I’m in the midst of reading FM 3-24, the new counter-insurgency manual for the Army and Marine Corps. While I expected a sophisticated document, the degree to which the manual draws on work in the modern social sciences is really impressive. On culture:
3-37. Culture is “web of meaning” shared by members of a particular society or group within a society. Culture is—
A system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that members of a society
use to cope with their world and with one another.
Learned, though a process called enculturation.
Shared by members of a society; there is no “culture of one.”
Patterned, meaning that people in a society live and think in ways forming definite, repeating patterns.
Changeable, through social interactions between people and groups.
Arbitrary, meaning that Soldiers and Marines should make no assumptions regarding what a society considers right and wrong, good and bad.
Internalized, in the sense that it is habitual, taken for granted, and perceived as “natural” by people within the society.
3-38. Culture might also be described as an “operational code” that is valid for an entire group of people. Culture conditions the individual’s range of action and ideas, including what to do and not do, how to do or not do it, and whom to do it with or not to do it with. Culture also includes under what circumstances the “rules” shift and change. Culture influences how people make judgments about what is right and wrong, assess what is important and unimportant, categorize things, and deal with things that do not fit into existing categories. Cultural rules are flexible in practice. For example, the kinship system of a certain Amazonian Indian tribe requires that individuals marry a cousin. However, the definition of cousin is often changed to make people eligible for marriage.
And on identity:
3-39. Each individual belongs to multiple groups, through birth, assimilation, or achievement. Each group to which individuals belong influences their beliefs, values, attitudes, and perceptions. Individuals consciously or unconsciously rank their identities into primary and secondary identities. Primary identities are frequently national, racial, and religious. In contrast, secondary identities may include such things as hunter, blogger, or coffee drinker. Frequently, individuals’ identities are in conflict; counterinsurgents can use these conflicts to influence key leaders’ decisions.
This is, of course, simultaneously reassuring and disconcerting.
Jesus, we have almost two years left of this stuff.
…some good comments. gmack:
The problem with Dowd is not so much annoying contrarianism, but insufferable glibness, shallowness, and laziness as a writer.
MoDo is particularly annoying because she doesn’t seem to have any sort of political beliefs or agenda or ideology (if she does, she’s kept them well-hidden for two decades) apart from scolding public figures who have failed to live up to her murky, ill-defined standards in some way (usually some astonishing surface-level misdeed, like their vocal timbre, or their haircut, or their wardrobe). Her high moralizing tone is very hard to take because it isn’t the service of any discernable agenda, save contempt for people who have offended MoDo in some way. And why the hell should I (or anyone) care one way or another about what’s upsetting MoDo on any given day? All she does is knock and snark and tear people down, without offering any sort of consistent framework for doing what she’s doing. It’s apathetic nihilism posing as post-ideological sophistication.
Glenn Reynolds, 2/11/07 (i.e. 3 days after this was released to the public): “I think it’s legitimate, and partly because it was in the week when she was coming out and making a very big deal on global warming. The plane that she originally had requested was actually a military version of a 757 airliner. And her staff said she wanted to have room for an “entourage,” which was perhaps an unfortunate choice of word.”
See, an ordinary hack would just say Pelosi requested something she didn’t request, several days after proof that no such thing occurred (which was sufficiently unrefuted that the White House said it was a non-story) was released. The kind of hack who can get on CNN on Sundays will actually invent content for the fictitious request. Let that be a lesson to you!
…as a couple of commenters pointed out, it’s imprecise to say that Reynolds personally “invented” the smear. My guess is that he was vaguely remembering this now-discredited Washington Times story. Leaving aside the obvious facts that 1)”if an anonymous source said it in a fifth-rate newspaper, it must be true!” is an amusing standard for an anti-Emm Ess Emm crusader and 2)there are rather obvious logical difficulties with making claims about specific wording about a request that anybody even minimally familiar with the facts would know never existed, you’ll notice that even the Times never said specifically that “her staff used the word”–the word was used to describe her claims by the source. As far as I can tell, the embellishment is Reynolds’s own.
Sadly, the vast archival landfill of the internets has been unable to provide me with an image of this ad, which appeared briefly during the summer of 2001, at the very moment that Der Preznit was — among other things — weighing the enormous moral consequences of embryonic stem cell research.
The Catholic League has asked Unilever, the parent company of Lipton, to withdraw an ad that is offensive to Catholics. The ad, which is published (among other places) in the June 13-19 edition of the New York Press (a free alternative weekly), depicts a man dressed as a priest offering Holy Communion to five parishioners in a church. The priest is holding the Host up to the first person on line who is about to receive. The fourth person on line is holding a bowl of Lipton Onion dip, obviously suggesting that he is prepared to dunk the Host in the dip. At the corner of the ad is a picture of the Lipton “Recipe Secrets” box that features the onion dip.
After Bill Donohue warned that “one thing the Catholic League does not possess is patience,” Lipton withdrew the soup ad. Unilever, makers of Q-Tips and Axe body spray among other fine products, remains — along with the Dallas Cowboys and the makers of Fiddle Faddle snacks — on at least one list of companies boycotted by the faithful.
Curiously, this was not the first time that Lipton had offended the sensibilities of God-fearing Christians. In 1954, Arthur Godfrey — who often gently mocked his show’s sponsors on the air — was discovered one night pitching soup to his audience of millions:
“When it comes to the chicken in Lipton’s soup, you’ve got to have faith,” Godfrey was saying. “Just like it says in the Bible. You know—the Book of Hebrews, Chapter 11, Verse one: ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ [laughter]. Or as it says in the Book of John, Chapter 20, Verse 29: ‘Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.’ But don’t go lookin’ in the soup. It’s there, but you’ll never see it [laughter].”
Televiewer Ackerman promptly blew his top at this novel use of Holy Writ. With William A. Chapman, founder of the World Home Bible League, he tore off telegrams to Godfrey and Lipton’s: “Shameful, sacrilegious . . . intolerably obnoxious . . . loose disrespect . . . one of the lowest notes in television history.”
The “Ackerman” fellow was William Ackerman, who was president of the WHBL, an organization determined to make sure that Bibles were available not merely in hotel rooms but in every home the world over. Although Lipton promptly apologized, to his credit Godfrey never acknowledged the non-controversy.
. . . Praise the Lord and pass the onion dip! Neil, in comments, demonstrates his superior Googling skills and delivers this:
Melissa’s resignation, as many bloggers liberal and conservative have noted, is highly regrettable. The fact that the misogynist, anti-Semite and all around bigot Bill Donohue continued to go after McEwan–who said nothing that, even under the broadest standards, could qualify as anti-Catholic or anti-religious speech unless we’re to believe that cultural reactionaries can’t be criticized long as their beliefs are motivated by religion–gives away the show about this being a faux-outrage kabuki dance. (I should emphasize here that I’m not saying that this means that Melissa shouldn’t have resigned, or should be subject to any criticism–as Christopher Moltisanti said, unless they’re paying your nut nobody has the right to tell anyone how to earn a living, and she should so what’s best for herself irrespective of whether a hateful crackpot will claim a scalp.)
To get something constructive out of this sorry episode, I’d like to turn things over to Julian Sanchez:
For one, I’m fairly contemptuous of the trend toward regarding harsh or snarky criticism of religious (or, for that matter, atheistic) beliefs—propositions capable of being true or false, credible or silly, benign or pernicious—as a form of “bigotry” on par with racism.
Right. The best example of this was Amanda’s analysis of Children of Men, which I’ve seen described as potential “hate speech” (and which of course led Donohue to call for her firing):
The Christian version of the virgin birth is generally interpreted as super-patriarchal, where god is viewed as so powerful he can impregnate without befouling himself by touching a woman, and women are nothing but vessels. But this movie offers an alternative interpretation of the virgin birth—one where “virginity” is irrelevant and one where a woman’s stake in motherhood is fully respected for the sacrifice and hard work that it is.
Look, the category of anti-Catholic bigotry–people subject to discrimination based on generalizations about their religion–is perfectly real. (My grandfather used to get anti-Catholic graffiti painted on his farmhouse when he was a school trustee. And , actually, he wasn’t Catholic–he just had a French name–but that’s never the point.) But Amanda’s post is about ideas. The underlying point–that Christian doctrines are in many respects patriarchal–is not merely defensible but banal. Her application to this case may be right or wrong, it may be subjected to equally harsh criticism–but it’s only “hate speech” if you believe that religious ideas should be ipso facto exempt from external criticism simply by virtue of being religious ideas. Which is not merely obvious nonsense, but a gross debasement of the categories of bigotry and hate speech. Make sure to note everybody making this kind of argument, and make sure to be extra derisive the next time they inevitably invoke the terms “identity politics” or “politically correct.” Just in case you weren’t sure if these terms weren’t entirely devoid of useful content, this should really be the tip-off.
Shorter Verbatim Glenn Reynolds: “Nor do I think that high-profile diplomacy is an appropriate response. We should be responding quietly, killing radical mullahs and Iranian atomic scientists.”
Killing Iranian religious leaders and scientist..quiet. It’s not just that he can’t explain how this would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, or how this could be in the American national interest. It’s that he thinks this would be quiet. Yeah, if a foreign government just started to kill American religious leaders and scientists, you’d barely notice! Maybe the President would send a strongly worded memo! Can he possibly believe that this would be “quiet”? Teh stupid, it burns.
(Via Greenwald, who has the more patience to deal with this idiocy than I do.)
…In comments, Ted Barlow also notes how Reynolds notes one of his critics “the complete absence of moral outrage aimed at the Iranian mullahocracy.” Touche! I would like to state for the record that I am opposed to illberal theocracies, strangling kittens, and Scott Stapp being given recording contracts. Oh, and lunatic wars that damage American national interests at immense cost.
…Reynolds, in an update: “And some of those who are outraged say it’s terrible to attack “religious figures and scientists.” But wait — wasn’t the left calling American bomb builders “mass murderers?”" Um, what the hell? I don’t remember that, but maybe The Left will be willing to correct me. Or maybe Ward Churchill can be reached in a pinch…anyway, the update for some reason fails to explain how Iran will be dissuaded for building nuclear weapons if we start killing Iranians at random, or how this would strengthen democratic forces, or how this can be done “quietly”, but none of this matters because The Left are all mullah-loving traitors or something.
The Times has the details on the deal. Essentially, the US and the five party group will be trading electricity, fuel oil, food, and some diplomatic goodies for a verifiable freeze on North Korea’s nuclear program. The freeze won’t be wholly verifiable, but the agreement will shut down North Korea’s plutonium program, which is a genuine achievement.
The talks are supposed to lead to further talks in which North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons. Let me go out on a limb here and say that this will never happen; North Korea may give up some of the nuclear fuel that it has, but I very much doubt that it will disarm entirely. Nevertheless, this deal makes the world safer. In comments to this post yesterday, Steve asked “Does this mean Bush was right about North Korea?” The answer is a pretty emphatic “no”. The deal we have today isn’t notably different from the Agreed Framework in 1994, except that it doesn’t promise a light water reactor and North Korea has nukes. It’s also pretty similar to what was on the table in 2002, except that North Korea has nukes. While a success on its own terms, this agreement represents an utter rejection of the Bush administration’s approach to North Korea thus far. Carrots, instead of sticks, brought compromises. Nuclear weapons were the subject of diplomacy, not the precondition. The fact that the wingnutosphere has remained largely quiet (although Red State is trying to blame newspapers for the deal) and that John Bolton denounced the agreement should tell you all you need to know about the type of diplomacy that was conducted here.
Most of you probably think you don’t need to read another evisceration of the buffoon Joe Klein, and you’re almost certainly correct. Still, if you’re in the mood, you could do much, much worse than Matt Taibbi’s latest offering. Amongst other strengths, Taibbi revisits Klein’s “extreme peacekeeping” nonsense from November 2003, which I recall reading with a special kind of horror at the time, but I had forgotten it was Klein who was behind it:
After sending a generation of idealistic young whippersnappers off to war in Southeast Asia with snazzy new unis, we end up killing two million people from one of the poorest agrarian countries on earth, turning huge sections of North Vietnam as well as illegally-bombed Laos and Cambodia into permanent moonscapes, and sending 60,000 Americans home in body bags, with tens of thousands more coming back crippled, poisoned, or psychologically ravaged. We furthermore let it get out that we started the war under false pretenses and kept up the fight long after even the Pentagon knew the whole thing was a hopeless waste of lives and money. Beyond that, we dump deadly poison on 5.6 million acres of a state the size of New Mexico, creating conditions that would leave every hospital in South Vietnam filling storage rooms, for the next thirty years, with two-and three-headed babies in jars. Photographers like Phillip Jones Griffiths would come back decades later with horrifying galleries of thousands of twisted genetic freaks left to lie for years on mats in malarial villages…
And yet, despite all of this, the real reason idealistic young people from the fancy classes have not been rushing into the services in the years since then is because the army isn’t offering them their own hat.
And that’s not even the best part. One of the most appalling things about our public discourse these last few years is the casual accusation by both Republican politicians and the likes of Klein–not only are we dirty fucking hippies, we’re guilty of a sort of treason of the heart. We’re not properly “rooting” for America to win. Which, as far as I can tell, consists of a sort of public tinkerbell act. Back to Taibbi:
But according to Klein, if we see a guy step off the top of the Empire State Building, we’re supposed to root for him to nail the dismount. The whole issue is irrelevant and absurd. This is a catastrophe, not a baseball game. “Rooting” is a kid’s word; grow the fuck up.
If you’re going to drop in on a post about Joseph McCarthy (among other unsavory people), don’t scold your audience for not mentioning the “Soviet archives” called the “Verona” cables — particularly if the Venona project was not in fact spelled with an “r” and was not in fact a Soviet archive but an intelligence operation conducted by the US and the UK.
Oh, and don’t quote Tom Wolfe if you expect to be taken seriously about anything not having to do with white suits.
This has been a brief note to trolls. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.