June 27, 2005

Life in the Bubble

The more time you spend in a rarefied office, be it an office at a university, a newspaper, a government bureau, or even a bank, the more likely you are to become like Andrew Jaspan.

Jaspan is the editor-in-chief at Melbourne’s The Age. Seems he was a bit offended when his fellow Australian Douglas Wood said the guys who kidnapped him in Iraq are “assholes.”
I was, I have to say, shocked by Douglas Wood's use of the a---hole word, if I can put it like that, which I just thought was coarse and very ill-thought through and I think demeans the man and is one of the reasons why people are slightly sceptical of his motives and everything else.

The issue really is largely, speaking as I understand it, he was treated well there. He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive.

Apparently, people can succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome from half a world away these days. Wood’s kidnappers kicked him in the head, tied him up blindfolded for 47 days, and murdered two other captives in front of him.

There are concrete steps you can take to avoid becoming like Andrew Jaspan. Get out of the office. Visit a third-world country – Cancun in Mexico doesn’t count. Work on a shrimp boat. Join the military. Become a journalist embedded with the military in a war zone. Become a cop. Go on “ride alongs” with cops – if you’re a writer, as Jaspan is, they will let you. Work in construction for a couple of months. Next time you go to Europe, visit Bosnia instead of France. If you do spend your life in a rarefied office (and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that all by itself) read books written by people who don’t spend their lives in rarefied offices.

Those are just some suggestions. I’m sure there are plenty of other activities that might do the trick just as well. (Hat tip: Dr. Frank.)

UPDATE: Callimachus makes a similar point in a different way.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2005 07:01 PM
Comments

Michael,

All of the activities you mentioned are good possibilities. But before he partakes in any of these, Mr. Jasper must extricate his head from his posterior.

Posted by: sammy small at June 27, 2005 07:18 PM

I had to read this several times, and check the link, to make sure it was not some sort of joke. Life imitates art; it reads like something out of the Onion. But alas, it appears to be all too true.

The strangest part was my idea that this guy Jaspan is an Australian. Couldn't be, I thought--and it turns out that that is correct. He is actually English, according to the link.

Here's a bit more on Mr. Jaspan, a few years back:

A PEEK inside the Sunday Herald's conference room confirms Andrew Jaspan as an eccentric. Giving me a guided tour of the awards that line its walls, he's like a proud father showing a stranger the achievements of his offspring. The presence of three clocks (one each for London, Glasgow and Edinburgh) adds another touch of surrealism, especially when none of them is working.

It's an appropriate retreat for one of Scotland's finest editors. A 5ft 4in dynamo, he brims with energy, ideas and mischief. He is known for being considerate, often making staff feel part of a team by throwing parties and taking them away for weekend breaks...

But this is awfully interesting--from the same article--according to a columnist who knew Jaspan in Scotland, Terry Murden:

I recall one meeting with Jaspan when he described a critical profile of him in The Sunday Times Scotland as a ''shitty piece of journalism''.

Oh dear oh dear, Mr. Jaspan--such language! But of course I would imagine those profiling him in The Sunday Times Scotland were a lot crueler than Douglas Wood's kidnappers.

Posted by: neo-neocon at June 27, 2005 07:20 PM

I was gonna say - wow - that was a jawdropper, cause I saw it somewhere today and it took me a minute to recall where, until I recalled that it was at LGF so I scrolled back through there to find it and lo and behold, I discovered that the post was aptly titled - what else? - "Jawdropper of the Day"!

But then, I discovered that my jaw still had some flexibility left cause it managed to drop even lower (probably due to the sheer shock of the juxtaposition with the earlier "Jaw Dropper of the Day") when I read this subsequent link at LGF about Gitmo (via fontpagemag):

What I Saw at Gitmo

And so, to make a long story short, I think my jaw is actually dislocated now (a TMJ sort of thing, hopefully temporary) but I did manage to squeeze in an 8 am dentist consultation for the morning so I think it's probably, well hopefully, all gonna be OK. And, you know, thanks for asking.

Posted by: Caroline at June 27, 2005 07:42 PM

Yeah, that was pretty unbelievable. "Sceptical of his motives" and "He says he was fed every day, and as such to turn around and use that kind of language I think is just insensitive." together really says "I have absolutely no sense of perspective, and little grasp of reality."

Some people are incredibly sheltered.

Posted by: TallDave at June 27, 2005 07:48 PM

You can listen to it here. It is a ways in. What makes it surreal is the public radio voices, oh so genteel, that the nuttiness almost slips by.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 07:52 PM

Can we call the Left terror-loving symps now? I wouldn't want to be guilty of any grade-school simplisme.

Posted by: spaniard at June 27, 2005 08:07 PM

Are we putting this sheer stupidity down to 'excessive sheltering' now? Mr.Woods also annoyed the hell out of the cretins in the Australian left by publicly thanking the US and Iraqi troops for rescuing him, and by apologising for making a video asking Australia to withdraw from Iraq.

Let's be honest here. I have done NONE of the things that MJT advises as a possible cure for what ails not only Jaspan but on fair reading, most of the other geniuses at the Age . And yet were I to even contemplate saying anything as clueless and morally bankrupt as this, I would seriously consider seeking treatment at the earlist opportunity. Assuming of course that I still remembered how to use a phone and tie my shoes at the time.

This comment was surely not indicative of the hazards of working in a 'rarefied' office. It was indicative of complete lack of real intellegence ,and possibly a profound emotional disorder ,aided and abetted by a world view that candidly borders upon obscene.

Can we look forward now to Mr. Jaspan being removed from his position at the Age, on the basis of simply being too clueless to continue? Or will he simply go on to spread further distortions of reality to the easily confused, after recieving condolences from his colleagues on the unfair attacks made by the VRWC on his 'nuanced' position ?

Hmmm, tough call.

Posted by: dougf at June 27, 2005 08:15 PM

So why should we Americans give a shit what some POM editor of a fringe Australian newspaper thinks? Why once again is an eccentric whose views are far to the left of Michael Moore supposed to somehow teach us anything? Obviously rarefied offices are not the issue - Milton Friedman hardly seems to have lost his reason and I could cite hundreds of other counter examples. The so-called cure is also ridiculous - thousands and thousands of leftists have spent years living and working in third world countries. The most sincerely anti-American Americans I know are all people who have spent considerable time in Latin America.

Posted by: vanya at June 27, 2005 09:08 PM

The most sincerely anti-American Americans I know are all people who have spent considerable time in Latin America.

Vanya,

you mean these fabled anti-American Americans actually exist and they're not just a paranoid figment of our rightwing imagination? Next thing you'll tell me is they keep unicorns as pets.

Posted by: spaniard at June 27, 2005 09:17 PM

Yeah, amazing, isn't it? Perhaps it's because I spent part of the day debating over the Barak Obama "Lincoln" column, but the Jaspan comment made me think about an anecdote from the slavery days in the U.S. It exists in several forms, but the gist of it is the same: An runaway slave is recaptured in Kentucky and brought before a judge, who asks him if he had been mistreated.

"No, massa was very kind to me. Went hunting and fishing together."

The judge asks if he had sufficient housing.

"Yes, the missus and me had our own little cabin, very cozy."

He asks him if he was well-fed. The slave says yes and lists all the good things he had to eat.

"Then why did you run away from such a pleasant life?" The judge finally asks.

"Well, judge," the slave replies, "I understand the position is still open if you'd like to apply for it."

And I wonder what Mr. Jaspan thinks about the treatment served up in Guantanamo. I feel like, somehow, I already know.

Thanks for the link, by the way.

Posted by: Callimachus at June 27, 2005 09:25 PM

Vanya: The so-called cure is also ridiculous - thousands and thousands of leftists have spent years living and working in third world countries.

I didn't suggest visiting the third-world in order to make a person "right-wing." I suggested it because the third-world is outside the bubble.

Jello Biafra is the leftist lead-singer for the Dead Kennedy's. He knows what I'm talking about. Here are some lyrics.

---------------------

"Holiday In Cambodia"

So you been to school for a year or two
And you know you've seen it all
In daddy's car thinkin' you'll go far
Back east your type don't crawl
Play ethnicky jazz to parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin that you know how the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul

It's time to taste what you most fear
Right Guard will not help you here
Brace yourself, my dear

It's a holiday in Cambodia
It's tough kid, but it's life
It's a holiday in Cambodia
Don't forget to pack a wife

Your a star-belly sneech you suck like a leech
You want everyone to act like you
Kiss ass while you bitch so you can get rich
But your boss gets richer on you
Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back
For a bowl of rice a day
Slave for soldiers til you starve
Then your head skewered on a stake
Now you can go where people are one
Now you can go where they get things done
What you need my son:

Is a holiday in Cambodia
Where people dress in black
A holiday in Cambodia
Where you'll kiss ass or crack

Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot, Pol Pot

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2005 09:41 PM

I'm not sure if this is appropriate or not, but frankly I support our government's seeking out and frequently having discussions with the terrorists in Iraq.

Posted by: joshgibson at June 27, 2005 09:48 PM

Josh Gibson: I'm not sure if this is appropriate or not, but frankly I support our government's seeking out and frequently having discussions with the terrorists in Iraq.

I do, too, as long as they are Iraqis and not Al Qaeda. At some point the Sunnis need to get on board with the process. As soon as they do, everything between us and them will be cool. All wars end. If talking helps them give it up faster, that's great.

Zarqawi, though, needs to be shot.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 27, 2005 09:59 PM

This may be a stupid comment but about two weeks ago the cable news channels decided that the war in Iraq was lost. Of the 5-9 people I know serving in country pulling triggers (5-9 at any given time) thought that this was a war that could not be lost. Anyway, about two weeks ago everyone started talking about the Sunnis coming to the table and a week later the war was a Kennedy Quaq (remember late Jan.) The U.S. is engaged in talks with the insurgents, I doubt it. They are talking leaders in communities an working out problems.

I don't think the recent poll numbers on the war are serious. More of the same bullshit: 100,000 dead civilians, nobody will vote in the jan. election because of occupation, global wind blowing depleted uranium onto the states giving your babies cancer, soldiers and marines are working class victims, if you vote republican you have to enlist...

Posted by: Mike#3or4 at June 27, 2005 10:20 PM

Michael,

Thanks for posting the Dead Kennedys' tune. I saw them two nights in a row in Chicago back in 1982. The band live was really tight, which didn't come out on the albums. Anyway, they were damn fun shows and I took a few tumbles while slam-dancing. Oh, the sweetness -- and sweatness -- of youth!

*

Posted by: Jeffrey -- New York at June 27, 2005 10:42 PM

"Go on “ride alongs” with cops – if you’re a writer, as Jaspan is, they will let you."

Some cities have programs where civilians can learn about how the police function, which include ridealongs. I took the 8-wk "Citizen Police Academy" course in Austin when I lived there. It was free, open to any resident without a criminal record, offered 4-5 times a year, there was a 6-mo. waiting list, and it was fascinating. We got to meet the canine corp, help with traffic stop roleplays for cadets, learn how 911 calls work, and many other things.

Posted by: Yehudit at June 27, 2005 10:47 PM

why is the utterly idiotic idea that as long as captors feed their captives, then they are above criticism, suddenly appearing on opposite sides of the world and political spectrum at once?

it has not so much to do with life inside the bubble as other things, I believe--reporters spend less time in the office than a lot of other people, and most editors were reporters once. Clueless is clueless, there's no surefire cure.

Posted by: Katherine at June 27, 2005 10:47 PM

PS and you meet the ordinary working citizens of a town in these programs, because elitist posers don't sign up for them.

Posted by: Yehudit at June 27, 2005 10:49 PM

why is the utterly idiotic idea that as long as captors feed their captives, then they are above criticism

Douglas Wood was also beaten, kept blindfolded, was present for two executions, and the two Iraqis who were helping him were led away and executed. Five bodies were discovered at the site, including one woman. I think Jaspan suffers from another common journalistic malady: he is ignorant, uninformed, and clueless.

Posted by: chuck at June 27, 2005 11:00 PM

If you get Best of Web today, you can read on the Rove flap.
Leftists, called liberals, are in favor of weakness, not treason.

End the war by surrender; let death squads rule; and hear no more about torture (since newsfolk would be targets, not spectators -- CNN under Saddam).

Michael, thanks for the DK lyrics; as I whisper-hissed them my wife woke up though. (No Karaoke version.) First time I saw them they fronted for the Clash, but only Jello jumped into crowd to be caught, nearly stripped.

Now it's 1984,
Knock knockin' on your front door.
It's the squede dennim secret police.
They have come for your uncool neice!

California uber alles.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at June 28, 2005 12:26 AM

MJT,

Something about the Dead Kennedy lyrics bugs me. The POV sounds holier than thou and the language takes the horror of the subject and cheapens it with its own crassness. I am suspicious of Quentin Tarantino-like near glorification of 'the shit'.

Here is, I think, a
better poem

I hope to travel to Central America soon and with the aid of my Nicaraguan born wife, meet and talk to people outside of the 'bubble'. I expect to find, as I have found in my travels before, that most are just folks like we are.

As to people like Jaspan, the bubble is the politically correct one at the college where he was indoctrinated, most likely. It is in his mind and he will seemingly grasp for any straw to push away the reality of Iraq that counterposes his dogma. You know, the greedy arrogant white subjugation of the gentle brown victim.

This article gets it:

But we know what Wood's real offence is, don't we?

Yes, he did not do as did SBS journalist and Left hero John Martinkus after his own brief captivity and declare his kidnappers were "not savages", and say Iraq was "on the road to s---".

INSTEAD, he roared "God bless America" and praised the US-trained Iraqi soldiers -- Iraq's real freedom fighters -- who saved him, saying he was "proof positive that the current policies of the American and Australian governments is the right one".
Posted by: jdwill at June 28, 2005 03:58 AM

The presence of three clocks (one each for London, Glasgow and Edinburgh)
Why does he keep three clocks in the same timezone?

Wonder what he would make of this.

Posted by: Rune from Oslo Norway at June 28, 2005 06:45 AM

MJT wrote:
Apparently, people can succumb to the Stockholm Syndrome from half a world away these days.

Exactly - there is a lot of remotely acting, mass Stockholm syndrome. On 9/11 terrorists terrorised. The terror was spread by TV live and at the speed of light. Stockholm syndrome doesn't just take place in a foetid room where captives are held - it takes place in any room with a TV. If 9/11 or the latest pictures of mayhem in Iraq frighten you - and they frighten me - one option is to identify with the terrorists and seek not to offend them. Become blind to Woods being kicked in the head and people killed in front of him. Be "sensitive" to the captors and certainly don't call them the 'a' word. The tactics of Stockholm syndrome are basically simple. Survive by identifying with and supporting the cause of those who threaten you - and be scrupulous about not saying anything to offend or attract negative attention as well as silence anyone who does want to openly resist. Fighting the jihadis is a 'recruiting poster for Al Qaeda'. Bush is a cowboy or Hitler. The resistance 'minutemen'. That's why the millions of people who feel like Jaspan can so nakedly identify with the jihadis, get upset if you point it out, and feel very sincerely that they are opposed to terrorism. They are not being consciously hypocritical in my opinion because they are too scared and feel too powerless to face their fear. They do displace their fear onto Bush who is actually less scary. Right now my friends with this mentality are sending me 'proof' that Bush is about to invade Iran. Never mind he doesn't have an army to do it - it is less scary to believe Bush is the one out of control rather than the folks who are. Hence Gitmo=HitlerGulagPolPot - Woods=well treated. I agree there is a lot of naivete as MJT argues involved too - reality therapy, I noticed, worked for most of the 'human shields who went to Baghdad in 2003. But naivete by itself doesn't explain the 'jawdropping' denial - the apparent lunacy of - people like Mr. Jaspan. One note, another commenter referred to The Age as a fringe newspaper - nope it is a 150 year old leading daily in Melbourne, a city of 3 million. That doesn't mean that we have to take it any more seriously than the NY Times. :-)

Posted by: lgude at June 28, 2005 08:48 AM

This isn't really about naivete. I doubt Jaspan is truly angry about the language Mr. Wood used. Jaspan's an intelligent man and obviously knows how the "minutemen" have treated their capives in the past. Information about their atrocities should be readily available to someone in his line of work. What Jaspan wishes to do is convince a poorly-informed audience that, yes, maybe Zarqawi DOES have a point about American oppression, and maybe his associates ARE more humane than the U.S. Such moral bankruptcy is easy to understand when you review how most media outlets have portrayed the U.S. military and its opponents. This whole affair is a picture-perfect David and Goliath affair to them, with noble, brown resistance fighters outwitting a less-photogenic Western force that relies on superior technology. Perpetuating this image and catering to foreign audiences' inherent Anti-Americanism are far more important than, say, reporting on how many Iraqi civilians die for every American soldier the resistance kills. Hence, this idiocy has much more to do with inherent political sympathies than with a gullible journalist's [mis]diagnosis of the insurgents' character. By claiming that this can be remedied if "naive" reporters simply get out more, I think that Mr. Totten is being overly generous with Jaspan and his kind.

Posted by: Samsung at June 28, 2005 09:17 AM

The tactics of Stockholm syndrome are basically simple. Survive by identifying with and supporting the cause of those who threaten you - and be scrupulous about not saying anything to offend or attract negative attention as well as silence anyone who does want to openly resist. Fighting the jihadis is a 'recruiting poster for Al Qaeda'. Bush is a cowboy or Hitler. The resistance 'minutemen'. That's why the millions of people who feel like Jaspan can so nakedly identify with the jihadis, get upset if you point it out, and feel very sincerely that they are opposed to terrorism. They are not being consciously hypocritical in my opinion because they are too scared and feel too powerless to face their fear

That's all very true. Some people have an instinctive, submissive response to terrorism, and this is something that has been going on for years. When the Iranian government was threatening Salman Rushdie during the Satanic Verses controversy, the owner of the bookstore that I worked for insisted that we all copies of the "Satanic Verses" out of the front window. (we'd put it there as a protest). She said "If we're bombed, it'll be your fault"

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there's John Pilger, an adventurous type who has spent a lot of time in third world countries, and who aggressively sympathizes with fascists and terrorists. He actively supports terrorism in Iraq, he was part of the Leftist effort to downplay the crimes of Slobodan Milosevic, and he opposed intervention in the former Yugoslavia. He sees oppression and he sympathizes with the oppressors, as long as they're not the white, capitalist/imperialists that Pilger hates with a passion. (despite the fact that he is one). Like Jaspan, I doubt that he thinks about his response. I guess that's why they're called 'reactionaries'.

Posted by: mary at June 28, 2005 09:43 AM

C.L. over at Tim Blair has dubbed it "Stockholm Syndrome by Proxy."

Posted by: Achillea at June 28, 2005 10:19 AM

I think Jaspan reacted out of sheer disappointment that Wood didn't bash the Coalition, ala the parents of Nick Berg (if memory serves). Here was a guy, Wood, who knew better than any of us knows, just how evil these bastards are and simply told the World the Truth. But the Truth didn't square with Jaspan's world view and he couldn't handle it. If nothing else, this example shows the moral/intellectual vacuity on the Left. According to Jaspan, that the terrorists fed Wood regularly makes them humanitarians...by that score, we're doing a damn fine job at Gitmo.

Posted by: JABBER at June 28, 2005 11:30 AM

I have new respect for the Dead Kennedys.

Posted by: TallDave at June 28, 2005 11:54 AM

Now everythings a little upsidedown
as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
whats good is bad, whats bad is good
you find out when you reach the top
you're on the bottom.

Bob Dylan

(hope I got the words right)

Hey, as long as were posting lyrics, Idiot Wind seems appropriate after reading this post.

Posted by: joefrommass at June 28, 2005 04:15 PM

Ah, the DKs. I slam-danced many a time to J.B. Loved those guys, and my kids are just discovering them now (keep finding the CD cases left lying around, grrr).

California uber alles indeed.

Holiday in Cambodia was the anthem of the baseball team I played on at the time. Just before the game started, we'd put it on a blaster at full volume, full bass. The opening guitar would start that sinister build-up, we'd sing along (Pol. Pot! Pol! POT!)and have a slam dance in the dugout, and the other team would be completely freaked out for the whole game.

Ah, memories.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2005 07:19 PM

Department of Public Utilities,

I know your heart is in the right place, and you can out-quip most anyone, but WTF?

Let me get this straight. You are waxing nostalgic for the times when you sang songs about Pol Pot? I certainly hope this followed up with a snappy little ditty for Chairman Mao?

Cripes, and I thought "Springtime for Hitler" was a parody. I'm stunned. Even more than the revelation that you played baseball.

Posted by: bob at June 28, 2005 07:45 PM

Let me get this straight. You are waxing nostalgic for the times when you sang songs about Pol Pot?

Read the lyrics, bob. Not. in. praise.

Sheesh. What a square.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2005 11:10 PM

Plus I still play baseball. Well, softball. Slowpitch.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 28, 2005 11:27 PM

>> Sheesh. What a square.

Nope, just older.

Every pop icon of the 80's is a black box to me, since the decade was a blur of bootstrapping a family, watching hours of Sesame Street and Pee Wee Herman before or after working fourteen hour days. I rely on "Biography" and VH1 on cable to learn about pop culture that I recognize by name but know nothing about. My girls are spinning me up on rap.

>> Plus I still play baseball.

Hope you remember to take off the hockey skates.

Posted by: bob at June 29, 2005 06:23 AM

If Iraq was worth invading, if it's worth staying for the long haul, then it's worth drafting young men and women to the service.

There's no other way to look at it.

We certainly can't pull troops out of Korea and other committments. We can't compromise our security that way can we?

It's time for all Americans to participate in our defense - not just the few who volunteered (and many before Iraq who were caught by stop loss). Afterall, we are all benefitting from the great boost to national security that the Iraq invasion has brought to us.

Posted by: avedis at June 29, 2005 02:16 AM | Permalink to this comment

Posted by: at June 29, 2005 01:18 PM
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