March 17, 2005

Right-Wing Idiotarianism Redux

Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position, and that’s it. It doesn’t take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right you meet the same idiots coming around from the left. - Clint Eastwood to Time magazine. (Hat tip: Oakland mayor Jerry Brown, who now has his own blog.)
I’ve been vaguely aware of who Michael Scheuer is for a while, but I didn’t realize until now just how much of a whackjob the man really is. Andrew Apostolou read his book Imperial Hubris so I don’t have to. And he takes Scheuer’s latest outbursts apart in his newest Tech Central Station column.
Michael Scheuer, whose book Imperial Hubris lambasts US strategy in the war against al Qaeda, has attracted attention for recent public statements on Israel. The former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, Scheuer claimed at the Council on Foreign Relations in February that Israel controls the debate on US foreign policy. As important as Scheuer's hostility to Israel is his underlying message: that to keep Israel happy, the US must kill innocent Muslims.

While Scheuer's views on the Middle East are unpleasant, they are not far from the orthodoxy among retired diplomats. The view of the superannuated foreign service mainstream is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core issue in the Middle East and that the stumbling block to a settlement is Israeli policy rather than Palestinian terrorism. No wonder that Scheuer went largely unchallenged at the Middle East Policy Council, which is headed by a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, with his remark in January that when the US deals with Israel it becomes "the dog that's led around by the tail."

Still, Scheuer has gone beyond the cocktail party consensus with coarser claims that Israeli diplomacy, and by implication its domestic and often American Jewish support base, is "probably the most successful covert action program in the history of man."

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations, Scheuer cited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum as evidence of the alleged Israeli "covert action" program. According to Scheuer, the museum is designed to make Americans feel guilty about the Holocaust, thereby preventing any questioning of US policy towards Israel. The ignorance of Scheuer's statement is nearly equal to its chauvinism. Anybody who has visited the Holocaust Museum will know that its entrance is bedecked with the standards of American army units that liberated concentration camps, which the museum is currently celebrating with a special exhibition.

The obvious inconsistencies of Scheuer's views are entirely lost on him. Replying to a like-minded questioner who called Israel "the spoiled child of Western civilization", Scheuer said in February that "I certainly, as an American, find it unbearable to think there's something in this country you can't talk about. That's really my spiel I guess on that, sir." Scheuer's use of the word "spiel" was an unintended irony on his part. Similarly, the most convincing refutation of Scheuer's notion that US-Israel relations cannot be talked about is the frequency with which Scheuer talks about them, in every public appearance and in a best-selling, widely circulated book.

Scheuer's views on Israel are not surprising given his politics. He is an old-fashioned Republican who scorns promoting democracy overseas. Speaking at the CFR, Scheuer called President Bush's State of the Union address "warmed-up Wilsonianism", which is not a compliment as he described Woodrow Wilson in Imperial Hubris as a "bloody-handed fantasist." Responding to a questioner at the same event who asked if killing terrorist enemies would not simply create more enemies, Scheuer replied that "My books are pretty nationalist, ma'am. I don't much care." Indeed, Scheuer is so "nationalist" that he has recently written for LewRockwell.com, a neoconfederate, isolationist website that vilifies President Abraham Lincoln.

So far, so far to the right of Pat Buchanan, but Scheuer is more than a new eruption of a mildly irritating cyst on the extremity of the American body politic. The truly dangerous and inflammatory aspect of Scheuer is that, in essence, he blames the mayhem and bloodshed caused by Islamist terrorism not on bin Laden and al Qaeda, but on those who built the Holocaust Museum.

There’s plenty more where that came from, and it only gets worse. Scheuer advocates a savage war against the civilian population of the Middle East because, in his crackpot mental universe, those pesky Zionists leave us no other option. He goes so far over the top I can't help but wonder if he's looking for an excuse to indulge atrocity fantasies. He doesn't seem to be bothered much by that sort of thing. After all, we're talking about a man who looks at the Holocaust Museum and, instead of thinking never again, weaves conspiracy theories.

He defensively says such "bloody-mindedness" is “neither admirable nor desirable.” But he’s the only “important” person I know of who advocates it, so…feh. And yet, at the same time, he wants the US to adjust its foreign policy in order to placate the supposedly legitimate grievances of Osama bin Laden.

He’s a man who somehow, incredibly, managed to cobble together an ideology that incorporates talking points from the far-left goon squad at International ANSWER and the darkest fantasies of the right-wing lunatic fringe. All this while heading up the CIA’s hunt for Osama bin Laden. He's the ne plus ultra of idiotarians, and has no business working anywhere near government ever again.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 17, 2005 11:28 PM
Comments

“Scheuer's views on Israel are not surprising given his politics. He is an old-fashioned Republican who scorns promoting democracy overseas.”

In other words, Michael Scheuer is the type of Republican who is hostile towards President Bush. He probably wanted John Kerry to move into the White House. Scheuer most likely is not the exception to the rule at the CIA concerning his attitude towards American Jews and Israel. Also, Michael Totten needs to ask the important question: why do reviewers rarely cite Scheuer's not so subtle anti-Semitism? What is the reason behind their callous indifference?

Posted by: David Thomson at March 18, 2005 12:07 AM

By the way, the Daily Kos is accusing Israel of murdering Rachel Corrie. Isn’t that a blog which is highly praised by leading Democrats like Howard Dean? Take a look for yourself:

“In March of 2003 Rachel Corrie was killed as she was trying to stop an Israeli soldier from demolishing a home. The bulldozer driver saw her, and deliberately ran over her. She was twenty-three years old. Just a few weeks later, an Israeli soldier firing from a sniper tower shot Tom Hurndall as he was trying to save some children who were under fire. After nine long months in what the doctors call a `vegetative state,' Tom died in mid January, 2004 just a day after his mother whispered in his ear that his murderer had finally been arrested. He was just twenty-two.”

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/3/17/34155/6383

Posted by: David Thomson at March 18, 2005 12:21 AM

Er, those facts aren't in dispute.

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 18, 2005 01:25 AM

I suspect this assertion is: "The bulldozer driver saw her, and deliberately ran over her."

Posted by: lindenen at March 18, 2005 02:07 AM

The lack of a free press in Palestine, suppressed by the Palestinian Authority and other Islamofascist death squaders, is the core Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Israel is a democracy, it has votes, it changes leaders through the ballot box. It has a press that criticizes its leaders, and its gov't policies -- a free press.

Arab gov'ts creating Fear societies must change. Maybe not all at once, nor all this year -- but all should get constant pressure. Bush is doing this; I hope it will "succeed".

It won't be bloodless, already isn't.
Kimmitt, like most Leftists and seemingly like bozo Scheuer, has problems acknowledging that a free press, and free elections, would be good.

Because, if they ARE good, they are worth something. How many innocents being killed is freedom worth? If any number greater than 0 is "indefensibly foul", then that's surrender. Unreal Perfection is not an option when fighting evil.
If it's greater than 0, I have yet to hear how many.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 18, 2005 04:17 AM

Michael, thanks for posting this information. 'Scheuer advocates a savage war against the civilian population of the Middle East because, in his crackpot mental universe, those pesky Zionists leave us no other option.' This is perhaps the most disturbing part, the idea of "creating blame". It's the same mentality as the leftists who want the Middle East to fall into chaos because they don't want Bush to look good.

Posted by: Asher Abrams - Dreams Into Lightning at March 18, 2005 04:49 AM

"He’s a man who somehow, incredibly, managed to cobble together an ideology that incorporates talking points from the far-left goon squad at International ANSWER and the darkest fantasies of the right-wing lunatic fringe."

It is not that incredible, actually. If one thinks back to 2000, one can see that others with more "vision" saw the possibilities in this fusion-- hence the temporary alliance between Patrick Buchanan and Lenora Fulani.

But for many it is still hard to understand from a political philosophy perspective. Indeed, if one thinks of the cliched left-right continuum, with fascism on the far right, it would indeed be nonsensical for this sort of morphing and partnering to occur.

But if one takes the premise offered in the chapter on fascism of "Leftism Revisited" by Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihin, namely that fascism is not on the right opposite communism but is on the left as a competitor for the same hearts and minds, then it not quite so hard to understand.

David Ramsey Steele also makes the same case in a wonderful essay, focusing more on Italy than Germany.

The real question is not how these groups are coming together now. Rather, it is how were the "paleos", who fit more comfortably on the far left, ever felt at home in the Republican party, and why they no longer do. The fact that as the Republican party has become more conservative these folks feel less at home is just more evidence that Steele and Kuehnelt-Leddihin were right.

For what it is worth,
Gerry

Posted by: Gerry at March 18, 2005 05:46 AM

I thought the neocons were far right wing and this guy was a moderate? But I read Daily Kos on a daily basis and support Howard Dean (like a real liberal Democrat), so I don't know how twisted your mind has become.

Posted by: Sarcastic Troll Post at March 18, 2005 05:50 AM

Libs can't hold this whackjob out as an example of radical rightwing extremism because they agree with him. They think he makes a lot of sense.

The Republicans have their sane Democrat, Zell Miller. And the Dems have their Michael Scheuer.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 07:20 AM

I no longer will talk politics with someone until I find that they are reasonable people. The "nut" population has expanded tremendously. Just look at KOS, Atrios, LGF, The Washington Monthly and even Hit & Run. A reasonable person is immediately vilified and called dirty names if they post anything intelligent on those sites. Michael's site is kept reasonable by his educated, interesting tone and choice of subject matter.
Thanks Michael

Posted by: gene at March 18, 2005 07:31 AM

Slightly OT, this was in a Washington Post piece today:

Adding fuel to the controversy is concern within the bank staff over Wolfowitz's reported romantic relationship with Shaha Riza, an Arab feminist who works as a communications adviser in the bank's Middle East and North Africa department.

Yes, Wolfowitz's girlfriend is an Arab feminist. Sort of blows all those "right-wing neocon Jewish cabal" theories out of the water, doesn't it?

Posted by: Stephen Silver at March 18, 2005 07:34 AM

Yes, Wolfowitz's girlfriend is an Arab feminist. Sort of blows all those "right-wing neocon Jewish cabal" theories out of the water, doesn't it?

Stephen,

not to mention he's a "racist".

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 07:43 AM

I feel some sympathy for Scheuer. For a long time I too "didn't much care" about the lives of non-Americans. I figured it was their own issue. I don't get his anti-Israeli stance at all though. Having watched the Middle East stay a swamp for most of my life and having watched the Palestinians committ acts of terrorism and support terrorism in other places, it seemed to me their wasn't any moral equivalence between the democratic Israeili's and Yassir led Palestinians. It was also clear that the Arab/Persian leadership across the ME had an interest in promoting the conflict so as to keep their populations looking outward rather than inward.

Of course for me 9/11 changed all that and it became immediately clear that only two options existed. Bring democracy to the ME or kill too many to contemplate. W's rhetoric on this matter also shamed me. How could I not have believed "freedom is a gift of God to all mankind."

Too bad Scheuer hasn't leaned.

Posted by: spc67 at March 18, 2005 07:49 AM

Oh, yeah,Natan Sharansky shamed me into learning too.

Posted by: spc67 at March 18, 2005 07:54 AM

gene,

Your so right. The nuts are taking over. I used to read Kevin Drum regularly, but watched as its sinking into the DKOS look and feel. Note how Keven hasn't even mentioned the ME since things started going our way. Its all SS all the time.

Do people really want the US to fail?

Lastly I get tired of the constant discussions on the road to war. The decision was made by Congress and the President. We have now had 2 elections to hold people accountable if they didn't like the decision. Enough!!!

Thanks Michael!

Posted by: buffpilot at March 18, 2005 07:57 AM

I totally have to agree with you guys.

Let's see..Gene! How can you seriously compare LGF with Washington Monthly? All LGF tries to do is expose what the MSM tries to cover up: the real horrors of extremist Islam and the liberals who love them. What does Washington Monthly do? Spread lies about social security reform and try to convince people that it's not in a crisis. LGF's comments, which consist largely of calls to commit genocide, have nothing on Washington Monthly where people get vilified and called dirty names for disagreeing.

Buffpilot, to answer your question: yes!!! The liberals really want the US to fail!!! They hate freedom!!! Just like Liberty Dad, my dream is a world without dictators. Liberals are incapable of having that dream.

Think about it: almost one out of every two people in this country voted for Kerry. They could be anywhere - teaching your children, reading your electric meter, delivering your mail. They could look as ordinary as delicious, conservative apple pie - but their hearts are not filled with the simple joys of life, nor are they filled with the grand dreams of freedom. No, as they go about their lives, each of them secretly hates freedom and wants the US to fail.

Carlos: I love that we have a sane Democrat in the form of Zell Miller. Of course, there have been others, like Kennedy, who would have to be Republicans if they were running for office now. Basically, if anyone was good, they would be a Republican, and if they were bad, then a Democrat. But Miller! Don't you just love the way that he challenges people to duels? He's so tough! I'm glad that we have people like him on our side.

Freedom!

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 18, 2005 08:34 AM

Proud Conservative,

Please post your real opinions or post elsewhere. I prefer to have a grown-up discussion here. If you were funny, well, that would be one thing. But you're not. Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 18, 2005 09:04 AM

Proud,

Zell lost his temper, as most humans do. But we're talking about moonbats and radical extremists. Got anything else?

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 09:10 AM

MT,

I have drifted to your blog mostly because you have intelligent discussions - without the hyperbole. I can't take it on either side if the spectrum. Thanks.

I also loved the Libya trip and your pictures. (I sent the url of the pictures under dueling photo galleries to everyone I know - and they loved it!).

As for Scheur I hope he gets removed or leaves government and never returns. Sounds a little (ok a lot) unhinged...

Posted by: buffpilot at March 18, 2005 09:11 AM

Curious by all the praise for Imperial Hubris from left or liberal-left publications like The Nation (strong accolades from Robert Scheer), Salon, and bloggers like Joshua Micah Marshall (who was interviewing Scheuer extensively when he was still "Anonymous"), I did a quick browse of the book's index. One name seems to be missing from it:

Sayyid Qtub.

There is not a single mention anywhere in it of Sayyid Qtub.

The man whose book Milestones is generally recognized as the most influential work of theory for Islamic extremism. The man that Zawahiri was a disciple of, during his time in the Muslim Brotherhood. The man the bi-partisan 9/11 commission identifies as the primary intellectual lodestone behind Al Qaeda and groups affiliated with it. Scheuer purports to be an expert of militant Islamic extremism, and he has not one word to say about its essential founder. This is like a CIA analyst reporting on the Soviet Union, without once mentioning Karl Marx, or even Trotsky.

So there's that. Then there's this batty anti-Israel conspiracy theory of his. (I love his assertion about the Holocaust Memorial being built in Washington D.C. to make Americans feel guilty. What sort of man looks at a shrine of 6 million slaughtered in Europe-- and takes it as a personal affront?) This is the guy some folks on the liberal-left want on their side?

Posted by: Wagner James Au at March 18, 2005 09:14 AM

Michael,

The obligitory "excellent post", but well deserved. The convergence of the far left and far right has been occuring for some time now, and it is only a matter of time before they unite.

gene,

I disagree with your statement about Charles Johnson of LGF. I recently posted a disagreement about his take on a Spanish Islamic Group's Fatwa against al Qaeda and Osama. I emailed Charles to let him know. We had a frank discussion, and he said he understood my perspective and even partially agreed with it, but was just more pessimistic than me. He did not vilify me on his site for disagreeing. Charles serves a purpose to expose the stories that are passed over, as well as media bias. I do not like the tone of the comments section one bit and wish someone policed them (I have told Charles this). If anything this is his true failing.

Posted by: Bill Roggio at March 18, 2005 09:23 AM

What is really "covert" is the fact that more than a few people share Michael Scheuer's views in and around our foreign policy establishment. They just keep their mouths shut. In ostracizing him and advocating that he be banned from "working anywhere near government ever again", Andrew Apostolou and MJT do their little part to ensure that those who share some of Mr. Scheuer's views continue to hold them covertly.

RE: wolfowitz.

Notwithstanding his vile comment about the Turkish military prior to the Iraqi war, I always thought Wolfowitz was the most decent and idealistic of the neoconservatives. And I appreciate that chauvanism appears to play no role in how he expresses his faith and/or heritage. Case in point being his willingness to acknowledge Palestinian suffering at the rally for Israel on the nation's Capitol in 2002, for which he was loudly booed by thousands in attendence.

Maybe someday, he and his non-Jewish girlfriend --and other Israeli Jews in the same position as he -- will actually be allowed to get married in the state of Israel.

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 09:30 AM

Mr. Totten,

I'm not sure what the problem is. I'm just saying some things that plenty of other brave conservative freedom warriors have also written in your comments section.

To wit:

A poster named Caroline responded to a liberal commenter: “You should be treated as what you are – potentially dangerous. Hitler thought the same thing.”

Freeguy wrote “The Left CANNOT ultimately be optimistic because they hate everything that makes humans so wonderful” and established the following dichotomies:
Right vs. Left.
Hope vs. Anger.
Peace vs. Violence.
Freedom vs. Slavery
Love vs Hate

Raymond wrote the following: “Leftist and their terror states that mass murdered 100+ Million people in the name of utopia have no love of democracy. Their fake talk about it is all a fraud. Its freedom that they hate.”

Kay Hoog wrote: “Add Benjamin to the long list of ven[o]mous naysayers on the left. He doesn't care about Democracy and Freedom in Lebanon or anywhere else. He doesn't want to see people liberated. He just wants to see the Bush administration fail. How childish and petty.”

Secret Asian Man wrote about liberals: “It's not just that they "don't care" about democracy - it's that they are actively opposed to it.”

Buffpilot asked two piercing questions: “Why do you hate freedom and stand with the tyrants?????????” and “Do you have any morals?”

I’m sure I could find a bunch more examples, but this should do for now. All I’m doing is agreeing with all my fellow conservative freedom lovers, doing our best to call out 50% of Americans for what they are - freedom haters and borderline traitors. Are you going after them, too? Because that’s sure what it seems like. And coming from someone that hasn’t made an ideological commitment to the party, well….let’s just say it’s a little suspicious and leave it at that.

Freedom!

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 18, 2005 09:35 AM

I always thought Wolfowitz was the most decent and idealistic of the neoconservatives.

That's good to hear. I never would have guessed Wolfowitz had a decent bone in his body based on the poison the Left spews about him.

Maybe someday, he and his non-Jewish girlfriend --and other Israeli Jews in the same position as he -- will actually be allowed to get married in the state of Israel.

Come come now Markus. The people of Israel choose what kind of a country they want to live in. That's democracy. If you don't like it, don't live there. But you're being rather deceptive don't you think? Wolfie can indeed marry his Arab bride if they so choose. So don't lie. But they have to do it according to the laws prescribed by Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 09:55 AM

Proud,

I don't consider it an incredible stretch of the imagination that many if not most Libs want democracy in Iraq to fail just so they can regain the White House. That's what people mean when they say you aren't for freedom.

If it isn't true, if they're wrong, then maybe you should ask yourselves why the Libs/Dems are viewed this way. You remind me of the muslims who refuse to condemn Osama, or are strangely silent about terrorism, yet are surprised that the majority views them with suspicion.

If it's not true, then do something about it, or say something that would let people know you aren't hoping for failure. But I think you are.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 10:03 AM

Speaking of fringe whack-jobs and troll-feeding, anyone catch today's AP puff piece on Ward Churchill?

I have issues with it.

Posted by: Mark Poling at March 18, 2005 10:07 AM

Proud Conservative,

Parody is a time-honored corrective to the overzealous, and your critique does carry some force. I would, however, expect that your appreciation of the need for such correctives, if sincere, would also lead to you to appreciate the corrective MJT offers to the overzealous left.

But I appear to be amiss in that expectation.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 10:15 AM

Carlos -- "Wolfie can indeed marry his Arab bride if they so choose. So don't lie. But they have to do it according to the laws prescribed by Israel."

Thanks to the power of religious parties in Israel, there is no civil marriage in Israel. They would have to marry abroad, in America, Europe, or in some Arab country that allows intermarriage (like Iraq, hopefully).

http://www.somethingjewish.co.uk/articles/1232_civil_marriages.htm

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 10:18 AM

Thanks to the power of religious parties in Israel, there is no civil marriage in Israel.

Markus,

they don't have to marry civilly. And Israel does allow intermarriage, but according to the laws of the Israeli Rabbinate. Muslim countries also have their own marriage laws. I know it's hard for you Libs, but stop picking on Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 10:23 AM

Carlos -- I'll have to check on what sorts of intermarriage the Rabbinate allegedly allows. Any clarification would be appreciated.

And what the hell's wrong with "picking on Israel", specifically Israeli POLICY? Lots of Israelis, and lots of non-Israeli Jews, do it all the time. If Sharon pulls out of Gaza this summer, the criticism from some quarters of American Jewry will be loud indeed.

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 10:29 AM

Markus,

I consider it "picking on Israel" when they're singled out for criticism. Nobody's picking on Arab countries because they're muslim states, yet Israel is somehow beneath contempt because they are a jewish state? Give me a break.

It's anti-semitic, AND racist against Arabs--you Libs wouldn't dream of holding the little brown folks to the standards you hold enlightened white Israelis to.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 10:35 AM

Jewry - there's a word I haven't heard in a while.

Keep talking, markus. Keep talking.

Posted by: Knemon at March 18, 2005 10:45 AM

Who liked this book? Who is his audience? Here's a review of Michael Sheuer's book by someone who thought it was fabulous - Justin Raimondo, a Libertarian (supposedly) contributor to the antiwar.com website. For example: "Imperial Hubris is studded with analytical gems, phrased in colorful prose: it sparkles with wit, as well as wisdom, but all in the service of a serious and even solemn task: to provide a radical corrective to the hypocritical cant and political 'spin' that has distorted and undermined any meaningful effort to defeat al-Qaeda and the very real threat posed by the emerging global insurgency it represents." - and Israel is to blame for everything. But then Justin also thinks that Christopher Hitchens is a fascist: "The neoconservative movement represents the quintessence of fascism, as expressed by some of its intellectual spokesmen, such as Christopher Hitchens, who infamously hailed the Afghan war as having succeeded in 'bombing a country back out of the Stone Age.'"

How in the world did Sheuer end up in charge of searching for Bin Laden? It seems to me that Sheuer really didn't want to find him. Sad.

Posted by: Brian at March 18, 2005 10:46 AM

Nobody's picking on Arab countries because they're muslim states, yet Israel is somehow beneath contempt because they are a jewish state?

Er, we don't send most Arab countries about $4 billion a year in subsidies. Perhaps the idea is to point out the absurdity of the "Israel = peace and light" policy.

In addition, no one is picking on Israel for being a Jewish state. What they're pointing out is that Israel is institutionally intolerant to a really ridiculous degree. The religion behind the intolerance is pretty much irrelevant.

Finally, most Arab countries, being as they are run by despots and theocrats, are awful places to try to make a life. If you'd like, I could include this paragraph of disclaimer on every post I make in which I engage in my democratic right to criticize Israeli policy.

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 18, 2005 10:48 AM

"Jewry - there's a word I haven't heard in a while.

Keep talking, markus. Keep talking."

Markus doesn't deserve such dark insinuations, especially when they are based on your own evident ignorance of the subject at hand. The term "Jewry" is widely used among those concerned with Jewish history from across the political spectrum.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 10:53 AM

Is Scheuer a CFR member? Are you, Michael? Is Andrew Apostolou? It is a rule at the Council on Foreign Relations that one may not write about what any member says at one of its meetings!

I wonder how Scheuer chose his protegés at the CIA, and what they are doing at The Agency today.

Posted by: Solomon2 at March 18, 2005 10:55 AM

Kimmitt,

But doesn't Carlos have a point about the inherent racism in the double-standard in which we are to judge Israel by our own while multi-culturally "appreciating difference" in Muslim cultures?

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 10:56 AM

I retract my insinuation.

Posted by: Knemon at March 18, 2005 10:57 AM

FWIW, Sheuer has a response to Apostolou up at TCS today, here.

Posted by: Kieran Lyons at March 18, 2005 11:12 AM

Er, we don't send most Arab countries about $4 billion a year in subsidies.

How come you didn't bring up Egypt's aid? Here's why: PICKING ON ISRAEL, that's why.

And I couldn't care less if we sent Israel 500 billion instead of 3 billion. We don't send them aid to turn them into a little America. We send them aid to further our geo-political goals, just like when we send Egypt money. Go pick on them.

Perhaps the idea is to point out the absurdity of the "Israel = peace and light" policy.

I don't believe in furthering "peace". I believe in furthering democracy and self-determination.

Israel=democracy.

In addition, no one is picking on Israel for being a Jewish state.

I didn't say you, Kimmitt, were. But the Left often does. I've had this argument with them on numerous times. Markus's objections to Israeli marriage laws stems from his disgust for the Jewish state.

What they're pointing out is that Israel is institutionally intolerant to a really ridiculous degree.

PICKING ON ISRAEL. Go bother the Egyptians for the next 20 years and maybe you'll regain some credibility. If Israel were so bad, Arabs would be leaving, not trying to get in. It reminds me of knee-jerk Leftist criticism against the U.S. We're racist and evil, but half the world is trying to come here.

The religion behind the intolerance is pretty much irrelevant.

Says you. But the Jewish state is far more tolerant than any muslim state. In Pakistan they'll hang you for "blashpheming" Mohammed. How "tolerant". Go pick on them.

Finally, most Arab countries, being as they are run by despots and theocrats, are awful places to try to make a life.

True. Then why is it that you seem so content with it. Go pick on them.

If you'd like, I could include this paragraph of disclaimer on every post I make in which I engage in my democratic right to criticize Israeli policy.

You wouldn't need disclaimers at all if you weren't so obsessive about Israel. Given that Arab countries provide so much material, go pick on them for a change.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 11:13 AM

Carlos is right! So long as there are Muslim states that do bad things, criticism of anyone else (except the French) is off limits. No matter what they do, no criticism. In fact, criticism of anyone else is, as far as I can tell, treason. Wait, no, racism.

Freedom!

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 18, 2005 11:18 AM

Well, barring the food fight currently going on in the comments section, I think this is a good article.

It appears to me, that all sects in the political spectrum have their nutjobs. In fact, I would hazard that the visibility of Leftists right now, may be more a product of current politics (and the disconnect the left precieves) than an overwhelming ratio of nutjobs.

My question is, if attending the DNC makes the Democrats "guilty by assoication" with Michael Moore-on... does having a key role in the War On Terror, in fact leading the hunt for our main enemy in the fight... make the administraton guilty by association?

Posted by: Ratatosk at March 18, 2005 11:20 AM

As someone who actually flew over Afghanistan I promise you my crew and I did not "bomb it back to the stone age." It was definitely already there.

I think a lot of the angst on Israel is that there seems to be a lot of morale equivalency by the left between the Palestinians/Islamic countries and Israel. IMHO there is no morale equivalency between a free democracy and the terrorists/dictatorships that surround Israel and wish her destruction. To compare the IDF with the terrorists is a stretch that in my opinion is unconscionable. That's the gist of the problem.

Posted by: buffpilot at March 18, 2005 11:20 AM

"Do people really want the US to fail?"

People like Kevin Drum do not consciously want the United States to fail. But (and I’m pretending to be an amateur psychoanalyst on this matter) in their heart of hearts they can't stand it when George W. Bush gets any credit whatsoever. They realize that it may be a long time before they reacquire power and influence. The “blue staters” are on the outside looking in---and this may not change for decades. I am convinced that the national Democratics are already marginalized. The real debates, such as regarding the cultural issues, will take place within the Republican Party.

I have long argued that a not so subtle anti-Semitism is rampant in the Democratic Party. Michael Totten has rightfully questioned my evidence. And once again, I am going to ask loud and clearly: why do the polling organizations seemingly ignore this issue? Is it because they are mostly Democrats, and afraid what they might find out? Let the research begin!

Posted by: David Thomson at March 18, 2005 11:20 AM

Proud,

sarcasm just doesn't work, especially lame sarcasm. Retool and start again.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 11:24 AM

MT,

Any pictures from the latest Freedom demonstrations in Lebanon?

Proud - what Carlos said...

Posted by: buffpilot at March 18, 2005 11:27 AM

Carlos, what sarcasm? I was agreeing with you. I don't think that it is possible to be critical of anything that Israel does when they can hang you for blasphemy in Pakistan? I mean, being critical of X even though Y is worse...how does that work again?

Why, that would be like criticizing Bush, when Saddam Hussein used to gas his own people. That's like criticizing American troops for torturing prisoners, when Zarqawi is cutting off people's heads. And hey, so long as we're better than the terrorists, we're above reproach, am I right, Carlos?

Freedom!

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 18, 2005 11:29 AM

I haven't read Michael Scheuer's book, but I did read a review and I thought the book had more arguments and more thrust than that the US is Israel's puppet.

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2005 11:46 AM

Guess I should read the book first? Perhaps we all should?

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2005 11:47 AM

Michael,

The liberals really want the US to fail!!! They hate freedom!!!

I'm guessing this is what set you off on Proud...

And I may be a closet liberal waiting for the right message/platform to come out. Until then, I will vote for people like GWB who have the basics of foreign policy right. I cite that draining the swamp and cultivating it vs. paving it over were the two main options we faced after 9/11. Bush chose wisely, while Kerry imitated an ostrich.

Anyway, it got me thinking, Proud is obviously bipolar - everyone who didn't vote for GWB is not some demonic socialist/communist that sacrifices goats weekly in the hope that the capitalist, imperialist Amerikkka will be brought down.

But at the same time you can't deny that a large contingent embodied or programmed by the media have taken some very weak positions in opposition to any bold strokes in the war on terror(Islamofacism). In fact, they have taken them reflexively, having no apparent hesitation or doubt that they were right.

Why?

I was listening to NPR today at lunch and heard an interesting interview with a ex-nun (Karen Armsrong author of A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and others).

What most intrigued me was her recalling of the progamming of guilt and shame she underwent as part of the dogma. Essentially being made to feel that her small sins were a reason for Christ's crucifixion.

This may be a jump, but my hypothesis for some time has been that some segment of American/any society is more susceptible to shaming and will be prone to swallowing self-hate messages such as MM sends in F911. I don't think this segment coincides neatly or even roughly with any political group we see discussed here.

Out of time, got to work, but I would like to see this discussed more.

Instead of villifying those who seem to take the 'other' side, maybe we need to treat the neurosis.

Finally, this may tie in with the obviously stupid arguments of the 'far right' in that instead of wanting to roll over and not defend themselves want to destroy indiscriminately, but I'm not sure how just yet. Just trying to integrate Clint Eastwood's statement about the far right meeting the far left at the fringe.

Posted by: jdwill at March 18, 2005 11:50 AM

Carlos, Ged, Kimmett, others:

I agree that Israel should not be singled out for criticism, and I'll be glad to argue with any leftist or rightist or whomever who begs to differ. And I think Ged has a point about the "inherent racism" of different standards.

I'm one of those strange liberals who believes we should judege all countries by our higher western standards.

Religious groups should be allowed to live according to their own strictures, while laws or other coercive acts that allow them to impose those strictures on others should be opposed. That means veils or headdresses ought to be optional in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and France; while a Jewish guy should be able to marry a Christian or a Muslim woman in Jerusalem.

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 11:50 AM

I'm one of those strange liberals who believes we should judege all countries by our higher western standards.

Me too, and we should have particularly high standards for those we choose to call our allies.

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 18, 2005 12:04 PM

Michael, good post and a good, if heated, discussion. Friends, seems to me that we need some perspective. Israel is surely not without sins...the reasonable amongst us know this. It has had its own battles with its own religious extremists and lost enough times to really set back the cause of peace in the ME. That said, for those of you who tend to always cast Israel in the role of the devil in your morality play, I offer this:

Every morning, you hug and kiss your child(ren) goodbye, knowing that at any moment during their day away from you that it could be their last. A suicide bomber could take them out at any time. To say the least, such a state of affairs might...just might...cause you to become a bit, shall we say, harsh, in how you deal with the society from which these terrorists/suicide bombers spring. NONE OF US has the right to judge Israel building a wall when this state of affairs confronts Jewish parents every morning. There clearly is NO moral equivalence between suicide bombings/terrorist attacks on civilian populations and building a wall to keep those perpetrators out. This moral obtuseness on the Left is something I have never been able to understand. Perhaps our left-leaning contributors could help me understand.

Posted by: JABBER at March 18, 2005 12:07 PM

markus -
I want to go beyond "retracting my insinuation" and personally apologize.

I agree with your sentiments re: religious liberty. I would like it if all countries were pluralistic.

My knee jerks a little too quickly these days. Again, apologies. You are not just another joo-hata and I should think twice before lashing out.

Posted by: Knemon at March 18, 2005 12:20 PM

knemon -- no problem at all. Your apology is exemplary.

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 12:34 PM

Hugs, anyone?

Posted by: Matt at March 18, 2005 12:35 PM

(((())))
big e-hugs.
Yuck. That's the first and hopefully last time I'll ever use the e-sign for hugs.

Now let's get back to FIGHTING LIKE SCORPIONS IN A BOTTLE!!!!!

(star trek fight music)

Posted by: Knemon at March 18, 2005 12:38 PM

"I'm one of those strange liberals who believes we should judge all countries by our higher western standards."

Who gets to define "higher western standard"? There are a number of western countries which don't have habeas corpus protection, there are others which don't think proscribing certain types of speech is a bad thing and yet others which proscribe certain types of press activity.

Who is to say that the acts of a freely and duly elected assembly charged with establishing the rules of allowable conduct within its society can be effectively judged as "higher" or "lower" by someone not in possession of all pertinent information regarding that society?

I'm rather surprised that you (and Kimmit) set yourselves as judges of comparative standards. Which country in the west possesses the attributes that hew most closely to your ideal of governance?

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 18, 2005 12:42 PM

Who gets to define "higher western standard"?

I do. And you or anyone else gets to disagree, and explain why.

"Who is to say that the acts of a freely and duly elected assembly charged with establishing the rules of allowable conduct within its society can be effectively judged as "higher" or "lower" by someone not in possession of all pertinent information regarding that society?"

I say certain very basic, minimal standards are universally applicable. For instance, death by stoning is OUT, no matter what the freely elected assembly says.

"Which country in the west possesses the attributes that hew most closely to your ideal of governance?"

The United States of America. Although it could be improved in some ways, as well.

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 02:04 PM

Carlos,

"PICKING ON ISRAEL. Go bother the Egyptians for the next 20 years and maybe you'll regain some credibility."

It seems as if you are saying that because certain other people ('the left,' a group of people you appear to lump markus in with) have criticed Israel but where not equal (at least not vocally) in their criticism of nearby Arab states that thier complaints lack 'credibility'.

This is the idolitarian trap. You'll know you've fallen into it when you cannot acknowledge a legitimate criticism of those who's 'side' you concider yourself to be on; for fear that any acknowledgement of fault will support the position of the guys on the 'other side.'

Posted by: semm at March 18, 2005 02:06 PM

while a Jewish guy should be able to marry a Christian or a Muslim woman in Jerusalem.

Markus,

a christian CAN marry a muslim woman in Jerusalem. Stop propagating lies.

If you object to certain aspects of Israeli family law, please be more specific.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 02:08 PM

Carlos -- back up what you say instead of calling me a liar: how does a Muslim marry a Jew in Jerusalem?

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 02:17 PM

"I'm one of those strange liberals who believes we should judge all countries by our higher western standards."

Or was this supposed to read, "I'm one of those strange westerners who believes we should judge all countries by our higher liberal standards."

Posted by: Brian at March 18, 2005 02:21 PM

This is the idolitarian trap. You'll know you've fallen into it when you cannot acknowledge a legitimate criticism of those who's 'side' you concider yourself to be on; for fear that any acknowledgement of fault will support the position of the guys on the 'other side.

I don't know what "idolitarian" means. But I know what an idiotarian is. I'm well acquainted with them.

Not really re your "trap". There's plenty wrong with Israel, to be sure, and their plenty more wrong with its Arab neighbors. And? The point? I'm less concerned with the flaws of a democracy than I am with those of a dictatorship. Why? Because in a democracy the citizens have the power to change it, and if they don't, that's their choice. In a dictatorship (see all Arab countries except Iraq), the citizenry is powerless to change it. They are helpless hostages in their own country. Do Libs care? No. Their criteria is that we give aid to Israel, and THAT's why they're "concerned." Do you see how warped that is? To be more concerned about a democracy, where the citizenry has chosen, but not concerned with surrounding dictatorships where the citizens are essentially hostages. Welcome to the backward upside down world of the Liberal.

And if their criticism was not exclusive to Israel, but was also directed at other equal or worse transgressors, then the criticism might make an impact. As it is, who really cares what a moonbat thinks of Israeli family law when said moonbat doesn't even believe in the legitimacy of the Jewish state? Such criticism is taken for what it is, disingenous rubbish.

Let the Israelis decide what kind of state they live in. If they have the will to remove the settlers, then they have the will to change Israeli family law if they so choose.

and ps., Markus, I don't consider you a moonbat.

Posted by: Carlos at March 18, 2005 02:27 PM

Semm: "It seems as if you are saying that because certain other people ('the left,' a group of people you appear to lump markus in with) have criticed Israel but where not equal (at least not vocally) in their criticism of nearby Arab states that thier complaints lack 'credibility'"

At what point does the overwhelming one-sidedness of the criticism begin to trump credibility and suggest a deeper malevolence towards the target?

"U.N.’S VOTING HISTORY AGAINST ISRAEL" (article dated 7/11/02) at christianactionforisrael.org.

Security Council: 175 total resolutions –– 74 neutral; 4 against perceived interests of Arab state or entity, 97 against Israel.

General Assembly: Cumulative number of votes cast with or for Israel: 7,938 - Against Israel: 55,642. Since it first convened in 1946, at least one Arab state sat on the 9 country Security Council in 39 of its first 43 years. Israel never sat on the Security Council. [In June 2002 Syria who is still listed on the U.S. State Department as a Terrorist State, was voted in as Head of the Security Council.] The Security Council "condemned", "censured", "deplored", "strongly deplored", etc. Israel 49 times; the Arabs: Zero. The Security Council passed 131 Resolutions: 43 or 33% were neutral; 88 criticized or opposed or judged against Israel. Zero critical of Arab state, body or the PLO (founded by the Arab League in 1964).

The General Assembly passed 429 Resolutions against Israel’’s desires (62%); only 56 against Arab desires (8%). the General Assembly "condemned", "vigorously condemned", "strongly condemned", "deplored", "strongly deplored", censured"", "denounced" Israel 321 times –– the Arabs Zero condemnations. (1) This record demonstrates the extreme bias of this body of nations and their unremitting efforts to assist the Arab nations in eliminating Israel."

UN planned state of Israel as a still-birth

IMHO - the idea that Scheur puts forth - and that seems to be fairly widely accepted - that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is at the root of terrorism (the bin Laden grievance school), essentially represents a kind of "final solution" thinking. If you read alot of what is written in the Israeli press these days (christianactionforisrael.org is a great clearing house of information) - alot of Israeli's feel that is precisely where things are heading.

Posted by: Caroline at March 18, 2005 02:42 PM

Carlos -- back up what you say instead of calling me a liar: how does a Muslim marry a Jew in Jerusalem?

Markus,

I didn't call you a liar. I said you were propagating lies.

Currently the Orthodox Jewish religious authorities have exclusive control over Jewish marriages, divorces, and most burials. Many Israelis object to this control, and it's currently the source of serious controversy. But nowhere is there a law prohibiting a jew from marrying an Arab. If there is, show it to me.

Posted by: David at March 18, 2005 02:44 PM

"I say certain very basic, minimal standards are universally applicable."

I wouldn't have thought of you as a proponent of natural law, Markus. So, which very basic minimal standard does Israel fail to meet?

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 18, 2005 03:12 PM

I never said there was a state law prohibiting intermarriage in Israel. I said there was no civil marriage. That being the case, I would appreciate if you or someone else explained any other way that a Jew can marry a non-Jew.

And you are correct that many Israelis object to the control of the Orthodox Jewish religious authorities over this and other aspects of ISRAELI, not just Jewish, life. I support these opponents of Jewish fundamentalism, for the same reason I support those who oppose fundamentalism in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Kansas...

And while I don't equate each of these fundamentalisms, I do view them each with the contempt I believe they deserve -- not for believing what they believe in, but for attempting to impose those beliefs on others.

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 03:14 PM

Rick Ballard --
Synagogue and state are insufficiently seperated in Israel. It should be a state for Jews, rather than a Jewish state.

See this editorial on Sharon cabinet's decision in 2002 to deny Israeli Arabs the right to buy land in most of Israel. The cabinet reversed itself a few days later in response to opposition:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0716/p08s02-comv.html

Yes, there is a debate going on in Israel about this, and I take sides myself in the matter.

Hope you don't mind.

Posted by: markus rose at March 18, 2005 03:26 PM

Additional random thoughts about MJT's essay and the article cited.

I get the impression that the CIA and State Department are closely linked (and at odds with the Pentagon). The article I cited above (UN planned state of Israel as a still-birth) refers to the US State Dept as "Arabist". It seems fairly obvious that Scheur is an Arabist in this sense (it probably stems from a professional lifetime spent within certain ideological circles).

In my random readings of Tony at Across the Bay (beirut2bayside.blogspot) and his exchanges with Josh at Syria Comment over the recent events in the ME - I notice that he is trying to move the debate away from "Arabism" in order to forge a new ME identity - and that he specifically links (outdated) Arabism with this notion that Israel is the core of the problem. I have read with interest some of his rather frustrated comments to Josh that Josh is buying into the Arabist line that Israel is the source of the problem.

Like I've said before - I'm no historian (understatement of the year :-)) and hence I'm rather ignorant about "Arabism" and how it links up with anti-Israeli sentiment. But the recent events in the ME, in asmuch as they might be moving the region beyond "Arabism" (the Arab street - i.e. the human "pavement" :-) proving to be a little more complex than we could have known until recent events, with some crumbling of "fear" societies - hiya Tom :-)) - might be a positive signal for Israel. But then - that would make Scheur something of an old-school dinasaur.

"Scheuer advocates a savage war against the civilian population of the Middle East because, in his crackpot mental universe, those pesky Zionists leave us no other option. He goes so far over the top I can't help but wonder if he's looking for an excuse to indulge atrocity fantasies."

I'm not sure whether you mean that he is indulging in atrocity fantasies towards Muslims? Because actually I read it the opposite way. It strikes me more as an incitement for Muslims to commit atrocities against Jews (take care of the problem as it were) in order to eliminate what he implies is otherwise the inevitable - which is us wiping the Muslims out. If that reading is correct, it makes it rather doubly sh**tty. Of course, as I haven't read the book this is quite an inferential leap from a limited slice of information.

Posted by: Caroline at March 18, 2005 03:47 PM

My own comment" It seems fairly obvious that Scheur is an Arabist in this sense (it probably stems from a professional lifetime spent within certain ideological circles)."

Oops - I missed that that point was explicitly made in the article:

"While Scheuer's views on the Middle East are unpleasant, they are not far from the orthodoxy among retired diplomats. The view of the superannuated foreign service mainstream is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the core issue in the Middle East and that the stumbling block to a settlement is Israeli policy rather than Palestinian terrorism."

That seems to imply an historically close relationship between the State Dept and the CIA.
Again - I would note that the article I linked to above refers to "the Arabist U.S. State Department, representing the Arab oil nations and U.S./multi-national oil corporations".

So - if the US/multinational oil corporations entrenched at state have been complicit in this obvious anti-Israeli UN history - why isn't the political left defending Israel? It seems to me that the only reason the US is barely hanging on in doing so is because it is actually the right and moral thing to do. The multinational oil companies would obviously have more at stake in defending the Arab cause here. I would think true liberals would come strongly to the defense of Israel. What is wrong with this picture? As Carlos so frequently points out it must be the brown/white thing. The left SEEMS (e-prime!) to champion the 3rd world POV no matter the driving forces behind that perspective.

Posted by: Caroline at March 18, 2005 04:16 PM

Caroline,

Hate to hijack the discussion further off-topic, but I'd like to respond to you.

"At what point does the overwhelming one-sidedness of the criticism begin to trump credibility and suggest a deeper malevolence towards the target?"

To my knowledge no one here speaks for anyone but themseleves. Then, for Carlos's objection 'go pick on someone else' to be even remoely appropriate you would have to show 'overwhelming one-sidedness' on the part of Markus, not some nebulous group you lump him in with.

I guess i just don't see the use in pretending that our discussions here can somehow 'balance out' the unfairness towards Irael in the press, the UN ect... by ignoring (or question the credibility of those making) criticisms which we might agree would be legitimate in a vaccuum.

Posted by: semm at March 18, 2005 04:17 PM

You're behind the times, Michael, I wrote about Scheuer last month. And my hat tip was Andrew Sullivan.

Posted by: Yehudit at March 18, 2005 04:23 PM

Funny Semm - I thought other posters were hijacking the discussion and essentially losing sight of the forest for the trees in focusing on some cultural inequalities within Israeli society re marriage. I happen to agree with Carlos' basic point - "go pick on someone else" - as regards to the original sentiment expressed.

"At what point does the overwhelming one-sidedness of the criticism begin to trump credibility and suggest a deeper malevolence towards the target?"

That was my original question. Perhaps you somewhat agree with the sentiment when you imply that there is no use in "pretending that our discussions here can somehow 'balance out' the unfairness towards Irael in the press, the UN ect.."

So why does the left insist on taking the discussion down to the most miniscule criticism of Israel's faults, thereby losing sight of the forest for the trees? Is Israel easier or safer to pick on or something? I know for a fact from a family member that it's rather easy to travel there, monitor the checkpoints, interfere with IDF forces and so on, and still be fairly confident of living to tell about it so that one can give public talks and drag Rachel Corrie's parents around to various venues, and in short - establish leftist "street cred" - pretty much at the Israeli's expense. I wish some leftist would try that in Chechnya for a change.

Posted by: Caroline at March 18, 2005 04:46 PM

“You're behind the times, Michael, I wrote about Scheuer last month. And my hat tip was Andrew Sullivan.”

The main thing is that both Michel Totten and yourself are the exceptions to the general rule. Most reviews of Michael Scheuer’s book ignore his not so subtle anti-Semitism. Why is this occurring? Isn’t this the real story?

Posted by: David Thomson at March 18, 2005 05:10 PM

MJT,

Have you seen this article on Scheuer?

http://www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=11903046_1

Not surprising that they are not too high on Scheuer either. Guess its also not surprising that they fail to mention his party affiliation. Not that I imagine he's too buddy-buddy with Porter Goss, or anything.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 05:11 PM

Markus,

I certainly don't mind. Interesting to contrast the rescinded Israeli cabinet action with the unrescinded PA fatwa calling for death to any Arab selling land to Jews.

I take sides too, I'll always be found across the line from the murderous thugs who make up the PA. And across the line from State & CIA apologists cashing Saudi checks and spouting the Arabist line. Say, I wonder if Joe Wilson collaborated on Scheur's book? Maybe Valerie gave him some help? Strictly undercover, of course.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 18, 2005 05:13 PM

Knemon,

"Now let's get back to FIGHTING LIKE SCORPIONS IN A BOTTLE!!!!!"

ROFL!

Glad you took my post the right way - I think Markus is the best thing this comment section has going for it. When will we see MarkusBlog?

Why? Because we disagree and can actually have arguments like adults. Look forward to your contributions too.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 05:30 PM

"This may be a jump, but my hypothesis for some time has been that some segment of American/any society is more susceptible to shaming and will be prone to swallowing self-hate messages such as MM sends in F911. I don't think this segment coincides neatly or even roughly with any political group we see discussed here."

Wow, I was thinking the same thing. The Progressive tradition itself has strong evangelical roots, and as we all know, those horrid evangelicals are not shy about use (and abuse) of shame. As long as the Gospel is there to release the shame (the momentum thus generated can do a great deal of good), this is not much of a problem. If one keeps the shame, but loses the Gospel (or other atonement methods, regarding which any Rabbis here could speak more authoritatively than I), you've got trouble.

My (very tentative) theory is that the pressure is too much, and a scapegoat is sought out that plausibly can be labeled as "self", so it still feels like the required self-reflection, while sparing the true self the crushing guilt that would ensue (given the lack of release/atonement mechanism). So "America/Western Culture" can be mercilessly (literally) denigrated, without the referrent of the denigration including the inquisitor, despite their American/Western citizenship, as they could also be considered part of the solution, not the problem.

Of course, one of the strengths of Western culture is the space it creates for self-criticism, so it is with some caution that I advance this theory, as it could be abused to squelch that very criticism we so dearly need.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 05:48 PM

Rick Ballard: "And across the line from State & CIA apologists cashing Saudi checks and spouting the Arabist line"

Man - it was an inside joke all along and I didn't know it. Frankly - in my personal life I suck at gossip and am always the last one in the office to find out the dirt (admittedly that's largely my own fault for not caring all that much so I can't complain). But Rick - forgive my naivete - but is there some general concensus that State and CIA have long been selling out Israel for Saudi checks? Cause frankly that does on the surface appear to be the general state of affairs and would certainly explain a whole lot of history. Yeah - I admit it - this is a very naive question, albeit it, one tinged with a bit of horror? disbelief? I'm not sure what the appropriate reaction should be. But once again - it does raise for me the basic question - why hasn't the left been sticking up for Israel all these years given the apparently nefarious forces aligned against it?

Posted by: Caroline at March 18, 2005 06:05 PM

Ged -- I have tossed around the MarkusBlog idea, and I appreciate your encouragement.

If I did it, folks would have to listen to me mouth off about music and unpopular culture, too.

Actually, I don't spend much time in the comment section of other blogs. Is thoughtful liberal vs. conservative debate really that rare in the blog world?

Posted by: at March 18, 2005 06:09 PM

Ged,

I'm not sure that the common language used fulfills either explanation. Typically the tenses used indicate (to me anyway) that the speaker/writer inhabits a "real" country that consists of whatever idyllic state he has imagined while the "opposition" inhabits a smoke filled Gehenna that hides the speaker/writer's "real" country.

I don't think that you can substitute an expiatory explanation for a language form that clearly (IMO) espouses the current realization of a Hegelian "end of history" viewpoint. In other words, paradise has arrived and the speaker/writer's opposition's biggest failure is a lack of ability to recognize it (the incredibly stupid but wily and cunning Chimpy McHitliburton). I see/read a lot more anger and frustration than guilt. The world just isn't conforming to their pomo professor's promises.

Surely, a matter to cause consternation, were it not so humorous. A real pity that they can't get a refund on their tuition.

(definitely not aimed at Markus, who did get his money's worth)

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 18, 2005 06:17 PM

Ged - re your 5:48 post - this is the best article I've read in quite some time explaining the pathology of the American left, especially as it relates to guilt and emotion in general - and he locates the problem in Christinity. I would expect that both conservative and liberal Christians would find somthing of interest in it.

Warning though - it's about 50 printed pages long:

Robert Kocher

Posted by: Caroline at March 18, 2005 06:32 PM

Caroline,

Here is a list of Middle East Institute experts. Twenty-two names, fourteen of the people name worked for the US State Department or other agencies. Lots of ex-ambassadors (Joe Wilson used to be listed - he must have found a better gig). This is one of a rather large number of "think tanks" which receive a fair amount of funding from ME sources.

State people have been cashing Saudi checks for fifty years. It's almost part of their defined benefit plan upon retirement (if they worked the ME desk at a high enough level). It's not illegal and it really is well known. Both parties - all the time.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 18, 2005 06:56 PM

"Actually, I don't spend much time in the comment section of other blogs. Is thoughtful liberal vs. conservative debate really that rare in the blog world?"

So far. But we're just getting started.

;-)

As my sporadic appearances here might indicate, RL often prevents me from participating in blog comment dialogue, so I'm no expert.

My efforts to engage left blogs have, without exception, resulted in having posts deleted/being labelled a troll/being smothered under a heaping pile of abuse, so haven't had much luck there. Drum/Marshall and friends have really encouraged a bunker mentality, as if the blogosphere is one big pissing contest, and they are world-class pissers, I'll give them that.

What gets me is that they have the potential to be so much more - wish I knew how to awaken it. Right blogs (and mislabeled right blogs like Drezner, to me the real liberals) tend to be more free-wheeling, but certainly not piss-free themselves.

The only diretion to go from here is up.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 07:18 PM

"I'm not sure that the common language used fulfills either explanation. Typically the tenses used indicate (to me anyway) that the speaker/writer inhabits a "real" country that consists of whatever idyllic state he has imagined while the "opposition" inhabits a smoke filled Gehenna that hides the speaker/writer's "real" country."

This doesn't explain the widespread use of the "royal we" - the ceaseless lists of atrocities that "we" have perpetrated, where the "we" is clearly the West, but doesn't clearly include or exclude the speaker.

My claim is that when the speaker wants to feel self-critical, and thus authentic, the "we" does include the speaker, but the typical amendment that follows true self-criticism does not then take place, because despite saying "we", the speaker denies responsibility. Not in my name.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 07:49 PM

Caroline,

Thank you for (the at times difficult) Kocher article. Kocher is a great illustriation of where our current academy could improve. He is obviously brilliant, and just as oviously needs engagement with the intellectual marketplace to hone his craft. And I should know.

;-)

Pot kettle. Kettle, pot. And all that.

My guess is that he was run out on the basis of his views, and that it was not even close.

The marketplace's loss.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 18, 2005 07:53 PM

Ged,

Good point. I suppose that I was thinking more of the "not in our name" which I interpret as "we the enlightened" - of course "not in our name" could be simple schizophrenia.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 18, 2005 08:23 PM

If Kimmitt had bothered to check before cracking that 4 billion a year comment, he might have found this: www.usembassy.it/pdf/other/98-916.pdf, out of which these numbers came:

In 1994, according to the State Dept, the top foreign aid recipents were:
Israel, 3 billion
Egypt, 2.13 billion
Russia, 1.41 billion
India, 160 million
Ukraine, 160 million
Ethiopia, 150 million
Peru, 140 million
Turkey, 120 million
Bangladesh, 110 million
Kazakstan, 110 million
Boliva 100 million
Haiti, 90 million
Armenia, 90 million
Bosnia, 90 million
South Africa, 90 million

Now in 2004, the top aid recipients were:
Iraq, 18.44 billion (yes, that's right)
Israel, 2.62 billion
Egypt, 1.87 billion
Afghanistan, 1.77 billion
Colombia, 570 million
Jordan, 560 million
Pakistan, 390 million
Liberia, 210 million
Peru, 170 million
Ethiopia, 160 million
Bolivia, 150 million
Turkey, 150 million
Uganda, 140 million
Sudan, 140 million
Indonesia, 130 million
Kenya, 130 million

While in an ordinal fashion, it was true that Israel received the most aid in 1994, it was 3 billion, not 4, and Egypt received over 2 billion. (interesting the countries there in 1994)

in 2004, its a bit different. Over 18 billion has gone Iraq, (and that's not including the cost of the war, which might be factored in, seeing that the war made it possible to actually give aid to Iraq.) And seeing how much is going to Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, Sudan (Sudan? WTF?) and Indonesia, the split between what's being given to Jews and given to Muslims might be seen in an ever so slightly different light.

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 18, 2005 09:29 PM

"Is Israel easier or safer to pick on or something?"

Yup. Jews aren't into the whole "fatwa" thing.

Ged - I think you've hit something important here. I've had thoughts along similar lines.

My fellow Berkeleyans are always telling me not to demonize the "other" - with the implication that it takes more courage to criticize one's own. I think this is bullshit.

Why? Well, they focus all their criticism internally - on the "west" rather than you-know-who - but isn't that really just setting up a new "other" to demonize? Instead of them furriners, they hate the Chimpy McRedstaters ... or rather, their caricature of them.

This is just another way of saying what you said -but it's eerie to see thoughts so similar to my own.

Glad you liked my call for a SCORPIONIC throw-down.

Posted by: Knemonc at March 18, 2005 11:05 PM

Bringing up civil marriages in Israel in a geopolitical discussion is silly and irrelevant. Why not talk about gay marriage in the U.S.? It is equally germane. The marriages of those who are not halachically Jewish are recognized in Israel, they just have to go overseas to get married. Many Israelis go to Cyprus, even if they could be married in Israel, because of hatred for the religious institutions. It is an internal, almost administrative issue with a small impact on the civil liberties of Israelis. It is not one of the Nuremberg Laws, and should be of little interest to a non-Israeli unless you are a legal studies scholar.

Focusing on this minute,local issue in such a way reinforces the image of Israel as a pathologically racist violator of human rights (which it is not). It plays into the hands of the worst anti-Israel propogandists. Israel has been subject for so long to so much hateful, unbalanced, and untruthful propoganda, that good faith critics of Israel should take it into account, and be careful that they won't be lumped into the same category.

Posted by: MarkC at March 19, 2005 12:37 AM

The Left is engaged in a Moral Superiority "war" -- they NEED to feel, not necessarily think, that their position is Morally Superior.

Recall Kimmit's (prior thread) "indefensible foulness" of actions "we" have done -- we the Christian West. Which he includes himself in, to gain the Christian Civ Western credit for supporting human rights, but considers himself superior to those unwilling to criticize it (in the way he does).

Why is it a lie? Because our Ally, Joe Stalin, ordered the inhumane execution of thousands of Polish officers at Katyn, and a couple other mass graves. In WW II "we" did, in fact, commit foul crimes. But they are defensible, as lesser evils always are, by comparison to the greater evil we fought.

If these evils were "indefensible", it would require one to be willing to stop the alliance (or vote against the President who continues the alliance); and, if the result is losing the war, to accept losing the war and give up responsibility for the result. (Killing Fields, yada yada)

The Left has in their mind an Unreal Perfection as the implicit alternative (though they deny it). Any actions any US gov't takes which include immoral results is thereby condemned, with the deeply, passionately held feeling that
there MUST be another way... to get the good result without the costs.

Neither I, nor Kimmit, raped any Salvadorean nuns, nor napalmed Vietnamese, nor murdered Polish POWs. Nor do either of us want Hitler to win, or commie Killing Fields in SE Asia. I'm not sure about other Castro/ Sandinista issues in Latin America; I certainly don't want more commie dictators there.

But fighting evil requires, at times, war -- and supporting war is hell because it means accepting the evil of killing civilians, torturing the innocent, etc. Not condone, have systems to try to reduce it, punish those on your side who commit crimes -- but continue to support the leader who is fighting evil despite the lesser evils our side has committed.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 19, 2005 01:21 AM

It's quite amazing how these things work out. I've always argued that in many ways the lunatic fringe of the Right and the Left exist in the same sphere. The anti-War Left wants peace, but foolishly thinks they can do without some war. The anti-war Right wants old-stylr nationalistic isolationism. These are those unreconstructed folk who opposed U.S involvement in WWII, and would have us bloody up the Mideast--not to fight terror, but for something else.

Posted by: Rafique Tucker at March 19, 2005 01:22 AM

I made a like-minded argument with regards to Ward Churchill and Ann Coulter on my site: http://www.massivesack.com/massive_blog.html#1mar

Wingnuts of all ideologies are quite alike.

- Kelly

Posted by: Kelly at March 19, 2005 05:44 AM

One serious problem caused by the "wraparound effect" is that once the far left and the far right meet, it becomes very difficult to point at one spot in the loop and call it the center. Being a moderate is as extreme a position, these days, as any other. I've been forcibly reminded of that lately (not that I'm a moderate, but I do have a few moderate views- the rest of my opinions are smack-dab in the center, as I define it).

Even worse, if the continuum is twisted enough- and I think it is, these days- you wind up with the Moebius Dilemma. Both sides are pretty much the same.

Posted by: Tagore Smith at March 19, 2005 06:41 AM

Liberty Dad, you wrote:

"But fighting evil requires, at times, war -- and supporting war is hell because it means accepting the evil of killing civilians, torturing the innocent, etc. Not condone, have systems to try to reduce it, punish those on your side who commit crimes -- but continue to support the leader who is fighting evil despite the lesser evils our side has committed."

I totally agree. When our leaders or the leaders of our allies, like Israel, are fighting the existential enemy that is Islamofascism (or its ancestor, regular old fascism), then it's important to continue to support the good guys. As far as we're concerned, I think, the good guys are simply above reproach. Even if we commit lesser crimes, we never have to bear responsibility for those crimes, because hey, we're the good guys! If our ends are totally awesome, in every way, but our means were a little...shady...then we never have to think twice. I say critical self-reflection is dangerous, because it might embolden our enemies, much more so than, say, asking terrorists to "bring it on". Critical self-reflection is dangerous, especially to national security policy makers, because it, um, it doesn't support our troops.

I think Kant said something about the morality of an act being based on the intention rather than the result. Man, our intentions are so good, we're the best!

Freedom!

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 19, 2005 07:00 AM

And while I don't equate each of these fundamentalisms, I do view them each with the contempt I believe they deserve -- not for believing what they believe in, but for attempting to impose those beliefs on others.

Markus,

that's fine. And it's also like that in muslim Arab countries too, and worse. So I say we dissolve them all and remake them in our own western secular image, not just Israel. Got it? Not just Israel. And let's do it despite the democratic will of the people because it's not democracy we care about but modern secular Liberalism (which has been showing some of it's latent contempt for the will of the people lately even in our own country).

Posted by: at March 19, 2005 07:50 AM

This falls under the category of Leftwing moonbatism. The Left doesn't think muslims should be expected to conform to western "progress". It's "literally killing" them the Lefty apologists claim.

Excerpted below, the Left, while on the one hand it demands that Israel conform, on the other hand requests that muslims be excused from conforming. Behold Liberal cultural relativism in action whenever they're dealing with their little brown Muslim pets (but not with Israel obviously):

The situation of Western Muslim minorities is not so different from that of ostracized students dying to fit in with their prevailing peer culture. For example, an American Muslim woman announces that today she will lead congregational Friday prayers before an audience of TV cameras and reporters.

But is prayer leading — admittedly an exception to 1400 years of Islamic tradition — really the highest priority for an American Muslim woman? Since Islam does not have a hierarchical Church, mandated to approve or disapprove such a change in practice, every Muslim can do what he / she thinks it is right.

So why the wide publicity? It is because the woman and her supporters are dying to fit in with Western ideas of “progress,” ideas which assume that her not taking a prayer leading role would somehow be discriminatory.

Notice how the Leftist moonbat insert quotes on the word "progress" in order to justify their nutty apologies for their retrograde muslim pets.

Read the whole thing. The Moonbat fully explains her position.

http://world.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/13729/

Markus, Kimmit, et al., you're no different.

Posted by: at March 19, 2005 09:02 AM

Posted by: Carlos at March 19, 2005 09:02 AM

PC (hey, nie initials. hmmm....),

"I say critical self-reflection is dangerous"

Which would explain why you have evidently never tried it, I guess.

Keep flailing away at those straw men. Might build up your muscles for when we really need you.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 19, 2005 09:17 AM

"nie initials"

should read "nice initials". Hey, what's this preview button do?

"Markus, Kimmit, et al., you're no different."

Carlos, I know you don't like being stuffed in pigeonholes. Markus and Kimmitt are Americans too, not to mention human beans, so I doubt they much enjoy it either. Refute their arguments, you actually do that pretty well from time to time, but they don't deserve to be treated like pigeons any more than you do.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 19, 2005 09:23 AM

Ged,

God bless you for looking out for Markus and Co. I think they're swell too. But I wasn't just taking a gratuitous shot at them. They engage in the same moral relativist double standard vis a vis Israel and Arabs as the moonbat in that article is doing when she argues muslims should be expected to conform to western standards. How bout you address that instead.

Posted by: Carlos at March 19, 2005 10:18 AM

correction:

They engage in the same moral relativist double standard vis a vis Israel and Arabs as the moonbat in that article is doing when she argues muslims should NOT be expected to conform to western standards.

Posted by: Carlos at March 19, 2005 10:20 AM

To the "Proud Conservative,"

There is plenty of over-heated right-wing commentary in here, but yours is by far the worst and I don't have time to babysit everybody. This is your last warning before I show you the door.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 19, 2005 10:22 AM

I'm going to throw this out there in the context of the whole leftist anti-American (big Satan)/anti-Israeli (little Satan) screed (in defense of not going too off-topic). It's part of my ongoing attempt to understand what I consider a pathology. Kocher touches on it quite a bit in the article I linked to but now I see that it actually has a name, which I had never heard before, but which may well be familiar to the many historian types who frequent here. It's called the "Baran-Wallerstein" thesis and it is meant to address the failure of traditional Marxist theory:

"The post-World War II period demolished the last traces of the classical immiserization thesis. Workers in the most advanced capitalist countries were prosperous by any standard imaginable, either absolute or relative; and what is even more important, they felt themselves to be well off, and believed that the future would only make them and their children even better off than they had been in the past. This was a deadly blow to the immiserization thesis and hence to Marxism. For the failure of the immiserization thesis is in fact the failure of classical Marxism. If there is no misery, there is no revolution; and if there is no revolution, there is no socialism."

"...what Baran has done is to globalize the traditional doctrine of immiserization so that, instead of applying to the workers of the advanced capitalist countries, it now came to apply to the entire population of those countries that have not achieved advanced capitalism. It was the rest of the world that was being impoverished by capitalism, not the workers of the advanced countries."

This idea that American capitalism is the cause of global immiseration is expressed by Chomsky, Ward Churchill et al. and is explained here -

Marx Without the Realism

I assume that to some extent, Israel gets bashed by the left via guilt by assocation with the US.
So - what I want to know is - does the Baran-Wallerstein thesis have any validity? Is America's prosperity the direct cause of the 3rd world's poverty? This is an assumption that seems to explain the left's consistent championing of 3rd worlders, even when they are fascist dictators.

Posted by: Caroline at March 19, 2005 12:13 PM

Seriously, for a moment.

I think it's lovely that I can actually quote other people who are saying the same exact things that I am and still be told to stop. Not strawmen, but actual people writing in this comment section.

The irony, it is delicious.

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 19, 2005 12:21 PM

"The irony, it is delicious"

If you had a legitimate interest at heart, i.e. the truth, this blog, this country, you would find such irony anything but delicious. That you do indicates little but vanity on your part.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 19, 2005 12:32 PM

More for the Opinion Journal article I cited:

"In the new configuration, both the workers and the capitalists of the advanced countries became the oppressor class, while it was the general population of the less advanced countries that became the oppressed--including, curiously enough, even the rulers of these countries, who often, to the untutored eye, seemed remarkably like oppressors themselves."

The first part of that quote calls to mind Ward Churchill's "little Eichmann's quote- and again, explains the hostility of the left towards israel as "Little Satan", while the 2nd part of the quote makes clear that even 3rd world dictators are viewed by the left as "oppressed" by the capitalist great Satan, thus explaining the left's defense of them.

Proud Conservative - why don't get serious for a moment and argue positions you actually believe in, instead of attempting to parody other posters. You might be surprised to get a pretty positive reception (although you might want to disguise yourself under a new moniker first :-).

Posted by: Caroline at March 19, 2005 12:49 PM

Proud Conservative - why don't get serious for a moment and argue positions you actually believe in, instead of attempting to parody other posters. You might be surprised to get a pretty positive reception--Caroline

I believe that Caroline is speaking on her own behalf,at this point.I don't see how 'pretty positive' would be an apt description for many other reactions.But Caroline is 'nice'.

Posted by: dougf at March 19, 2005 01:52 PM

Proud Conservative: I think it's lovely that I can actually quote other people who are saying the same exact things that I am and still be told to stop. Not strawmen, but actual people writing in this comment section.

No, what you're doing is paraphrasing an exagerration of what other people are saying.

Look, buddy, plenty of silly things are said around here. And in this particular thread most of it comes from the right, if you ask me. It's getting on my nerves, and right now yours is the worst of it. If you weren't faking it I'd give you a troll warning for sheer sand-pounding stupidity alone. And since you are faking it we'll throw obnoxiousness in on top of it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 19, 2005 02:30 PM

Dougf - why the quote around nice? :-)

In all seriousness though, the reason I suggested that PC argue what he really believes (which I assume is a leftist POV) is because as Ged of E noted above, sites deteriorate when they degenerate into yeah-saying and hostility to alternative perspectives. (Drum's site being a prime example as I learned the hard way and which I have commented on several times before). If eveyone agrees, who is there to debate? So I actually DO want PC to argue his actual positions honestly. He could start, e.g. by defending the Baran-Wallenstein thesis, because as I tried to state above - I think it lies at the core of the current left's anti-American/Israel, pro-3rd world dictator, excuse the "brown people" no matter how abhorent their cultural practices - screed. In other words - I think it goes a long way to explaining the reasons the left is getting into bed with the far right (the far right being Islamo-fascism, the bin Laden grievance school of thought, Saddam apology and so on). If the thesis turns out to be indefensible in fact, then the left's whole ideology should come tumbling down like humpty-dumpty. I have no doubt that the devil is probably in the details but political discourse these days seems to rarely be "in the details". It seems instead to have largely deteriorated into broad emotional brushstrokes. I will definitely have to track back and find Ged of E's great line about painting houses instead of Faberge eggs because at this point - I think we could use a few less house painters and a few more faberge' egg painters!

Posted by: Caroline at March 19, 2005 02:57 PM

MJT,

"It's getting on my nerves, and right now yours is the worst of it."

It got on PC's nerves too, and that's why he's been parodying it (not without skill) to try to shame the overzealous right into silence.

I happen to think there is way too much of this shaming into silence bullying going on from all sides, so I am unhappy with his approach, and agree with Caroline that it would be better for him to authentically engage.

At which point we could fight like scorpions! Yeah!

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 19, 2005 03:09 PM

MJT,

Cigarettes and blindfolds all round, eh?

Excellent, nothing like a good hanging pour encourager les autres.

Hmm, if I made the list, may I have a few minutes to work on my 'Tis a far, far better thing I do...' speech? Generally it's a one time delivery and I'd like to be at my best.

Caroline,

"Is America's prosperity the direct cause of the 3rd world's poverty?"

How in the world could causation ever be proven? I know that an answer in the affirmative is part of a certain type of leftist/anarchist mantra but I've never seen anything approaching a logical explanation of cause/effect regarding the argument. Freight train loads of casuistry and sophistry but no verifiable statistics nor even proposed methodology that was in the least objective. There was a very good reason why Marx never even hinted at the features of a practical implementation of Marxism. It's a pity that today's faux Reds can't see the joke.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 19, 2005 03:10 PM

Rick : "There was a very good reason why Marx never even hinted at the features of a practical implementation of Marxism"

very good point. Also a good point re proving causation - which we see in the current debate re whether Bush's actions have in any sense "caused" the events in Lebanon.

Nevertheless - my sense of recent history is "real" enough as it were to at least endorse neo-neocon's recent metaphor of the donkey (or was it mule) making its slow way to its destination before the helicopter (Bush) picked the whole mule up and got it there tout suite (or something like that! - my apologies to neo-neocon for butchering her metaphor). So I feel fairly confident in saying that yes- Bush's Iraq policy had quite a bit to do with the current events unfolding in the ME.

So I think we have to be able to do a little better than that in refuting the Baran-Wallenstein thesis. And I say that only because I think until we do so - we will continue to face a really huge number of people - here in the US, in much of Europe and elsewhere - who buy into it - I assume largely on an emotional level (again I think the Kocher article best addresses this sort of diffuse emotional guilt). The fact of the matter seems to be that a very large number of people appear to believe that America is directly responsible for 3rd world poverty (loosely the Baran-Wallenstein thesis). I am starting to think that directly discrediting that thesis with facts is the best way to get people to stop taking the anti-American (and by extension anti-Israeli) side in this global war which will likely go on for several decades.

Only problem is - I don't have any idea re whether or not it's true. Or even roughly true or not. My knowledge of the actual facts of history and economics are simply not acute enough to refute it. I guess I was sort of vaguely hoping that someone else was more educated on this than I am. Apparently not even the author of the Opinion Journal article was up to the task - as he said it was too complicated to address. Perhaps that lets us all off the hook but it does little to dispel the emotional impact of the thesis and its very real world consequences.

Posted by: Caroline at March 19, 2005 04:11 PM

It apparently being a slow Saturday night, I will also note this excellent article, which also happens to cite the Baran- Wallerstein thesis:

Europe and the Post-Modern Left

A quote from the article:

"Finally, the Marxist wing was rejuvenated by and continues to derive energy from Immanuel Wallerstein's epic The Modern World-System (Wallerstein, 1974). In this work, Wallerstein significantly extended Paul Baran's idea that, while it is true that Capitalism eventually co-opted the workers within Capitalist societies, it did so only by shifting immiseration to the third world. That is, modern Capitalism succeeds only to the degree that it sucks wealth out of third-world societies. This is often called the Baran-Wallerstein revision. It lies at the heart of the "Neo-Marxist" school, sometimes called simply "Radical Political Economy." As with all of the lines of idealist thought descending from Rousseau, however, this thesis is less a rational investigation of global economics and more an attempt to preserve the ideological purity of Marxism. In this, the Post-Modern Marxists have descended into mere anti-Capitalist propaganda whose primary goal is to radicalize the young and the willing. The shame of this is that there are important critiques to be made of modern supra-national organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But, as long as the left affiliates with the Post-Moderns and their obviously deceptive propaganda, any attempt that they mount to reform these organizations is easily discredited."

Posted by: Caroline at March 19, 2005 04:36 PM

Caroline,

It would not matter one whit if it were proven to be untrue. Marxism is a religion with its Articles of Faith written in disappearing ink. Every generation of Marxists comes up with its very own schema for projecting how current conditions "prove" that the inevitable outcome is ever closer (although always over the horizon). The schema is always predicated upon the notion that disparity in income is always the result of "oppression" and that the "oppresors" must be economically reduced to some sort of mean in order for "justice" to prevail.

I found Kocher's analysis to be a difficult read due to his hyperbole. His description of those espousing Marxist sentiments was reasonably accurate in that none of those described could be considered productive in the sense that they actually possessed a skill set that went beyond manipulation of symbols. Not the types you would probably hire to actually build something.

Why do think the numbers involved are "huge"? Because the journo fellow travelers play them up? I believe that a good longitudinal study would show that the group in question is age specific with a need for constant replenishment. After all, one must be truly deficient in some sense to be able to ignore reality's constant muggings. That, or on a tenure track.

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 19, 2005 05:15 PM

Marxism is a religion with its Articles of Faith written in disappearing ink.

Hm, no. Marxism is a dying political philosophy and displays precisely the same characteristics as previous ones, such as Social Darwinism, Manifest Destiny, and the White Man's Burden.*

*despite its recent resurgence

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 19, 2005 05:59 PM

Rick - I definitely agree with you that Kocher is full of hyperbole and that makes him a difficult read. Your assessment that "none of those described could be considered productive in the sense that they actually possessed a skill set that went beyond manipulation of symbols" is also apropos. However, I think he does an excellent job of breaking down the distinction between reality (i.e. the types you would probably hire to actually build something) vs the emotional/guilt laden/utopian/socialist/non-reality based fantasy that leftists are so committed to (and he seems to actually be quite literally alarmed by the ascendance of this perspective on both the national and international levels). Without him actually stating it, however, it strikes me that much of the leftist delusion he is trying to refute is precisely the Baran-Wallerstein thesis. In other words, this diffuse, emotionally-laden conviction that America is directly responsible for 3rd world poverty that has become the central rallying conviction of an entire generation (both deomestically and abroad), whether they are familiar with Marxist theory or not.

"I believe that a good longitudinal study would show that the group in question is age specific with a need for constant replenishment."

I think there is some truth in that. Some data at least shows the younger American generation to be more conservative than their parents. However, there is also an enormous propoganda effort backing the thesis up and it is internationally widespread (after all, Kocher based much of his argument on the example of Kofi Annan). You seem fairly dismissive re the strength of that propoganda. While I might agree with you when you say "After all, one must be truly deficient in some sense to be able to ignore reality's constant muggings", I am not so certain that there aren't a whole lot of "truly deficient" folks out there that we need to worry about.

In other words - we need a whole lot LESS people in the world like Scheuer - who are even WILLING to entertain the notion that bin Laden has a genuine grievance. (How is that for bringing the thread back on topic!)

Posted by: Caroline at March 19, 2005 05:59 PM

Good grief I thought that Hayeck, Friedman, et al had long since put paid to Marx (not to mention history) and its bastard step children like BW's "That is, modern Capitalism succeeds only to the degree that it sucks wealth out of third-world societies. "

This is the old shibboleth that wealth is a zero sum game and belief in this is on the same level as belief in a flat-earth.

Just track the last 50 years of economic development and you can see the string of "miserable oppressed victims of capitalism" flow through Japan, Korea, Thailand, China, India etc.

What happens is those poor 3rd worlders compete in the labor market and undersell their competition (gee, just like Walmart) and get richer and more expensive until they move to the next rung on the ladder and the next poor miserable victim of capitalism repeats the process.

Do you really think that there's going to be one poor 3rd world country that is last on the list and can't improve?

All it takes for a poor miserable 3rd world country to start getting wealthy is the rule of law fairly and justly enforced, especially for private property and contracts. After that an individuals labor starts adding value and wealth that isn't stolen by the state.

And you'll never persuade the left about any of this because Communism in all its forms is the same as any utopian religion that is posited on the perfectability of man.

Posted by: AlanC at March 19, 2005 06:22 PM

Oh I forgot to mention that the reason that the easy path to riches doesn't happen more often and easier is that there are too many people that would rather be king of a sewer than just another member in heaven, aka power and greed.

Capitalism is the ultimate meritocracy and many people hate it because the fear that they can't cut the mustard. It's much easier to be a member of a self-proclaimed elite and lord it over the peasantry. The EU will give us the perfect example of what happens when that plays out over the next few years.

Posted by: AlanC at March 19, 2005 06:29 PM

AlanC - "And you'll never persuade the left about any of this because Communism in all its forms is the same as any utopian religion that is posited on the perfectability of man."

I guess being rather new to the world I still believed in the force of reason, which is why I spent several posts in a sort of Eureka! moment. As in Ah-HA! Now I think I see an explanation for all of this leftist insanity! It's ta-da!! - The Baran-Wallerstein thesis! Now if we can just prove the thesis wrong everyone will join in together to defend America (and Israel!), which is obviously a force for good more so than a force for evil in the world.

However, it seems I'm rather late to the party as usual - like I said earlier, usually the last one in on the office gossip. It seems everyone else was probably already familiar with this idea that obviously informs the likes of Chomsky and Ward Churchill and so on. And as AlanC and Rick point out - it's truth or falseness probably makes no difference whatsoever to those who for whatever reason just want to believe in it.

My apologies to anyone who followed me off into this misguided excursion..

Sigh...

Posted by: Caroline at March 19, 2005 06:48 PM

"That is, modern Capitalism succeeds only to the degree that it sucks wealth out of third-world societies."

This is a scarcity mentality that just doesn't hold up to history. Free markets generate new wealth. Government intervention mostly prevents the generation of new wealth. In 1999 John Stossel presented an interesting documentary, "Is America #1?," comparing prosperity and business creation in India, Hong Kong, and the US, which helps to show why Hong Kong and the US create wealth so much easier than India. Democracy movements in the Middle East are wonderful, but for these countries to really succeed they need to install a free market system to generate new wealth as well.

Here is a write-up from Stossel's documentary:

"Why is America so rich, while India is so poor? Stossel shows you thousands of bureaucratic forms which Indians fill out in the hopes of getting licenses to start a business, a process which takes years. Even the big boys have trouble: Stossel shows you the Indian Parliament which debated endlessly whether Coke and Pepsi should be allowed in the country. Large numbers of enterprising Indians gave up, emigrated to America, started businesses and helped create millions of jobs.

In Hong Kong--which has no natural resources, a population density is 20 times that of India and average income higher than Britain, Canada and Australia--Stossel shows you how easy it is to start a business: he just fills out one form, rents a booth in a mall, and presto! Stossel Enterprises is selling ABC frisbees!

Stossel shows you how European welfare states have throttled business enterprise, and he talks with French and German entrepreneurs who now thrive in America. He shows that while America has problems, other countries have worse problems, and even America's poor people typically have clean water, a roof over their head, a color TV, a microwave oven and a car. Stossel interviews new citizens who express great passion for economic liberty and the American dream."

Posted by: Brian at March 19, 2005 07:12 PM

The interesting thing to me is that folks like Bobby Kennedy would agree with much of this, but would then contend that "crony capitalism", or what I would call the CEO cartel, is the main obstacle to a fairer, freer world political economy.

Where would the illustrious professor De Long come in on all this, Kimmitt? Also, if Marxism is on the outs, why is he at the center of Ivy League curriculums?

BTW, I clicked your link - looks great, especialy the Galaga. Used to play that in coin-op! lol

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 19, 2005 07:27 PM

Caroline,

Fret not.

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
'T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demure,- you're straightaway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

- Emily Dickinson

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 19, 2005 07:32 PM

Caroline,

Don't apologize. Brian's comment is actually the rebuttal to the Baran-Wallenstein thesis. Chile's experience over the past 30 years is another (as is Peru's - although less impressive). The Czechlands and the Baltic states have been doing OK since the USSR's demise.

Hernando DeSoto's 'Mystery of Capitalism' provides further foundation to Stossel's thesis. You will eventually run into the problem that facts don't overcome faith but it is very handy to have a clear alternative to propose. A little factoid to hang onto is that the confiscation and redistribution of all US GDP above the world average would in fact raise the non US GDP by 20%. Of course, the US average would drop by 80% in doing so. I wonder how many American or European lefties would sign up for life on $7.5K per year.

It's just a silly, stupid and dangerous game. Our faux Reds would add white and blue in a heartbeat if they were ever faced with actually giving up 80% of their dough to achieve world "equality".

Posted by: Rick Ballard at March 19, 2005 07:45 PM

Our faux Reds would add white and blue in a heartbeat if they were ever faced with actually giving up 80% of their dough to achieve world "equality".

Yeah, but we'll send them off to labor in the fields and get "reeducated." There was a certain rough justice in the communist world where the early adherants and intellectual cheerleaders tended to end up dead.

Posted by: chuck at March 19, 2005 08:16 PM

Here's more on economic success and DeSoto's ideas from http://www.free-eco.org/articleDisplay.php?id=22

Excerpt:

Economic progress and social well-being depend primarily on two variables: people's character, i.e., their abilities and attitudes, and their social and political institutions. Differences in these factors largely explain differences in levels of economic progress. America's founders understood the importance of all these factors, especially institutions, when designing our Constitution.

A legal system that allows individuals clear rights to property is a key to success. Most individuals in developing countries "own" things, but have no legal or formal rights to them. Hence, long-term contracts can't be created or enforced; without contracts, credit can't be obtained; and lack of credit stifles entrepreneurship. This dramatically inhibits wealth creation.

In his book, "The Mystery of Capital," Peruvian Hernando de Soto explains how the growth of wealth requires property rights which can be exchanged. "It's about building capital or loans on property rights. What we've forgotten...is that the poor don't have property rights."

In America we've taken the notion of property rights for granted and forgotten what a profound and subtle role they play in a moral system
fostering prosperity. America's most grievous faults involve deprivation of these rights. Slaves, Native Americans, and the Japanese internees of WWII are obvious and compelling examples.

As we're seeing in the developing world, rights to private property play a fundamental role in advancing or retarding social progress. Here's how:

Clear, enforceable rights to property create solid expectations. And expectations guide decision making. The holder of property rights can transfer the fruits of her efforts to whomever she chooses. This reinforces the value of family as a social unit and increases the incentive of people to provide for future generations. If property rights are insecure, time horizons are dramatically shortened and long-term investment suffers.

Here is the key. Property rights enable individuals to use and exchange their resources as they see fit; but only as long as this use doesn't harm others. When they are well defined and enforced, property rights ensure peaceful competition, foster human rights, and protect from abuses of state power. When rights to property are insecure, all other rights are at risk.

In any economic system property rights strongly influence how individuals make decisions. Each society does in fact define, allocate, and protect property rights. Even Communists recognize them; they simply assign them all to the government. However, we've learned that without the basic social building block of private ownership, economic prosperity, human rights, and the environment suffer. As evident in so many Third World nations, graft and violent chaos grow in the absence of clearly enforced rights.

When people own their assets ­ their intellectual or physical capital and the product of their labor they will bear the consequences of their
behavior, both positive and negative. The erosion of private property rights erodes both personal responsibility and incentives to cooperate with others. This tendency to assume risk and responsibility is important for economic growth.

Posted by: Brian at March 19, 2005 08:34 PM

Also, if Marxism is on the outs, why is he at the center of Ivy League curriculums?

Because despite the fact that his policy prescriptions are always wrong, his analysis of the horrors of laissez-faire capitalist systems are extremely insightful?

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 19, 2005 10:23 PM

his analysis of the horrors of laissez-faire capitalist systems are extremely insightful?

Nah. Out of date, and Dickens did it better anyway. No, the promise of free love, simple minded economic arguments, and the rapture in its Communist guise, held a fatal fascination for intellectuals, most of whom were perfectly useless and produced nothing. I will make an exception for H. G. Wells, who wrote some good stories. Anyway, that and the romance of the October putsh, the civil war, the executions, made an ideology already showing it's age the up and coming thing.

The loss of WWII by its more glamorous competitors, Fascism and Nazism, also left few alternatives for the academics, who were thoroughly bored by a simple minded liberty that only benefitted the peons and failed to give the smarties the worship they felt entitled to.

Just so, The People's History of Marxism. Gosh, it's all so easy it's Zinnful.

Posted by: chuck at March 19, 2005 11:26 PM

Well, I spend one Saturday night out partying and this is what I come home to. Thanks a lot guys. Can't you take a break every now and then? I'm a little drunk right now, so I hope this comes out making sense.

Mr. Totten - as I've already stated, when I paraphrase or directly quote others, but am chastised because of a perceived bias while others are not, well, I'm not sure what to make of it. All I can say is that it doesn't speak very highly of your dedication to intellectual rigour or diversity. There are people who have literally accused roughly 50% of American voters, or about 60 million people, of supporting dictatorship and standing against freedom. You can tolerate this, but not people who are critical of that point of view? Have you really not yet made up your mind as to your party affiliation?

Caroline - I have to say that you are wrong to assume that just because I appear to be some sort of sarcastic liberal, parodying a conservative, that I would support the Baran-Wallenstein theory. In fact, in graduate school, I wrote a paper highly critical of a "theory" that fails to offer any prescription as to a course of action. Taken as a "theory" of international relations, it predicts that the powerful will exploit the weak. So...what should everyone do? Go on exploiting and getting exploited? I think I got an A- on that paper.

Dougf - in general, based on the various posts I've read of yours, I have come to the conclusion that you are a dick.

Ged - I thank you for your kind words, and believe that you hit the nail on its proverbial head. I have to, however, take issue with one of your earlier comments. In it, you said:
If you had a legitimate interest at heart, i.e. the truth, this blog, this country, you would find such irony anything but delicious. That you do indicates little but vanity on your part.
It is beyond my ability to conceive that "the truth", in a really ontological sense, and any blog or blogs can have anything to do with each other. It's just discourse. It's us sitting at our computers going "blah, blah blah..." If you think for a moment that any of this has any bearing on actualy lives, then I have to say that you are wrong. We can say however many times we want that we support freedom, but until we actually materially support freedom, then we're just typing. But I did say that I appreciated Ged's kind words, and the reason for that is that later, he said the following:
It got on PC's nerves too, and that's why he's been parodying it (not without skill) to try to shame the overzealous right into silence.
After hearing for the Nth time that liberals hate freedom!!!!! I stopped being able to take this blog seriously, along with all its commenters. That's not to say that most of you aren't very intelligent people with worthwhile things to say. It is, however, to say that I can't take it seriously when I hear it argued that 50% of Americans, a large number of American soldiers (and very large number of American officers), and roughly 90% of American civil servants actually love tyranny and want Bush to fail because they hate him and love dictators!!!!!

There is overblown rhetoric from both sides, and that's just the middle. The lunatic fringe? A jaunt through Indymedia or the DU makes me want to vomit. Ever tried Free Republic, where commenters argue that liberal judges deserve death, they actually deserve to be murdered because they disagree with conservatives ideologically? I'm sorry, if you feel that the "Left" as a whole is in tune with the radical right, then you haven't been paying enough attention to the "Right" as a whole lately. I believe that the preferred model is the Omega, where both ends of the spectrum approach each other because of their shared nature.

Come on, folks. People can hate Bush and still, shockingly, want democracy to flourish. In fact, they can want it to flourish so badly that they are willing to criticize Bush, even at the risk of being called traitors, because they think that Bush has made bad choices and that better choices could lead to a better outcome, one even more conducive to freedom. People can be critical of Israel without wanting Arab dictatorships to rule the world - I know this might be hard to accept, but being critical of X doesn't in anyway imply support for Y. To argue endlessly that because Y is worse, that X is above reproach - that because Arab dictatorships are really bad, that to criticize Bush or Israel is wrong - that sets a really freaking low bar. We can do better than that.

This was, I'm sure, very disjointed and not at all complete. I apologize, and would, if possible, like to expand by including the current discussion of Capitalism and its discontents. I must, however, pass out right now. Good night everyone!

Freedom!

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 19, 2005 11:46 PM

So-called Proud Conservative: There are people who have literally accused roughly 50% of American voters, or about 60 million people, of supporting dictatorship and standing against freedom. You can tolerate this, but not people who are critical of that point of view?

Actually, no, I've never agreed with people who accuse 50 percent of the country of supporting dictatorship and I frequently criticize them. My own wife is in that 50 percent.

I'm not singling you out for being critical of that ot any other point of view, I'm singling you out because you're being obnoxious about it. Stick around and argue on the merits or go somewhere else. Seriously. I'm not going to argue with you about it anymore. I'd much rather read something by a smart liberal than by a stupid conservative. Ask yourself which you'd rather be. So far you've been a stupid "conservative."

Just so we're clear, I give conservatives who pretend to be stupid liberals the exact same warning I'm giving you right now. This has nothing to do with you being a liberal and everything to do with the fact that you refuse to argue like an adult.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 19, 2005 11:54 PM

PC,

Ok, I don't see any prescription for the better way, so what grade should you get?

Anyway, the armed forces went about 70% for Bush, so that makes 30% a large number I suppose, and is it any surprise that the Civil servants went for the Democrats? Though I would like to see where the 90% came from, sounds more like an Ivy League college.

Posted by: chuck at March 19, 2005 11:55 PM

"It is beyond my ability to conceive that "the truth", in a really ontological sense, and any blog or blogs can have anything to do with each other. It's just discourse. It's us sitting at our computers going "blah, blah blah..." If you think for a moment that any of this has any bearing on actualy lives, then I have to say that you are wrong."

Such nihilism as this is anything but liberal. I suspect that you are more conservative than you know, by temperament, if nothing else. If you truly feel this way about the free and open discourse our country was founded in some measure to create a space for, well, your decision to participate in such discourse shows a shocking disregard for the value of your own time, and hence life. I hereby dissent from that valuation.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 20, 2005 05:25 AM

"It is beyond my ability to conceive that "the truth", in a really ontological sense, and any blog or blogs can have anything to do with each other."

On the other hand, thankfully our abilities in this life are not static, so welcome to the debate - hope you can gain as much from Caroline, Carlos, and Tom Grey, et. al. as I have from the likes of Kimmitt, Markus, Grant, and MJT.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 20, 2005 05:35 AM

I have to admit to some amusement in finding myself increasingly viewed as one of the resident conservatives. Maybe if (objectively) the shoe fits, I ought to just go ahead and wear it :-)

Brian – thank you for taking the time to address my questions. I read the link to de Soto and given that the title of the article is “The Mystery of Capitalism” – I have to conclude that it's underlying mechanisms are not well and widely understood, which perhaps explains to some extent why there would be a widespread assumption that it inherently involves oppression.

Chuck: “No, the promise of free love, simple minded economic arguments, and the rapture in its Communist guise, held a fatal fascination for intellectuals, most of whom were perfectly useless and produced nothing.”

Chuck’s comment reminds me of this (sorry-rather lengthy) passage from the Kocher article:

“Communism/socialism describes an envisioned condition of inspiring interaction between members of the human race idealized in theory and interpretation. Communism/socialism are seen through idealized theory believed in almost as a religion. The unpleasant truth beneath the illusion keeps seeping through to contradict the idealized theory. This is countered by redoubling both denial and ennobling masochistic sacrifice as the corrective element to address any failures or realization. The demand for increased sacrifice by those who believe in, and attempt to enforce, the delusion can impose substantial hardship upon other members of the community— at times to the point of being somewhat of a plague. The feel-good and escapist philosophy of helping the poor in person, or at pious personal sacrifice, seems preferable to expanding a system of economics that helps the poor in mass. What is asked for is a type of personal religious experience within the ennobling personal sacrificial or group sacrificial experience. It is almost hysterically grasped at by some people.

Free enterprise is an intrusional alternative to such sainthood and it's an intrusion into a person to person experience that is rather brusque. It leaves people in a condition of emotional abandonment. Starvation and impoverishment are to be eliminated only through idealized social effort and servitude, not through a culture or economic system emphasizing individual effort. The diffuse abstract catharsis of dedicated abstract love, and a sense of belonging, are more important than the actual relief from impoverishment. Given failure of social effort, or even inherent impossibility of its success due to displacement of, or absence or deficiency of individual effort, the failures of love-based socialistic systems are still looked upon as far more preferable to the successes of free enterprise type systems. Thus, the apparent contradiction of the acceptability of socialistic failure concurrent with obsessional criticism of free enterprise in spite of its massive overall successes, becomes resolved. Economic progress is neither the primary real issue nor goal. A system of belief and belonging is. The intensification of feeling of belief and belonging is one of several reasons why there is so much group political portrayal and participation in socialist/communist societies. Social hysterical herd catharsis, belonging, and feeling of abstract love are the principle, and desired, product. In many eyes a system that produces a feeling of belonging and abstract love is a triumph, even if it also produces poverty. Within the circularity of reasoning, poverty produces spiritual purification, anyway. It's in the book. The people involved are so emotionally repulsed by the self-interest and sense of abandonment in free enterprise that if free enterprise were adopted and would produce a family income of $30,000 a year for poor nations tomorrow morning, they would be distraught. “

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 06:18 AM

PC finally makes a post that isn't half obnoxious. Now change your nick.

Posted by: Carlos at March 20, 2005 08:43 AM

But Carlos, you've made a few posts that weren't half obnoxious, but you have yet to change yours'.

;-)

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 20, 2005 09:20 AM

"To argue endlessly that because Y is worse, that X is above reproach...that sets a really freaking low bar."

Come to think of it - her skirt was pretty darned short. I suppose one could say she sort of had it coming.

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 10:13 AM

Man, the only thing worse than drunk commenting is hungover commenting. Sorry about the spelling mistakes the other night.

Let's see, where to begin...

Mr. Totten - point taken. I'll behave. But I'd like to point out that if I'd been a little less balls-out crazy, just ever so slightly, I would have gotten a pass to say some pretty insane things.

Chuck - 90% was made up on the fly. I don't know the exact number, but I know it's a pretty overwhelming majority of civil servants. My point was that if it is actually true that liberals hate freedom and would rather see tyranny flourish than support Bush, then Bush would have a very difficult time contending with these people. These are big numbers - what would happen if 30% of the armed forces, and a relatively larger percentage of the officer corps, actively opposed the president? 50% of American voters, or about 60 million people? You wouldn't see political vitriol, you'd see civil war. Since I have yet to see civil war, I am forced to conclude that when someone says that liberals hate freedom!!!! then the speaker is either a) stupid, b) insane, or c) attempting to shape political discourse by painting liberals as traitors and effectively excluding them from the discourse.

Ged - that's not nihilism, that's reality. I don't feel that free and open discourse is meaningless; I think it's both a valuable means to an end and a valuable end in of itself (hence I write, and blah blah blah, because it's fun!). But to think, for even a second, that writing the ten billionth blog comment about how much you hate terrorism and of the Vital Need to Oppose Islamofascism is actually going to contribute, in any meaningful way to actually changing the world for the better, is pure fantasy. There's a reason why liberals deride conservative bloggers as the 101st Fighting Keyboarders - largely because they have taken up the mantle of the perfect post-modern warriors. All it will take, apparently, to win the war against tyranny is to write yet another blog post. Pissing into the wind.

That's one of the reasons I decided to make fun of you people, because blog triumphalism is, after all, pretty funny. Yes, just like Liberty Dad, I too dream of a world without dictators. By dreaming, and writing, about this desire, I have managed to help spread freedom...not at all. We could act, but we have instead chosen to talk. Discourse! Discourse will be the death of civilization, if nothing else is.

Carlos - make me.

Caroline - tricky tricky! But we're not talking about whether or not we should blame the victim here. What we're talking about is whether or not anyone should ever be above reproach for immoral acts, even if there are even more immoral acts being committed elsewhere. Yes, most Arab states are terrible dictatorships. North Korea's worse - how could we ever be critical of Saddam when Kim was even worse? Why, everyone who is critical of Arab dictatorships must be racist Arab haters! Or not. That's not about blaming the victim, that's about perspective. We can acknowledge that while Y is worse than X, X still isn't perfect and is therefore open to criticism that has the potential to make X closer to perfect. Didn't the founders of America call upon us to create an ever more perfect union? That's not going to happen if we accept everything that goes on here so long as there are enemies that are worse than us. Every time someone tries to argue that because the Palestinians continue to use terrorism, then all criticism of Israel is racist or politically motivated by liberals who hate freedom!!!! they are essentially trying to set the bar at the lowest common denominator. So long as we're not as bad as the terrorists, we can do whatever we want! As I said, a pretty low bar, one which I'd like to set higher.

Posted by: Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 10:35 AM

Haha, Carlos got his wish. I am so funny!

Something that is wrong with this country, in my ever-so-humble reckoning, is the dominance of conservatism in political discourse. To wit: liberals are told that if they want to be taken seriously, they must first condemn Michael Moore and Ward Churchill. Ward Churchill? No one knew who he was until conservative talking heads picked him up as a prop with which to bash liberals. More importantly, no one cared who he was until that happened. It's like being told that in order to be taken seriously, liberals must first condemn that drunken bum on the corner yelling about how Bush put a chip in his head.

But, of course, to be taken seriously, liberals must reject their nuts, while conservatives elect them to office. But the biggest "liberal" boogeyman of all was Marx. We're still talking about Marx as if he were an actual issue within political discourse of this country. No one is a Marxist because the political discourse throughout the entire world is so thoroughly dominated by capitalism that it is literally impossible to be a real Marxist. Tinpot leaders in the Third World can play at it, but that's all it is, play, and college professors can talk about it, but then, I've already told you what I think about "talk" without action.

Marx offered plenty of valid criticisms of capitalism (but then, so did Adam Smith, the Godfather of the free market). He also got lots of stuff wrong - hello, the labor theory of value? Some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo about value being created, magically, through labor. I've never been down with continental philosophy all that muc. Heidegger, Sartre, brilliant men but prone to flights of fantasy. Give me the Scottish Enlightenment any day. I heart David Hume!

But Marx, like Ward, is a strawman. Only a very small handful of international relations theorists ever even knew about Baran-Wallerstein until Lee Harris wrote that article in Policy Review. Now I'm being told that I should expose my true beliefs and defend Baran-Wallerstein. Huh?

It's just one more way of tying of the discourse. Sorry, we can't take you seriously until you reject Michael Moore! Now Ward Churchill! Now the crazy bum! Now Marx! Now an obscure academic theory! The list of things for us to reject before we can be taken seriously is, I'm sure, infinitely long.

Fine. I'll reject the pantheon of conservative stereotypes about liberals, but in return, I ask that conservatives reject the Washington Times and its owner, who has declared himself to be Jesus.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 10:50 AM

Sorry PC your new nick is too long for reference.

Your hangover must be impeding your eye-sight and memory. Haven't you seen all the "anti-war" protestors with their Soviet flags and Che posters? How about the fawning over Castro or the newest Marxist with his land "reform" Chavez?

Still think Marx is a strawman? Still think that communism isn't the, usually, unspoken dogma of choice for the LLL left?

Collectivism has been debunked so many times over the years that the only reason that I can come up with for its continued allure is that collectivism, aka communism, aka hard socialism, allows the effete intellectual elites to claim moral and societal superiority over those nasty, brutish peasants. And try to gain authority at second hand if they can find a sufficiently compliant thug to front for them.

It will always fail, though it is usually bloody. The people are neither dumb enough nor cowardly enough to buy it for long. Eventually you get to the state of the USSR where the operative economic model was "they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work."

Posted by: AlanC at March 20, 2005 11:26 AM

TCFKAPC -

Frankly – I would disagree with you that blogging is useless. I find it doubtful that Bush would have been reelected if there were no conservative blogosphere to counteract the patently pro-Kerry MSM. If Bush weren’t reelected I am not confident that we would still be in Iraq or that the elections would have happened on schedule or that we’d be seeing the current events unfolding in Lebanon.

Re the Baran-Wallenstein thesis – I have no doubt that very few people have heard of it. But I totally disagree that a large segment of the political left isn’t heavily influenced by its assumptions nonetheless. It’s basic assumptions actually explain a great deal of the left's underlying anti-Americanism.

“It's just one more way of tying of the discourse. Sorry, we can't take you seriously until you reject Michael Moore! Now Ward Churchill! Now the crazy bum! Now Marx! Now an obscure academic theory! The list of things for us to reject before we can be taken seriously is, I'm sure, infinitely long. “

Actually – I think most people would he happy to take you seriously as soon as you say something serious. Count me a little confused but have you actually SAID anything yet? I mean other than to say that talk is useless and that you find conservative stereotypes of liberals offensive?

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 11:40 AM

Oh - and I should add - I am genuinely interested in any evidence that would confirm the BW thesis. Then I might even be willing to grant that Chomsky or Ward Churchill might have a point. But my purpose in bringing it up to you wasn't meant to give you some litmus test you have to pass in order for me to take you seriously. I just put it out there as something you might want to substantively address. Believe it or not, I was genuinely interested in your substantive thoughts about it.

Also - FWIW - I consider myself a liberal.

Also - FWIW - I do view Israel as a victim.

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 12:01 PM

Come to think of it - her skirt was pretty darned short.

Please tell me that this is a sad rhetorical device and that you know the difference between assigning blame to multiple parties in complicated situations and blaming the victim.

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 20, 2005 01:04 PM

Yea - I did oversimplify it. It's more like - the girl in the short skirt got the guy into a headlock - and that's when you happened to walk in. Now it merely looks complicated.

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 01:35 PM

First of all, Israel cannot be a victim. Israelis can be victims, and Israelis can be criminals. We can be critical of those who do bad things without being critical of those who don't do bad things.

Secondly, the rape victim analogy just doesn't work. We can, for example, excuse her if she manages to get her assailant in a headlock, right? Could we also excuse her, because she has been attacked, for the murder of six other men, unrelated to her attack?

In other words, not every criticism of Israel, or the US, deals with those countries defending themselves. These people have a right to defend themselves, naturally. That does not mean that everything they do beyond defending themselves is above reproach. Criticising the Israeli political system for being beholden to extreme religious conservatives has nothing to do with Israel defending itself from terrorism.

But as I said, if we are to hold ourselves to higher standards than the people we are fighting, which I hope we do, then we cannot even allow our means of defense to be above reproach. We should not, and do not, condone genocide or indiscriminate nuclear warfare. We should do tolerate torture, either.

We can also criticise our leaders if we feel that they are not doing everything in their power, or in the correct way, to win. I don't think it is a "liberal" criticism to argue that American soldiers are dying needlessly because they lack armor for their vehicles. That is either, on the part of the government, an accidental oversight or malign neglect in the form of a cost-cutting method. Either way, I think that the administration deserves criticism for this and, hopefully, will change its policy for the better of our troops and our warfighting capability. I'm not quite sure how arguing that we should spend more money to keep more soldiers alive means that I support tyranny!!!! or that I'm blaming the victim.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 03:04 PM

I should proof-read these things before I post. That shouldn't be "We should do tolerate torture, either." It should be "We should not tolerate torture, either." I'm sure there are other mistakes, too. Sorry.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 03:07 PM

One of the reasons why Clinton's administration was bad for national security was not so much Clinton the man, but Clinton's lapdogs that he allowed to do whatever they wished in blowing away our national security.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 20, 2005 03:49 PM

The list of things for us to reject before we can be taken seriously is, I'm sure, infinitely long.

It certainly appears that way. How ever did you Dems get yourselves into that pickle?

Behold the natural and logical conclusion to Liberal rejection of absolutes and the embrace of all kinds of relativism and counter-culture insanity. But I understand how you can't criticize it because otherwise your coalition of chaos would fall apart. So you just ignore the elephant in the room, and you want us to ignore it as well.

Posted by: Carlos at March 20, 2005 04:14 PM

That long moniker: "We can, for example, excuse her if she manages to get her assailant in a headlock, right? Could we also excuse her, because she has been attacked, for the murder of six other men, unrelated to her attack?"

Actually , it's more like a gang rape. She's got one guy in a headlock and she's also got a gun. She's trying mighty hard to shoot the guys that are coming at her but she misses sometimes. Truth is - if they'd just call the whole gang rape off, everyone would just go home. But no such luck. We're all still watching the attempted gang rape in progress. No doubt, it looks pretty ugly at times, especially given that this is one tough woman who isn't going down without a fight.

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 04:31 PM

PC,

Look, no one has claimed that Israel is above reproach. I don't know where you're geting that, although it does give you a convenient strawman to knock down.

The argument is a simple one. Most of us learned in the second grade that if a bunch of bullies are picking on a friend of yours, you don't join in, no matter how much you might feel your friend deserves it or how much you think it might improve your relations with the bullies.

For one thing, the bullies will just think you're sucking up to them, so they'll probably start picking on you too; for antoher, that's not how a friend acts. That doesn't mean you don't give your friend the straight dope in private if he's being an ass - if you're afraid to do that, the friendship will suffer - you've just got to pick your spots.

When you do it ostentatiously in public, you should not be surprised when your friend's other friends start to question your motives.

As for your paean to the plight of the lonely liberal, here's some evidence to back up your claims:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A50246-2005Mar19.html?sub=AR

Unfortunately, a lot of your peers were raised in schools where the teachers were 90% democratic or left of democratic, went on to universities where the professors by and large considered mere democrats lily-livered and anyone in authority to the right of Tom Harkin was strangely silent, are stuck with newspapers that seem unaware of developments in political and economic philosophy post-1970, have to deal with people every day who overwhelming get what news they process via the networks, whose reporters went for Gore over Bush at a 9 to 1 rate, and try to escape all this at church, where our mainline preachers put all of the above to shame in a misguided attempt to get with the "contemporary" program.

Your conservative hegemony theories will be a hard sell among such folks, hate to break it to you.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 20, 2005 05:11 PM

"Because despite the fact that his policy prescriptions are always wrong, his analysis of the horrors of laissez-faire capitalist systems are extremely insightful?"

As laissez-faire capitalism has proven itself to be an unprecedented source of social mobility, it must indeed be horrible to those who wish to retain power via birth or intimidation, as opposed to ability or alacrity. Explains why Marxism is so popular with dictators and the administrators and recipients of Western trust funds. Good point.

Marx was right about the public ownership of the means of production. The vast majority of our econmy is now publicly held. Not sure CALPERS is quite what he had in mind, however.

;-)

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 20, 2005 05:18 PM

Ged of E: "The argument is a simple one. Most of us learned in the second grade that if a bunch of bullies are picking on a friend of yours, you don't join in, no matter how much you might feel your friend deserves it or how much you think it might improve your relations with the bullies."

Google a map of the ME. Look at the land mass of Israel compared to the rest of the ME. Actually look at it visually.

Google the population of Israel, compared to the population of the rest of the ME.

Approximately 1 million Arabs live in democratic Israel (out of a population of about 6 million Israeli's). How many Jews live in the the greater ME? How many Jews are to be permitted to live in the new Palestinian State? How many Christians even live safely in the ME? Check out barnabusfund.org to get the scoop on what is happening to minority Christian populations there.

How many aggressive wars have the Arabs launched against Israel since it was established in 1948?

Rather than me defend Israel - how about someone else defend the Arab/"Palestinian" POV (put in quotes because there are NO historically Palestinian people.)

Nah - I know bullies when I see them. I recognize a gang-rape in progress when I see it. It isn't really that complicated. I consider myself a liberal. The only thing I find shocking is that any so-called liberal seriously wants to defend the "Palestinian" POV on this one. (i.e to take bin Laden's grievances seriously). To imagine that this tiny tiny land mass and population - relative to the entire ME - is somehow responsible for all the woes of the Arab-Muslim world is utter bullshit. Sorry - ain't buying it. It's frankly amazing to me that anyone is.

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 06:26 PM

Caroline,

I understand the emotional pull of the rape victim analogy, but seriously, it doesn't work. I asked: "Could we also excuse her, because she has been attacked, for the murder of six other men, unrelated to her attack?" I guess the word "unrelated" must have been been missed. When I wrote that, I had in mind Aileen Wuornos, the prostitute who was raped once and so began murdering men who had nothing to do with her previous rape. The notion that victimhood excuses all bad behavior is, well, problematic.

But I guess we can play the game of imagining a woman who is being raped, has her assailant in a headlock, is armed with a gun, and is being attacked by a gang. What else can we add? Is there a clown in there?

But again, yes, Israel vs the Arab world, it really is a big gang-up, but the argument here has never been, as far as I can tell, "Israel has no right to defend herself", but rather "Israel, despite being attacked by terrorists, is not immune to all criticism".

Ged, it's not a strawman. When we hear from people commenting on this blog that liberals, by criticising Bush, hate freedom, or that liberals, by criticising Israel's less-than-stellar dedication to religious freedom are being racist Jew-haters, it stops being a strawman and becomes a reality.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 06:42 PM

"But I'd like to point out that if I'd been a little less balls-out crazy, just ever so slightly, I would have gotten a pass to say some pretty insane things."

Probably. But they would not have convinced anyone of anything nor made anyone think about anything in any meaningful way.

I am glad you decided to reacquaint yourself with being an adult though. It is much more fun when people actually try to be intelligent.

Gerry

Posted by: Gerry at March 20, 2005 07:02 PM

TCFKA Proud Conservative.

Stick around for a while. You're the best thing to happen to this blog in several weeks.

Give 'em hell, and non illigitimi carborundum, Tuck-Fucka.

Posted by: VinoVeritas at March 20, 2005 07:02 PM

"To wit: liberals are told that if they want to be taken seriously, they must first condemn Michael Moore and Ward Churchill. Ward Churchill?"

Let me give you something to ponder about why this is so.

Let me suggest the name of Fred Phelps.

If a liberal demands that I condemn Fred Phelps, I do so gladly. The guy is a disgrace and I find his views and actions repugnant.

Yet many on the left have a real hard time with saying that they find Ward Churchill and his views to be repugnant.

And Michael Moore? He is not some no-name like Churchill. His views are pretty much mainstream with a tremendous portion of the grassroots of the American left. Which is part of the problem, isn't it? You would like to say "why do I have to repudiate everyone you try to say represents my side of the aisle", but the fact is that Michael Moore does represent a rather large percentage of the left side of the aisle.

If you doubt that, just spend some time over on DU. Or check out the box office reciepts for Fahrenheit 911.

Gerry

Posted by: Gerry at March 20, 2005 07:08 PM

PC - I must say it is quite refreshing to see you just come out there as yourself - Can we dispense with the "Commenter formerly known as"? -because
after all - the PC just might prove apropos in the end despite the irony :-)

Re Aileen Wuornos
- I did see the movie and thought that Charlize Theron quite deserved the Oscar (no doubt she was trying to compete with Hillary Swank's performance in Boy's Don't Cry).

"The notion that victimhood excuses all bad behavior is, well, problematic."

OK - but there is a difference between a one time victim who later goes berserk vs an ongoing victim who is realistically confronting actual currently existing aggressors.

"but the argument here has never been, as far as I can tell, "Israel has no right to defend herself", but rather "Israel, despite being attacked by terrorists, is not immune to all criticism".

OK. I suppose noone is immune to criticism. It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me that Israel appears to be the target of so much of it - relative to the real aggressors, especially amongst self-described liberals. That's all. Perhaps we don't really disagree so much after all. It's just a matter of degree and emphasis.

Posted by: Caroline at March 20, 2005 07:20 PM

Gerry,

As far as cognitive biases go, selection bias is the greatest! Yes, DU sucks. So does Free Republic. Michael Moore makes lots of money. So does drug abusing, "it's just like fraternatity hazing!", race baiting Rush Limbaugh. Way to ignore your side's crazies! No one should have to disavow crazy extremists who might have some vague ideological connection to them before they can be taken seriously. People should be judged on the merits of their arguments, not whether some crazy bum on a street corner thinks Bush or Kerry is really an alien who wants to eat brains.

Every time I'm told to disavow Michael Moore, I think, why? I wasn't paying any attention to him before. You don't run around trying to argue with the crazy bum on the street corner. You ignore him and hope he goes away. The more attention you pay him, the worse things get. Ward Churchill was so fringe that no one knew who he was. If we have to start disavowing every crazy person who might in some tangential way agree with us, that's all we'll ever have time to do.

And since conservatives tend to elect their nutjobs to high office, I doubt we're going to see conservatives disavowing theirs any time soon.

VinoVeritas, thank you for your very kind, if slightly odd, words of support.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 07:36 PM

Caroline,

Fair enough. Though I'm not sure why you keep trying to link me to political correctness. Have I said anything even remotely "politically correct" or demonstrated an adherence to that particular ideology? Or do you just assume that someone such as myself, a proud conservative reformed into a vitriolic liberal, would adhere to political correctness?

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 07:42 PM

formerly PC,

I don't see you as PC. I do see you as infected with a misplaced faith in the brilliance of irony. As to Ward, he is a disturbing symptom. CU is not some weird cult university. The fact that such a completely fraudulent individual could obtain tenure after 11 months is an indication of something seriously wrong in higher education. Nor do I think Ward is an isolated case, although perhaps one of the most egregious.

However, now that we know that you are not opposed to liberty and resent being so categorized, we are all waiting for you to go one more step and say that you favor it. That you love it deeply and are committed to its promotion. I don't think you have said this yet.

Posted by: chuck at March 20, 2005 07:57 PM

Criticize this:

Woman leads Muslim prayer service in N.Y. despite criticism in the Middle East -- despite sharp criticism from Muslim religious leaders in the Middle East who complained that it violated centuries of tradition.

http://www.cp.org/english/online/full/family/050318/U031824AU.html

Never mind. It's all about Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at March 20, 2005 08:11 PM

Chuck,

I don't love irony, I am simply bowled over by it most of the time. It reminds me just how absurd existence really is.

So what do I get if I declare my love for freedom? Do I get to join your super-secret freedom warrior club? Do I get a decoder ring?

Again, here's the notion that words are the most important thing. Discourse, discourse, discourse. Let's talk some more about freedom, because that actually amounts to something, you know?

Carlos - um? I'm not quite sure I get your point. This is what I talk about when I say "balls-out insane", because honestly, what rational connection is there between saying that Israel, like everyone else, is not above reproach, and saying that it's all about Israel? Cough cough strawman cough cough.

Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 20, 2005 08:17 PM

His views are pretty much mainstream with a tremendous portion of the grassroots of the American left.

Depends on the view. Some of his stuff -- President Bush is a brutal, lying asshole -- is pretty well accepted, while other parts of it -- it's okay to be deceptive in the service of really good agitprop -- is really not.

Posted by: Kimmitt at March 20, 2005 08:41 PM

because honestly, what rational connection is there between saying that Israel, like everyone else, is not above reproach, and saying that it's all about Israel? Cough cough strawman cough cough.

Proud,

far from being a strawman, it's a perfect example of the Left's willful myopia that I'm talking about. The problems that exist in the Middle East beyond the borders of tiny Israel are far more endemic in reach and scope, yet it's still all about Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at March 20, 2005 09:01 PM

and ps., are the Lib multi-cultis going to come out in this courageous muslim woman's defense? Probably not. Asking the little brown folk to conform to our western standards of behaviour is racist and imperialist, but not when it applies to Israel.

Posted by: Carlos at March 20, 2005 09:04 PM

The problem as I see it:

A. Everyone (left, right, Israel, Palestine) thinks they are a persecuted minority.

B. Persecuted minorities are cut a lot of slack, especially by themselves.

I suspect A and B are not unrelated. It's ok for me to cut corners, demonize the hell out of whoever the fuck I want to, be a total ass, blow myself up in crowded discos, whatever, because, you know, the conservatives do it, or because all the elite libs are traitors, or becasue the Israelis stole grandpa's land, or becasue those Palestinians keep blowing themselves up in discos, blah, blah, blah.

I'm not a big fan of moral equivalence, but until we do something about B. above, it won't much matter.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 20, 2005 09:18 PM

formerly PC,

No decoder ring for you. I didn't think you could say it ;)

Posted by: chuck at March 20, 2005 10:42 PM

Quote: Michael Moore makes lots of money. So does drug abusing, "it's just like fraternatity hazing!", race baiting Rush Limbaugh. Way to ignore your side's crazies!

It's extremely telling that you pile on the adjectives when dealing with the conservative propagandist while saying nothing specific about Micheal Moore. I can't claim to know your personal beliefs but it does seem to betray a certain level of comfort with leftist political extremism, rather than your supposed aversion to both political fringes.

Quote:
Every time I'm told to disavow Michael Moore, I think, why? I wasn't paying any attention to him before.

Assuming you're telling the truth, that means you're ignoring an activist who is responsible for influencing a large segment of one of the two main political parties in the United States. Does this make you more or less qualified to comment on contemporary politics?

Quote:
You ignore him and hope he goes away. The more attention you pay him, the worse things get. Ward Churchill was so fringe that no one knew who he was. If we have to start disavowing every crazy person who might in some tangential way agree with us, that's all we'll ever have time to do.

Explain how ignoring Churchill & co. will help to improve higher education in this country. Do you really believe that he and likeminded professors have no effect on young people, or do you just not care?

Quote:

...conservatives tend to elect their nutjobs to high office...

As opposed to Democrats? The current chair of the DNC recently denounced Republicans as "evil" and "braindead". This same individual was nearly nominated as the party's candidate in 2004. Writing off about 51% of the U.S. population as evil is precisely the kind of extremism you claim to dislike; however, when you are called on to criticize it you make specious appeals to "action" as opposed to talk/blogging and juvenile jokes about decoder rings, etc. If talk is so unimportant then don't post here. All in all, your selective outrage is apparently a symptom of a deteriorating political climate, rather than a principled reaction to it.

Posted by: Samsung at March 21, 2005 01:42 AM

You're right, Chuck. I can't bring myself to say it. I hate Bush so much that I can't even say the words

Actually, I am of the opinion that if you approached a random American on the street and said "I doubt that you support freedom. If you do not say the words 'I support freedom and hate tyranny', I will assume that you do, in fact, hate freedom and love tyranny", that person would probably punch you in the face.

So I wonder what would happen if you actually approached a group of people, liberal, conservative, whatever, who were actually working in the government, the military, or the private sector to promote freedom around the world. You would show up in your hand-sewn costume, with your tinfoil decoder ring, and say "Hey guys! Can I join your Freedom Club? I even know the secret answer to the top secret question*!"

And they'd say "What have you done to actually promote freedom around the world?"

And you'd have to answer "I wrote this awesome comment on a blog totally exposing a liberal for the freedom-hating jerk that he is, and I wrote a couple of blog posts about how much I hate dictatorships and think that we must support Bush or else Lebanon will never be free, and..."

And that's when they would burst out laughing, and slam the door in your face, at which point you'd see the big sign that says "No Poseurs Allowed!"

Man, it was the Justice League all over again...

  • Question: Of what does freedom consist?
    Answer: Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy!
Posted by: The Commenter Formerly Known As Proud Conservative at March 21, 2005 05:22 AM

re: Shaming

Caroline,

Thanks for the Kostler link. I just started it, but I think it is going to the place I was originally interested in - academia as a dupe tricked into attacking its own base culture.

Ged,

"My (very tentative) theory is that the pressure is too much, and a scapegoat is sought out that plausibly can be labeled as "self", so it still feels like the required self-reflection, while sparing the true self the crushing guilt that would ensue (given the lack of release/atonement mechanism). So "America/Western Culture" can be mercilessly (literally) denigrated, without the referrent of the denigration including the inquisitor, despite their American/Western citizenship, as they could also be considered part of the solution, not the problem."

I feel like Hailey's comet, only able to post every century or so compared to the others on this site, but I'll take a swing.

Social groups often need to distinguish an 'other' that aids the cohesion of the group. Could it be that academia has for some 40+ years played the rather neat trick of labeling our own culture and heritage as the other for said denigration? The motivations are too complex to deal with now, but while religious social sculptors may have invented the mechanism, secular humanism (which may be religion for all I know) has wielded it very successfully IMO.

My hypothesis is that if people are filled with self-doubt because of endless focus on our society's ills (treatment of the Indians, blacks, etc.), then they will be less able to form political groups that act in their own self-interest. They will be apathetic, collectively that culture will wither and another can supplant it.

I'm in the process of reading AJ Toynbee, and his point that civilizations rarely fall to external challenges, that they tend to fail from within seems appropos here.

Posted by: jdwill at March 21, 2005 10:56 AM

"My hypothesis is that if people are filled with self-doubt because of endless focus on our society's ills (treatment of the Indians, blacks, etc.), then they will be less able to form political groups that act in their own self-interest. They will be apathetic, collectively that culture will wither and another can supplant it."

Yes, better apathetic than pathetic.

The dynamic is analogous to an abusive husband consistently belittling his wife, or an abusive boss his subordinates as a control mechanism. It seems counterintuitive that this behavior would have emerged at the same time the universities have become more meritocratic.

And yet this particular meritocracy is drawn from those at the top of the various social heaps distributed throughout the country. Were they still distributed, their dominance behavior could be deflected from subordinates in each heap toward other heaps. Gathering all the dominants together has seemingly facilitated their collusion.

Thankfully, this is not the only dynamic in play, and there is always hope that the new scholasticism will meet the fate of the old.

Posted by: Ged's Ghost at March 21, 2005 06:22 PM

The talent of turning men into ridicule, and exposing to laughter those one converses with, is the gratification of little minds and ungenerous tempers. A young man with this cast of mind cuts himself off from all manner of improvement.

- Joseph Addison

Or, more interestingly:

Ridicule in the weapon most feared by enthusiasts of every description; from its predominance over such minds it often checks what is absurd, but fully as often smothers that which is noble.

- Walter Scott

And I will spare you the trouble of your next post. Yes, guilty as charged.

Posted by: Ged's Ghost at March 21, 2005 06:33 PM

Former PC, I can agree with you so far as criticizing those who just make the blanket statement that "liberals hate freedom" is concerned, and that it is not appropriate to assume someone is anti-American because they criticize the Bush administration. But there are degrees here: I see plenty of liberal commentary that can only be described as the most vile anti-Americanism (and you seem to brush off the examples of Moore and Churchill in a fairly cavalier fashion), and it seems blindingly obvious that the Bush hatred in some circles has reached pathological levels. Go on, try and have even an oputspoken moderate and nuanced position on Bush's performance in some circles.
Obviously you are aware of some of this (you mentioned your nausea with DU and Indymedia). But you 'moral equivalence' arguement -- that the right has just as offensive characters who escape criticism -- is off base, I think, at least to a degree. It is clear that the Rockwell conservatives, for instance, are pretty far out of the mainstram, and it is really quite telling that they are finding as many on the far left buying their books as anyone else. Rush Limbaugh is certainly an oversimplifying populist buffoon, but cuts nowhere near the slimy and malevolent figure that Moore now does: excusing and minimizing brutality in a time of war does not rank up there with comparing terrorists to minutemen, at least in my book. IN fact, the right has a long history of purging itself of its less desirable elements: the John Birch Society in the early 60's, the Randeans (obviously not anything like as offensive, but work w me here), the Paleocons, and the worst of the religious extremists like Phelps (not that he was ever really a part). I think the left is incapable of such discrimination, which is why you see International ANSWER organizing its protests -- and why the left is still soft on terror and growing incresingly (albeit more loudly) irrelevant.

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