maxipads come in, to be opened and discarded just as casually? No.
For this is what happens when you value “life” over individual human lives. This is the bitter fruit of the dehumanizing, deindividuating emphasis on life beginning at conception, making birth, the point at which we begin our lives as separate and distinct beings, into some unpleasant bodily function unworthy of legal recognition.
Hitler knew this. Stalin knew this. So did Khomeini and Ceausescu. That’s why they all reversed laws or policies that allowed abortion in the countries they took over. They knew as only tyrants can, that reproductive freedom and dictatorship are fundamental and irreconcilable enemies.
Today everyone who calls themselves “pro-life” must accept the death of Bobby Jo Stinnett as something for which they are ideologically, intellectually and morally responsible on a very personal level. Let them answer for it. Are they happy with what they have wrought? Can they sleep?
Now, if we all had the instincts of Republicans and the Mighty Wurlitzer, as well as its balls, and took to heart all that Prof. Lakoff has been saying about framing, we’d be trumpeting this from the rooftops and every liberal blog, and at least two members of Congress would be repeating it as publicly as possible. Do we? At least make this into your letter to the editor.
You might also mention that a case exactly like this has happened before ... in New Mexico, we remember, sometime in the early 1990s. So it will happen again, and is not some freak one-off thing.
OK. See what we mean? Reading this over, we’re still quite proud of ourselves.
Let’s go over, briefly, the use of Mighty Wurlitzer techniques in this piece:
- The working assumption that since Ms. Montgomery grew up in smalltown Kansas, she had to have absorbed a good deal of anti-abortion propaganda. We didn’t wait for it to be proven true (although, given that she first showed off “her” new baby to her minister, it looks like our guess was good). It proceeded from what we believe about “red America” (as opposed, of course, to what we know, but that’s not at issue here) as if by axiom and algebra.
- The use of a couple of memorable, alliterative strings (just like the end of the sentence you just read). Spiro Agnew, or rather his speechwriters (Buchanan and Safire, responsible respectively for “pusillanimous pussyfooters” and “nattering nabobs of negativism.” You laugh now but you remember) to make the piece stick, subconsciously if no way else, in the reader’s mind. Admittedly this is difficult to do without being a little too obvious. It just happened by accident and we decided to pick up on it. The only thing better than sound-bite politics is catch-phrase politics.
- The memorable metaphor. We again admit that it probably wouldn’t occur to a conservative writer to ladle on a little épatage by using feminine-hygiene products here in this context, or more importantly that if it did they would think better of using it, but we felt that a) this was closer to the topic at hand than the triter “shell of a peanut” we’d originally considered and b) thus gets into the reader’s mind into the conception-birth problematic we want to consider, which is again subtly echoed with “some unpleasant bodily function unworthy of legal recognition.” Also note that this is likely (by design) to throw back on their heels many of the sort of women active in the anti-abortion movement, who to our recollection seem to be the type of women squeamish about discussing this subject even when no men are present.
- The impution to the other side of personal complicity through rhetoric and shared beliefs. If anti-choicers can argue that legalized abortion is responsible for all sorts of unpleasant social phenomena, such as Columbine, gang violence etc., regardless of apparent causal relationship, then is it too much to ask that they take responsibility for the ripping open of a pregnant woman for her baby, for the assumptions contained in their own endlessly repeated rhetoric?
- Most importantly, leaving no room for those addressed to distance themselves from the events and arguments assigned to them. This is designed to provoke a primarily defensive response, one that may well betray the respondents’ own unease with some aspects of their position or movement and will thus inadvertently convey to the neutral undecided observer in the middle a self-perception of weakness.
Most importantly, though, beyond the rhetorical gimmicks, lies the point we wish to make here: that there are problems with the anti-abortion position from its own stated perspective of promoting respect for human life through banning abortion and that it is high time they reflect upon these issues, certainly when the consequence of failing to do so is found in her shack in a pool of her own blood. That’s why we used some terminology that echoes their own rhetoric (“inconvenient impediment,” “casually discarded” ... all terms of the sort used in anti-abortion rhetoric concerning the fetus) to force the issue upon them.
It has often been argued by many in the reproductive rights movement that getting involved in the discussion of when life begins was a fool’s errand, a sucker play. We understood the larger point (although when your response to that was to change the issue, it didn’t look good), but we thought that not only were there interesting points to be made there (i.e., that when you walk around at age 6 or, for that matter, 36, with a tail, grey fur all over your body and breathing water like a third-term fetus does, give us a call), that leaving the issue to the other side was a shame, because it denied us the opportunity to build on it and go to the larger question, which is not so much when life begins but, Does proscribing abortion do anything to promote a greater social respect for human life? We think that it hasn’t, and doesn’t, and that that’s a way of reframing the debate in a way the anti-choice side is desperate to avoid.
This piece is not only an example to guide you in reframing liberal arguments. It is to literally follow. Yes, we renounce copyright here, and ask that if you like it you not only link to it but cut and paste most of the above selection, or paraphrase if you really prefer, and submit it to your local paper as a letter or op-ed if it’s too long.
Yes, anyone on the other side finding it will be able to see where we laid bare the secrets of the language and rhetoric contained within. But so what? It won’t tell them anything their masters don’t already know.
posted by Sully 12/19/2004 11:13:00 PM
FIGURES:If you haven’t been a reader of their blog, your loss. But it’s also my gain.Yeah, about three thousand dollars or so worth. Another two weeks of semi-vacation for a guy embarrassed as hell by his last pledge drive.The three of them will be blogging here for the next couple of weeks until after the New Year. I’ll be dropping by now and again, but will be taking it easier for the holidays, and finishing up a review-essay that’sHmm. Is this perhaps a letter to Provincetown’s tax collector begging him not to take the house until he can
conraise the money from his readers? We’d say that’s way overdue.
posted by Sully 12/19/2004 10:59:00 PM
THE SEED HE HELPED TO PLANT:When I get concerned at widespread public acquiescence in the military’s use of abuse and torture in the war on terror, I have to remind myself how many Americans really feel about the war we’re in.
And we have to remind ourselves (’cause he sure won’t) whose first reaction to 9/11 was to make an essential bill of attainder accusing everyone to his left of treason.
A letter always arrives at its destination, as Lacan could have told him.
posted by Sully 12/19/2004 10:10:00 AM
THE PRINCE, THE BLOG QUEEN, EDITING AND ISLAM:Actually, this is more than just “an aspect of political Islam,” this is a position that goes all the way back to the Qur’an. However, most Islamic states (and one would think him a little smarter than Charles Johnson and Co., smart enough to actually have looked these things up then disingenuously phrasing it as a question when he knows full well that his Drudge-addled reader base will thus take it as fact) don’t enforce this, having small Christian (and even Jewish) minorities that they know it wouldn’t serve internationally to so blatantly persecute (instead they just do little things politically ... certainly the Egyptian Copts or Assyrians can tell you all about this). Saudi Arabia does say that no citizen can be Christian, but we don’t claim to know all the particulars of that one.
Now this was a small aspect of political I slam I was actually unaware of.
In rpivate discussions with British Muslim groups, Charles was told essentially to stay mum
As for freedom of religion in Iraq, well, some of the Iraqi bloggers we’ve read, like Fayrouz (herself an Iraqi Christian) and Riverbend have spoken of the tolerance that existed between Muslims and Christians there even under the darkest days of Saddam, whatever the government did (and it would also be worthy to note that songbird Tariq Aziz is himself a Christian, albeit one considered a sellout by his community (But where would Christianity be if Judas hadn’t sold out Jesus in the first place?)).
Oh, here’s a direct, Western Christian witness to Saddam’s commitment to freedom of religion:We understand that Iraq is the only Muslim state that allows the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to be freely and openly preached on the streets without fear of arrest and prosecution.
But somehow we don’t think even Sullivan is so far gone as to embrace the guy who said it.
posted by Sully 12/19/2004 09:46:00 AM