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Glenn Greenwald is making sense

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Today, on the implications of the “don’t speak ill of the (recently) dead” rule:

But the key point is this: those who admire the deceased public figure (and their politics) aren’t silent at all. They are aggressively exploiting the emotions generated by the person’s death to create hagiography. Typifying these highly dubious claims was this (appropriately diplomatic) statement from President Obama: “The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend.” Those gushing depictions can be incredibly consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized. Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.

To quibble: I don’t believe I’d describe Obama’s unfortunate linguistic choices as “incredibly consequential,” which seems like a bit of an overstatement, although I certainly wish the he’d gone a more generic direction with his statement today. I’m open to arguments for the appropriateness of a weaker version of the rule: a recent death is perhaps a time for heightened caution about how you speak ill of the dead; perhaps taking extra care to avoid unfair or needlessly personal attacks. The larger point, though, is clearly correct: the “don’t speak ill” rule is wielded as a tool to create a zone of protection around a particular rhetorical tool. No thanks.

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  • True enough on the merits, although given Greenwald’s consistent slandering the people who write on this blog and calling the entire blog a “cesspool,” I’m not sure why we should be promoting anything he writes.

    • rea

      Well, he’s annoying, true, but not as bad as (for example) Douthat.

      • There’s a difference between having opinions I usually find awful and personally attacking the people on this site.

        • djw

          I see your point, but a) he made a point worth making, and made it well, and b) it’s a point I’ve been meaning to make, but kept not getting around to it whenever some death afforded me the opportunity. I’m not inclined to either make the point myself without attribution, or self-censor because Glenn’s an asshole. His personal attacks on this blog are beneath contempt, but they’re also boring; ignoring them on both grounds makes more sense to me than a positive link embargo.

          • Reilly

            I see your point, but a) he made a point worth making, and made it well,

            What point did he make exactly, as you see it? I mean that as a serious question. This is essentially the same nonsense he wrote after Hithchens’ death. I was astounded then at how people reacted (and how many people reacted) as if he had made a substantive, insightful contribution when what he actually did was invent a phony “protocol” and rail against “demands” that weren’t, in reality, inhibiting the ability of anyone to offer opposing narratives.

            • djw

              That the norm, such as it exists, of ‘not speaking ill of the dead,’ creates a space for uncontested propagandizing, and that negative consequence outweighs any positive reason to honor this norm.

              Feel free to disagree, of course, but his argument is perfectly clear. If you wish to claim the norm he opposes doesn’t exist, you are of course free to do, but I’ve seen and heard it invoked several times so far today.

              • Reilly

                I don’t dispute that it’s been invoked, I dispute that it creates a space for uncontested propagandizing. And to the fact that Thatcher will be painted in a mostly positive light in the media, I dispute that a “norm” or a “protocol” have much to do with that on any account. That’s not the driving force behind any “hagiography”, and neither are fist-shaking “demands” made by MPs and bloggers “silencing” critics.

              • Reilly

                Just to make my position clear: To lay the imbalanced coverage of Thatcher at the feet of “etiquette” is to completely ignore the political/media institutional biases that drive our national discussions. Greenwald invalidates that simplistic formula himself, although he doesn’t seem aware of it, when he writes, “Tellingly, few people have trouble understanding the need for balanced commentary when the political leaders disliked by the west pass away.”
                Unfortunately (or tellingly) Greenwald doesn’t recognize or pursue that avenue of thought, which isn’t really compatible with a “don’t speak ill of the dead” thesis.
                Also I’m wondering if you read Greenwald’s Hitchens piece he links to and what you thought of it.

                • djw

                  Right, Greenwald oversimplifies and therefore overstates his case; there are political dynamics at work he’s not exactly tuned into; there are plenty other other factors at work in the selective memory and veneration of the likes of Thatcher, Reagan: I agree with all that. None of those concessions renders Greenwald’s central assertion here wrong, though, let alone ‘nonsense’.

                • djw

                  I read the Hitchens piece at the time, I don’t recall objecting to the central premise. Any 5,000 words from Greenwald is going to get some details wrong and miss some points, of course. Is there some particular reason you think I should re-visit it?

                • Reilly

                  I believe that the disproportionately positive treatment of Thatcher and Reagan were expressions of those “other factors” and not at all contingent on death. Their status was already secured in the establishment political/media environment. I also believe that the same disproportional treatment is what crowds out criticism, not some “misapplied death etiquette.” I simply see no proof (and Greenwald offers none) that social mores are at all regulating that process. The process doesn’t need to be controlled after death, it’s a culmination of institutional conditioning prior to the end of life. (See my comment re: Reagan legacy downstream.) And when the cause of something is misidentified as Greenwald does here, and to such a degree, I think it does qualify as a nonsense.
                  ——————————
                  As far as the Hitchens piece, I think it provides an even more naked view of the same premise. I’ll give one example to show you how tenuous this theory is. Today, at one point, Greenwald referenced that piece with this, “I made this argument at length last year when Christopher Hitchens died and a speak-no-ill rule about him was instantly imposed (a rule he, more than anyone, viciously violated) The bolded part (my bold) refers to Greenwald’s update from that article:

                  The day after Jerry Falwell died, Hitchens went on CNN and scorned what he called “the empty life of this ugly little charlatan,” saying: ”I think it’s a pity there isn’t a hell for him to go to.” As I said, those demanding that Hitchens not be criticized in death are invoking a warped etiquette standard on his behalf that is not only irrational, but is one he himself vigorously rejected.

                  This is what I wrote in response to that:

                  Evidently he thinks Hitchens is proving his point, but what Greenwald unwittingly demonstrates is the falseness of his entire premise. Falwell was much more widely known by the public and also commanded a much greater access to mainstream media venues, especially cable news programs. If there does indeed exist “etiquette-based prohibitions” and an enforced “protocol” for public figures which bar criticism of them after their deaths, then why was Hitchens able to go onto CNN and say what he said the very day after Falwell died? The answer of course is that Greenwald’s formulation is a complete fantasy.

                • witless chum

                  Reilly, Hitch was pretty damn unique in that he was willing to do that. So it doesn’t really harm the general point.

                • Anonymous

                  witless chum, if you read that piece you’ll see Greenwald calls it, besides etiquette, a “protocol,” a “demand” and a “prohibition.” If that were a reality, I doubt Hitchens would have been invited to speak. Anyway, take from it what you will. I see it as a contrivance and a complete waste of time. Better for Greenwald to have used his platform to write an in-depth dissection of Thatcher’s many sins, instead of devoting one lame paragraph that barely covers basics and reads as if it took 5 minutes of googledemia to complete. Fortunately, Alex Pareene did that job, and included some critical assessments of Thatcher, including a stinging quote from Ken Livingston, the mayor of London, who also doesn’t seem to fit into Greenwald’s shallow analysis.

                • Reilly

                  Sorry, that was me.

          • witless chum

            I see your point, but a) he made a point worth making, and made it well, and b) it’s a point I’ve been meaning to make, but kept not getting around to it whenever some death afforded me the opportunity. I’m not inclined to either make the point myself without attribution, or self-censor because Glenn’s an asshole. His personal attacks on this blog are beneath contempt, but they’re also boring; ignoring them on both grounds makes more sense to me than a positive link embargo.

            Hear fucking hear. Despite his manifest problems, Greenwald is still right about a ton of stuff and worth reading to keep up on the various travesties committed by the feds in relation to Bradley Manning, Wikileaks, etc.

            • rea

              worth reading to keep up on the various travesties committed by the feds in relation to Bradley Manning, Wikileaks, etc

              Actually, that’s just the kind of thing he often gets completely wrong, e. g., how Manning was actually being treated

              • witless chum

                That he’s being prosecuted at all for doing what Daniel Ellsberg did is travesty.

          • firefall

            Really? because to me he seemed to being extremely fatuous. The idea that postmortem tributes set or harden the evaluations of the deceased is so ludicrous as to make me wonder if he’s deliberately taking the piss – just for example, did *anyones* perceptions or opinions of Reagan change at his death? the established fabulism about him (and obliviousness to his unprosecuted treason) was set in concrete long before his body followed his long-decayed mind into the void.

        • rea

          (1) Douthat might well attack someone on this site, if he thought we (or you, anyway) were not beneath his notice.

          (2) Greenwald supported Lemieux during Head-on-a-Stickgate (although oddly, that was the context for his “cesspool” remark).

          • What was Lemieux’s role in Head-on-a-Stickgate, other than Loomis Henchman?

            • rea

              Oops

      • Shakezula

        That is a really low bar there.

    • Well, let’s put aside his past actions and look at this lovely article:

      Those gushing depictions can be quite consequential, as it was for the week-long tidal wave of unbroken reverence that was heaped on Ronald Reagan upon his death, an episode that to this day shapes how Americans view him and the political ideas he symbolized. Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death.

      Are you kidding me? The funeral week (was it? I can’t remember) was something that to this day shapes people’s view of Reagan? This defies sense. I would have thought that the relentless campaign to have something named after him in every county was far more significant in keeping him on anyone’s radar. Even inside the Republican party, he’s not invoked all that much these days.

      Whatever else may be true of her, Thatcher engaged in incredibly consequential acts that affected millions of people around the world.

      And oy, what’s with the love for the word “consequential”.

      C’mon. The party and even the obituaries are pretty inCONSEQUENTIAL in their consequentiality, for the most part. It doesn’t really matter if you critique them just after their death or somewhat later. Anyone with a personal connection or strong feeling for a public person should probably avoid the web right after their death and if you don’t, well, I feel sorry for you but I don’t think you deserve any special consideration there. (Exceptions: Your own webspace and normal haunts with friends.)

      • Malaclypse

        Anyone with a personal connection or strong feeling for a public person should probably avoid the web right after their death and if you don’t, well, I feel sorry for you but I don’t think you deserve any special consideration there.

        Special exception: this.

        • Hmm. I think if Pat Nixon had read that shortly after Nixon’s death and it made her cry, I would feel sorry for her but also think she deserved no special consideration. Don’t read the reviews during the run.

          • Malaclypse

            I misread you – I thought you were saying that Hunter’s particular personal loathing of Nixon meant he should not have written it.

            • Aha! Right.

              Yeah, actually, I think venting after a death can be perfectly ok even against people I like. It rarely shows you off well (that Hunter piece is a classic), but hey, go for it. The pleasure in looking down on people who dis the dead you like is also a pleasure often indulged in and easily had.

      • Reilly

        Are you kidding me? The funeral week (was it? I can’t remember) was something that to this day shapes people’s view of Reagan? This defies sense.

        Yes and it’s pretty galling. This is what I wrote about that claim when Greenwald made it after Hitchens died:

        Gallup’s retrospective job approval ratings for Reagan show him at 71% approval in February 1999. He slides down to 66% in February 2000, and then rises to 73% by March of 2002. Gallup’s next available poll shows Reagan back down to 71% in 2006 (two years after his funeral) and then up to 74% in 2010. So, unequivocally, it wasn’t the funeral week that “forever changed how Ronald Reagan — and his conservative ideology — were perceived.” , and it wasn’t “that week-long bombardment of hagiography that sealed Reagan’s status as Great and Cherished Leader.” If we look again at the first graph, we can clearly see what transpired. In November of 1993 Reagan had a 52% approval rating. By February 1999 he had a 71% approval rating and since then, as we’ve just seen, his ratings have fluctuated by going down no more than 5 points and up by no more than three. Obviously the six years between 1993 and 1999 were what “forever changed” how Reagan was perceived. And even those on the margins of political awareness – let alone a professional pundit – could probably be able to figure out why. That was the period during which Clinton was besieged by the right with the blessing and active cooperation of the “liberal” media. That was the period during which the “culture wars” were elevated to primacy in our political universe with the active participation of an establishment media intent on valuing “real Americans” over “elites”. And all of that was tied together by an active, consciously intended campaign by the GOP to lionize Reagan and make him look, in retrospect, as if he had been the embodiment of cherished American virtues – virtues, they would have us believe, that Clinton lacked and that the country had by then somehow lost. And it worked, but it took years — not a week. That week was the expression of the hegemony already fully created, not the cause of it. It’s an insult that Greenwald tried to pass this off as analysis.

        • Nice!

          There’s something about the way naive media crit bit Grennwald that makes him unreliable in this way.

        • Scott Lemieux

          You have a link? Anyway, yes, if I understand Glenn by his own admission has been paying attention to politics for less than a decade, and it often shows, especially combined with anything bully pulpity.

          • That’s a bit generous to him. It doesn’t take nearly a decade to get reasonably educated about US politics esp whe 1) it’s your job and 2) the political science is so easily available.

            • Reilly

              Good points.

          • Reilly

            I do have a link, although I admit I was dancing around it. I wrote that piece and put it on a blog I had been hoping to take in a certain direction. Then I gave up on the idea of blogging at all, so it remains the sole entry. Kind of embarrassing to admit. Plus reading it again I think some of the writing…sucks. That said, I stand by the deconstruction. And I agree with what you said about Greenwald. Not being a political journeyman isn’t unforgivable, but for me the sloppy bravado is a little hard to take.

    • manual

      True enough on the merits

      That should be enough.

  • jim, some guy in iowa

    just so telling the truth about thatcher doesn’t devolve into the same kind of crap the conservatives spewed about roger ebert – *that* is speaking ill of the dead

    • STH

      There’s quite a distance between “I didn’t like his political views, so I’m glad he’s dead” and “the policies she pursued as a powerful politician hurt a lot of people.”

      • Anna in PDX

        Yes. I have to admit I normally try to be decorous about death but the nearest I can get to it in her case is not talk about her at all.

  • rea

    (1) The president doesn’t get to badmouth former leaders of friendly foriegn countries on the occasion of their death, whatever he actually thinks of them–that wouldn’t be diplomatic.

    (2) “The world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty”–well, she was bad for freedom and liberty in the UK. In Argentina, however . . .

    • djw

      Absolutely agree, but the nice things he says can certainly be ideologically neutral.

    • Bill Murray

      and for South Africa she was maybe worse than for the UK

      • Phoenix_rising

        I’d say as a champion of freedom and liberty, her record of actions toward Phnom Penh trumps Cape Town and Buenos Aires.

        YMMV, obviously, but the bar’s buried deeper than Ieng Sary.

      • Stag Party Palin

        If you go to the Kirstenbosch Gardens in SA you will find a tree that Ms Thatcher was allowed to plant ceremonially way back when. I wonder if they told her what kind of tree it was, or whether they just used the latin, Celtis africana.

        In English, it’s called Stinkwood.

      • Joel Patterson

        Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe thinks Thatcher prolonged the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

    • gocart mozart

      How about “England lost a powerful woman and important 20th century world leader today who was a close ally and friend of the U.S.”

      Respectful and without the bullshit.

      • VCarlson

        This.

      • Malaclypse

        England lost a wonderful person today, and the world is the worse for it. In other news, Margaret Thatcher died.

      • witless chum

        Yeah, exactly. The wingnuts would read between the lines and skreeee.

  • I still don’t know who Glen Greenwald is other than that he seems to be an obsession with this blog. Apparently, he is now being partially rehabilitated after being condemned as an enemy of the people.

    • djw

      Or, alternatively, I read something by him that I liked and said so, without any meta-commentary, actual or implied, on the man himself or his body of work.

      • Well then he is way ahead of me. Nobody on this blog has ever agreed with anything I have ever written. ;-)

        • JKTHs

          Unless they agree with you on that statement. In which case they’d then have to disagree with you on that statement.

          • Joey Maloney

            Norman, coordinate!

          • Epimenides the Cretan

            All Cretans are liars.

        • Anna in PDX

          Oh come on. People agree with you all the time J. Otto.

        • So your first comment was quite silly, even for you. This second comment is both silly and deeply uncharitable. Even while critiquing your (standardly) poor way of highlighting the strike you’re participating in, plenty of us spoke in solidarity.

          The rule is pretty simple: Say something interesting, sensible, informative, or decent and you get positive uptake. Say something boring, foolish, devoid of content, or vile and get slammed.

          It’s not that hard.

        • witless chum

          I don’t know how often I agree with you Otto, but I appreciate your presence at LGM.

    • spencer

      Jesus, Otto, that’s stupid.

    • Scott Lemieux

      It has been the consistent policy of this blog to link approvingly to Greenwald when we agree with him and to link disapprovingly when we do not. My apologies if this is too complicated.

      • elm

        Look above. Erik seems to want to change this policy.

      • Robert Farley

        Yup. Erik is free to engage in whatever policy he sees fit with his own posts, but there’s no LGM policy of not linking to Glenn Greenwald (or Glenn Beck, for that matter) when he’s right.

        Indeed, I’m going to see if I can put together a post a bit later defending Thatcher’s decision-making in the Falklands War; I think that the decision to fight and the manner of fighting were, on the British side, about as scrupulous and sensible as you can expect in a modern military conflict.

        • rea

          And, to amplify on what I said above, defeating the junta was important to the cause of liberty in Argentina.

        • ajay

          I’m going to see if I can put together a post a bit later defending Thatcher’s decision-making in the Falklands War; I think that the decision to fight and the manner of fighting were, on the British side, about as scrupulous and sensible as you can expect in a modern military conflict.

          — Selling off both the Navy’s carriers would have lost Britain the war if Argentina had just waited another six months before invading, as they originally planned to.

          — Constant pressure from London for the troops to advance from the San Carlos Bay beach-head led to the decision to attack Goose Green – an entirely unnecessary engagement that cost over 50 casualties. The garrison at Darwin and Goose Green could have been masked and contained by a single rifle company supported by a 105mm battery, allowing the advance on Stanley to continue. Instead, 2 Para was sent in on a frontal attack against superior numbers, in prepared positions, supported by multiple 20mm cannon, without adequate logistic, artillery, medical or air support, and without adequate reconnaissance.

          — Constant changes to and uncertainty about the rules of engagement almost led to ARA General Belgrano escaping its trailing SSN.

  • Carbon Man

    I’m a horrible human being.

  • DocAmazing

    For good examples of speaking truth of the dead: in the old eXile (the issue of which I can no longer find, alas) Mark Ames wrote a scathing piece commemorating Boris Yeltsin on the event of his death, ending up (if I recall correctly) “Sleep it off, you miserable drunk”.

  • Margaret Thatcher

    I’m a horrible human being.

    • sharculese

      Yes, Jenny thanks for reminding us that she thought dumb things.

    • Malaclypse

      Proving that Maggie, like JenBob, does not understand the difference between money and capital.

    • DocAmazing

      “The more reasonable ones of the Khmer Rouge will have to play some part in the future government.”
      –Margaret Thatcher

      • rea

        “There is no such thing as society. There are only individual men and women, and families.”–Margaret Thatcher

      • Actually they (the more reasonable ones in the KR) are now in the Cambodian government and were as well during the Vietnamese occupation. Both Hun Sen and Heng Samrin were at one time with the Khmer Rouge.

  • I don’t really think the rule applies to public figures to be honest. Yes, even public figures have grieving families we should be respectful of, but they put themselves out in the spotlight to be seen and judged and I’m not sure why that process should stop at death.

    • Random

      If it’s a former democratically-elected Prime Minister of one of your closest allies in history and you’re the President of the United States, then the rule applies x10.

      Taking the occasion of someone else’s death as an opportunity to mount your soap-box and make it all about you, most likely will result in a massive backlash against both your person and your criticism of their policy.

      • I don’t disagree in regards to what Heads of State have to say in order to be diplomatic, I am referring to the idea that people in general “shouldn’t speak ill of the dead” in regards to public figures.

        • Random

          I totally agree with that, it’s just fine for us plebs to point out that Maggie was awful.

          And now that I’ve had some coffee and re-read what Greenwald wrote, I see that he’s not really suggesting that the President do this either. My mistake entirely.

          In my defense, I submit that I was guilty of assuming Greenwald was complaining about the President doing something that Presidents are obligated to do.

      • spencer

        Yeah, I have no problem with Obama practicing diplomacy on this occasion. It’d be dumb to expect anything else from him.

        That doesn’t mean that the rest of us are bound by any such restriction or expectation.

  • Shakezula

    But the “rule” stems from what? Superstition that the dead will rattle the china all night? I know there are religions where speaking of the dead (at all) is a really bad idea. But I can’t pin down where bad things (even if true) are verboten but good things (even if you have to lie like a rug) are Okeydokey.

    And dear Christ, is there going to be an epic outbreak of tounge and fist clenching when what am I going to do when Cheney kicks it?

    • djw

      I imagine the rule is extrapolated from personal etiquette, where it makes a hell of a lot of sense:

      A: How’s it going?
      B: Bad. My brother died last week.
      A: (Honest, forthright assessment of B’s brother’s various flaws as a person)

      • Shakezula

        Right, but the correct reply from A is “I’m sorry for your loss” (or similar).

        And then shut up and let B talk or not, as B desires.

        Any comments about B’s brother (positive or negative) and you risk munching on your foot.

      • Precisely. In fact, even policy differences might be inappropriate in a private, face-to-face conversation with bereaved family. But we can’t just not have these conversations because a handful of people–who are usually not in much of a mood to dwell on press coverage anyway–might see it.

        Ta-Nehisi Coates nailed it with his piece on Breitbart, I think:

        I have heard it said by some fellow liberals that Breitbart was in fact a good person, that his public persona was not the same as his private. This kind of praise is so broadly true of most controversial public figures as to be meaningless. And it is irrelevant. Breitbart may well have been an excellent father and a great friend but that is not why we are talking about him. We are noting his death because of the impact he had on our politics and our conversation.

        In short, fuck Thatcher.

    • STH

      I always assumed the rule came from people fearing what would be said about THEM when they died.

      • Origami Isopod

        Yeah … the underlying principle is that the deceased is no longer around to defend themselves. In the case of extremely well-documented public record, I don’t think this should be a concern.

  • Bugger Basildon

    The problem is that, speaking as someone who is British and living in Britain and was not alive for Thatcher’s premiership, this is getting really old really quickly. The laudatory tributes are pretty nauseating and risible. But the ritualised Thatcher-hate is pretty irritating as well – the ‘hurrah! Thatcher is dead! Let’s all celebrate and piss on her grave!’ type stuff. There are inevitably going to be a series of made-up social media ‘controversies’, and it’s all going to be extremely tedious.

    • Malaclypse

      It is indeed tragic that people discuss recent history.

      • MPAVictoria

        Ha!
        I want to nominate you for some sort of award Malaclypse.

    • wengler

      The alternative of course is a substantive discussion of the European/American economic crisis created and supported by the policies put in place by Thatcher and Reagan.

      She’s dead and good riddance, but her legacy lives on.

      • Sebastian H

        I didn’t realize that Thatcher was pro euro!!!

    • Dave

      You’re young. One day you’ll understand. Meanwhile, hush, the grown-ups are talking.

    • Origami Isopod

      How trying, that society doesn’t recognize the utter triviality of any history which occurred before your birth.

    • PSP

      The people who want to piss on her grave are going to make it difficult for the people who want to dance on it.

      • Origami Isopod

        Wellies.

  • Joshua

    I am sure that the wingnuts will be observe that rule and be respectful and silent on the day of Bill Clinton’s passing.

    • Random

      And I am sure that the wing-nuts will be roundly called-out by the Republican Party establishment when they do this, and most decent people elsewhere will be alienated by it and consider them to be enormous dicks for it.

      It is not the President’s job to criticize the policies of a democratically-elected leader of one of the closest allies we’ve had in modern history on the occasion of their death.

      Fear not, Greenwald continues to be both wrong and horrible as a person.

      • Joshua

        First of all, I really doubt that the Republican Party will say a damn thing. The lunatics run the asylum over there.

        Obama said what he needed to say, even if it is wrong. The problem isn’t Obama. The problem is that people will use this moment as a way to advance their propaganda. As GG noted, it is exactly what we saw with Reagan. The death of an ex-President is a notable event, no doubt – it can be a good time to examine his legacy and place it into context.

        That’s not what happened, though. Reagan’s death was used to push his cartoonish cult of personality and advance far-right propaganda.

        • STH

          For a leader who’s been out of the public eye for a while, his or her death becomes an opportunity for supporters to push a certain narrative about the leader and throw things they don’t want remembered down the memory hole. With Thatcher, it’s a chance to “educate” younger Brits who didn’t live through her rule. So I think it’s important to be honest right from the get-go about what she was and what she did.

          My partner, who grew up in the UK during the Thatcher era, was positively gleeful this morning about her death.

          • Random

            We are more than free to criticize away, because we aren’t the President of the United States of America. Plenty of people will step up to complain about Thatcher just like they did about Reagan. Thatcher sucked it big-time.

            I can get away with saying it because when I say it, the response isn’t every single world leader condemning my behavior and a bereaved family demanding an apology.

        • Random

          That ‘cult of Reagan’ has done wonders for them. The GOP themselves just wrote a 100-page paper which directly addressed how awesomely Reagan-obsession is working for them.

        • Decrease Mather

          Honestly, I half expect Republicans to claim the Big Dog as one of their own. Jimmy Carter is another story.

          • spencer

            Not for a while yet – a lot of Republicans still hate the man far too much. Gotta wait for them to die off.

          • Johnny Sack

            And they can have him. Bush Senior remains the only Republican I’ve ever voted for. And I got a Republican in 92 anyway so why complain.

            • Random

              Hell no they can’t have the Big Dog!

              • DocAmazing

                Why not? He was the best Republican president of the second half of the 20th Century.

                • witless chum

                  Maybe they impeached him for copyright infringement?

                  But seriously, that’s bullshit. Clinton taking conservative stands on some things was better for everyone than Bush or Dole taking conservative stands on everything.

            • BigHank53

              I voted for Warren Rudman, way back when. His democratic opponent was dumber than the suit he was wearing.

  • swearyanthony

    The ANC statement is masterful: http://thenewage.co.za/mobi/Detail.aspx?NewsID=90819&CatID=1020

    “She was a bipedal life form who did stuff”

    • Barry Freed

      Good catch.

    • Phoenix_rising

      Thank you for brightening my day.

      Maggie is dead, and the austerity she championed lives on, so no party over here…

    • Bill Murray

      and don’t we wish she hadn’t

  • Jon H

    I’m pretty sure the tendency on the right to canonize Reagan didn’t start when he died, and the effect on public policy isn’t really any greater now than it was when he was alive.

    The main thing probably isn’t so much the nonsense said about Reagan when he died, but rather the manifest lack of anyone else the Republicans would want to elevate that way. They don’t like Bush senior, and they want to pretend Bush Jr. never happened.

    All they have is Reagan, and whoever their Great Black Hope of the Moment is.

    • Reagan and Thatcher both were out of the public eye for so long before they died that their physical death probably doesn’t seem like such a big deal for people anyway.

    • Random

      They don’t even have Reagan anymore, and they know it (or at least the ones who wrote the 100-page ‘autopsy’ a month or two ago do).

    • Shakezula

      I’m pretty sure the tendency on the right to canonize Reagan didn’t start when he died

      You are correct. Having seen the local domestic airport renamed (at great expense to D.C.) in his honor, it is kind of … pathetic.

      And then there was the push to eliminate term limits so he could run again [face palm] and put his face on the nickel …

      • wjts

        I thought it was the dime – a number of the brethren can’t stand the notion that the most blood-thirsty Communist dictator in the whole of human history is memorialized on American currency.

        • Shakezula

          I sit corrected.

          Yes, they seem to have a problem with the dime. Glen Beck’s Merc. dime freakout setting the contemporary standard for money based paranoia.

    • Reilly

      I’m pretty sure the tendency on the right to canonize Reagan didn’t start when he died

      It didn’t. It’s a self-serving, lazy, unsubstantiated claim that Greenwald’s made before. It’s something he writes because it’s convenient for his argument. It’s shameful, but that’s punditry.

  • Random

    Re-reading Greenwald I see that he is not really suggesting that the President himself criticize the policies of a former Prime Minister of the UK on the occasion of their death. Just that we should.

    Okay, I can get behind that.

  • Malaclypse

    A bit obscure, but the Jazz Butcher Conspiracy said it even better than Elvis Costello.

  • somethingblue

    Wait, I learned from the Wellstone memorial that a prominent politician’s death obligates his supporters to say nice things about the politician’s opponents. Has this rule now been repealed?

  • wengler

    I think Thatcher is going to have a lot harder time establishing a Reagan-like cult of personality, especially in the UK. The regional hatred of her is just too strong. The Scotland independence referendum might as well be called the “I hate Margaret Thatcher” vote.

    In the US, Reagan was hated by certain groups, but white people overall thought he was on a scale from all right to new Jesus. They also had pretty good jobs with pensions and health benefits, but those would all go away soon they just didn’t know it yet.

    • JoyfulA

      Nah, this white person despised him, and he had 10% unemployment.

  • Bloix

    “Andrew Breitbart, a Washington Times columnist who oversees Breitbart.com and BigHollywood.com, tapped into the anti-Kennedy vein in the hours after the senator’s death was announced, posting a series of Twitter messages in which he called Kennedy a “villain,” a “duplicitous bastard” and a “prick.”

    “I’m more than willing to go off decorum to ensure THIS MAN is not beatified,” Breitbart wrote. “Sorry, he destroyed lives. And he knew it.””

    http://americablog.com/2012/03/andrew-breitbart-on-ted-kennedys-passing.html

    • Shakezula

      Breitbart was a bloated sack of dicks. What’s your point?

      • spencer

        That conservatives are massive fucking hypocrites?

        • Shakezula

          But … is there anyone who doesn’t know that?

          My cats know that and they split their time being assholes/eating/sleeping. The only current events that interest them involve the action at our neighbors’ bird feeders.

    • wengler

      You just reminded me that Andrew Breitbart is still dead.

      Thank you.

      • Tehanu

        You’re speaking for me. We need a “Like” button here.

    • witless chum

      When was the late Breitbard willing to “on decorum” and just what did he think that meant? My guess is wearing a tie while you slander people.

  • Steve S.

    I’m not sure why we should regard the aged deaths of public figures at all, for good or ill, except to note it for curiosity’s sake. Thatcher’s living to a ripe old age and then dying neither validates nor invalidates things she did decades ago. Personally I’m more worried about the death of Annette Funicello, since I have a couple of older sisters who might start to feel pangs of mortality after hearing about it.

  • cpinva

    i saw the announcement of ms. thatcher’s passing early this morning, and my immediate thought was not……………..nice. good thing i’m not the president, so i’m not required to say something diplomatic about her.

    • Anna in PDX

      Exactly my thoughts. Exactly. My thought was something like one down, how many to go. Then I felt kind of ashamed for that being my very first reaction.

  • witless chum

    How about “I’m sorry Margaret Thatcher died, but I’m sorrier she was ever prime minister.”

  • Thatcher might be the first person since Reagan I was actually glad to see go.

  • Reilly

    I shouldn’t waste the moment. An Englishman in a bar told me this many years ago:
    An empire has an emperor, a kingdom has a king and my country has Margaret Thatcher.

  • yenwoda

    Even thought he was mean to Erik once or twice, I think Greenwald is right here and I’m glad the piece was linked. I thought this line was unintentionally funny though:

    “She played a key role… in bringing about the first Gulf War [and] advocate[d] for the 2003 attack on Iraq. She was a steadfast friend to brutal tyrants such as Augusto Pinochet, Saddam Hussein [and] Suharto”.

    • Reilly

      I too think it’s unintentionally funny when an A list blogger slaps together a contradictory flash card presentation of serious historical facts while railing about the injustice that “hagiography” might have on the understanding of history, and who offers lazy, historically inaccurate faux-political science, sans data, about the popularity of a modern American president while he claims to be concerned about the historical inaccuracies that “hagiography” has had on that president’s popularity, and who wraps it all up in a facile retread of a theory about how “etiquette,” “demands” and “prohibitions” are curtailing the right to balance the account of Thatcher’s influence with public criticism, even as other writers and commentators go about the business of doing that in-depth critical analysis.
      But most of all, I find it unintentionally funny that so many people read all that and still think Greenwald’s piece was insightful and important.

  • Reilly

    Let’s put the estocada into Greenwald’s bull(shit):

    The Internet continues to have a laugh at the expense of Margaret Thatcher, who died at 87 on Monday. The former prime minister, who singer Morrissey called “a terror without an atom of humanity,” has been the butt of a few pranks thanks to a Facebook campaign celebrating her death, the latest being that “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” has been climbing the charts on iTunes and Amazon in the U.K.
    The Facebook campaign aims to make the song No. 1 most downloaded song this week. Within the first 24 hours, the song was in the top ten downloads in iTunes and No. 2 in Amazon, reports the Hollywood Reporter.

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