I have to sympathize with Chris Bertram’s comment on Scott McLemee’s Solidarity Forever. The post is in reference to McLemee’s interview with Danny Postrel at Inside Higher Ed. The substance of the interview is the argument that the American and European Left is insufficiently sympathetic to Iranian dissidents because either a) the Left can’t get worked up over anything that’s not anti-American, or b) the Left is afraid that complaints about Iranian human rights practice will give ammunition to neocon hawks. Lindsay Waters, apparently, has lots of friends who believe that John Rawls is as evil as George Bush. As Bertram notes, he must have some odd friends. I realize that, somewhere, there are probably a dozen people or so who believe that Theory of Justice caused the Iraq War and so forth and what not, but time would be better spent ignoring those people instead of suggesting that they have an inordinate influence over the rest of the Left.
Yglesias does a good job with this; it’s hardly the first time that this nonsense has been trotted out. The first response is the left wing American and European organizations have consistently expressed concern over and solidarity with dissent in Iran, as well as in the much more repressive autocracies (like Saudi Arabia) that are tolerated by the United States. The second is that the assistance of American leftists is not, after all, an unqualified good. It’s hardly certain that the condemnation of Iranian human rights abuses by a group of earnest American lefties actually helps the human rights situation in Iran. While in and of itself a good, in the context of the rest of American foreign policy such action may actually work to discredit reformers and dissidents within Iran, as the neoconservative right does, in fact, use the same language to advocate for war. As Matt and Garance note, American threats towards Iran have quite likely set back the cause of democracy.
Dave Weigel notes that “the Half Hour News Hour, a news satire show produced by 24‘s Joel Surnow, is set to become one of the worst pieces of television ever – mentioned in the same breath as Pink Lady and Jeff, Fish Police, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.” (Well, I’m not sure if it’s quite pretentious enough to be as bad as that last one.) I think Ana Marie Cox gets at the fundamental problem, which one might call “Mallard Fillmore syndrome.” If you look at the clip, it’s not just that it’s painfully unfunny, it’s that it doesn’t even take the form of comedy. A Charles Krauthammer column doesn’t become comedy because it’s being read unironically by a badly drawn cartoon duck. Similarly, while it’s possible for a skit about Rush Limbaugh becoming President to be funny, when there’s nothing there but “boy, would that ever be cool and stick it to the Democrat Party!!!!!” it’s not failed comedy but not-comedy. (Speaking of Limbaugh, one can say something similar about a lot of Air America’s programming–starting with ideology first is going about it bass-ackwards. Limbuagh wasn’t successful because he was a conservative, but because he is a really, really gifted radio broadcaster. Limbaugh’s TV show failed because he wasn’t good at that job. As Cox points out, The Daily Show reflects liberal values, but its primary goal is to be funny. The point of the Fox show isn’t to be funny but to “stick it to liberals”, which is a guaranteed train-wreck.) My working theory is that the first sketch was written by Marty Peretz, although Ailes cut out all the Arab-bashing.
There is one funny thing to come out of this. As you can see, most conservatives correctly see that this as an abject disaster. But, via Weigel, there’s one exception: the aesthetic Stalinist’s aesthetic Stalinist Jason Apuzzo. A movie could feature two hours of a dimly lit Alan Thicke reading from Rebel-in-Chiefand Apuzzo would be outraged that it didn’t make the Sight and Sound Top 10 list. (Will the Right Brothers be the first musical guest?)
One hundred and nine years ago today, the pretext for an imperial war was laid as the USS Maine was obliterated by five tons of its own gunpowder. Two days later, Josph Pulitzer’s New York World reported on the following “confidential” insight from the captain of the vessel, Charles Sigsbee:
WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 .— A suppressed cable despatch received by Secretary Long from Capt. Sigsbee announced the Captain’s conclusion, after a hasty examination, that the disaster to the Maine was not caused by accident.
He expressed the belief that whether the explosion originated from without or within, it was made possible by an enemy.
He requested that this intimation of his suspicions be considered confidential until he could conduct a more extended investigation.
William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal was no less circumspect in an editorial that ran the same day. Calling for war regardless of the cause behind the disaster, the editors blustered that
we have endured [the Cuban troubles] long enough. Whether a Spanish torpedo sank the Maine or not, peace must be restored in Cuba at once. We cannot have peace without fighting for it, let us fight and have it over with. It is not likely that the entire Spanish navy would be able to do us as much harm in open battle as we suffered in Havana Harbor in one second for a state of things that was neither peace or war.
The explosion of the Maine marked a watershed, so to speak, in the history of the US. To use a less wholesome metaphor, the effect was comparable to that of a ruptured sewer pipe, as the foulest national impulses — bad poetry, bad music, bad art, bad journalism, and bad policy — poured forth in a towering fountain.
To humanity’s good fortune, nothing like this ever happened again.
. . . The Spanish-American War was the first to be captured to a meager degree in motion pictures . . . I’ve uploaded a short, uneventful, but kind of interesting film of the sailors’ funeral here.
Ann Friedman has an article about the “chivalrous” backlash to V-Day, which seems premised on the idea that nothing gets in the way of romancing women like the fact that they have independent sexual desires (or, worse, vaginas):
Hanneken is part of a counter-campaign, run by the conservative group the Independent Women’s Forum, to “Take Back the Date.” The program, whose title mocks anti-violence “Take Back the Night” marches, implores student to reject the vulgarity of the “v-word” and initiate a return to a more chivalrous era.
Um…yeah. And there’s more where this came from (see Amanda for the grim details.) I still remember when Karla Faye Tucker was going to be executed, there were some op-eds about how much feminism cost women because now they can be executed when they kill people, just like men! If they would stop practicing law and owning property and complaining when they get raped and stuff, this wouldn’t happen. Remember the Titanic when it was women and children first! Of course, this “chivalry” is inevitably predicated on sexism–remember what “noblesse oblige” assumes about the relationship between the people in question.
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.