Thursday, January 18, 2007

Break On Through To The Otter Side

Add this to the Chewbacca Defense, and the other absurdist ploys these goofballs pull from the nether regions:

Here's Press Secretary Tony Snow, today, in the gaggle:
"The president has said directly to members of Congress on a number of occasions: 'Take whatever shots you want at me,' he says, 'in terms of politics. You can criticize me all you want, but make sure that you do not do things that are going to weaken the troops.' And he is very passionate and very adamant about that point. Members always say, 'yes, sir, we support the troops.' Therefore, it is going to be incumbent upon members of Congress who feel that that is a priority to figure out how best to express their support for troops."

Huh. That sounds awfully familiar. Where have I heard something like that before? Oh, yeah:

"The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests - we did. But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!"

It's the "Otter Defense." You are powerless to resist it.

Right up there with the oft-used Bluto Defense ("Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!" "Germans?" "Forget it, he's rolling.") or the Otter Dodge ("You fucked up! You trusted us.").

I mean, Animal House is a true American classic, I just didn't realize that some people also view it as a template for ostensibly serious governance.


Tehanu said...

But isn't it obvious that Tony Snow's real name is Greg Marmalard?

john lenin said...

You know, I'll betcha that if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we have an actual enemy, one who poses an actual threat, one who actually has the capacity to invade the lower 48 and occupy it, there won't be any argument over "supporting the troops". It's only when we travel halfway around the world to pound some small country that hasn't threatened anything other than some corporation's bottom line that people start to get hesitant about supporting such actions. Maybe it speaks to some shared human tendency to feel for an underdog being picked on by a giant bully.

Heywood J. said...


Good point. We all remember what happened to him in the end....

Heywood J. said...


You know, I'd like to believe that, but the more I think about it, the less I buy it. More and more people are turning against this war for the same reason they turned on Vietnam -- because it has only gotten worse for us, not because it was the wrong thing to do in the first place.

It would be nice to say that there's some innate moral revulsion in pulverizing a castrated country that hadn't done anything, and in normal people, that's true. But in the end, in the aggregate, I think it's more about us than about them.

We fucked up, and it's become an immensely costly exercise in futility with no end in sight -- that's the real problem. A morally-centered populace with its collective head not firmly ensconced in its own ass would have taken to the streets and demanded mass resignations by now.

john lenin said...

It's strange. I agree with what you're saying, so now I've gotta figure out how to draw the line between your point and mine.

I remember that Chomsky long ago pointed out the bleedin' obvious, and I'm still waiting for a mainstream commentator to do the same: that "support the troops" is just their way of trying to personalize an unpopular (in potential, if not reality) foreign military adventure.

Don't think about the PNAC, the large oil reserves, the hypocritical policies in the region over the last several decades - think about the kid from your neighborhood in Shithouse Falls, USA! You don't want him to be killed or maimed, do you?

I'm always fighting an uphill battle against cynical misanthropy, so it's easy for me to say that most Americans are selfish bastards who don't care about anything other than maintaining an uninterrupted flow of beer and chips to their favorite chair in front of the HDTV, who aren't going to care about a bunch of Iraqis any more than they care about all the people they blow away in Call of Duty 3.

Yet the powers that be are relentless about trying to keep our attention from drifting away from whatever red herrings they have on display. I suppose it could be that they fear we'll just let our collective ADHD get the better of us and simply get bored of keeping the wogs in line, but I like to hope that they fear that eventually the cognitive dissonance will be too much, and people won't be able to reconcile our image as the kind-hearted underdog with reality anymore.

I hope, anyway.

Heywood J. said...

I'm always fighting an uphill battle against cynical misanthropy,....

Yeah, that. It's because we're just informed enough to realize that we're disempowered. But it's not even just information; I'm sure each of us knows at least several douchebags whom, if you got into a conversation about the PNAC, the shortsighted hypocrisy of Middle East policy, the need to conserve oil, you'd get a fucking shrug and a "whatever". I think most people know, at least intuitively if not specifically, and they just don't give a shit.

Part of it is a lottery mentality; the average American lives so far on the margin that they almost literally have to win a fair-sized lottery jackpot to get out of the shell game that passes for personal finance. We don't save money because not only do we not have any, but at 1.1% savings rate, there's no incentive. So we regard the ultra-rich, the winners of the ever-widening gap, with a mixture of suspicion and envy. We don't like Dick Cheney, but we wouldn't mind having his bankroll, even just to give half of it to charity or whatever.

So Americans don't fuck with rich people because they secretly think that there's enough luck to it that they actually have a chance, even though they know better, they get that the system is rigged to favor the pigs already parked at the trough, sometimes for generations.

A good friend of mine from several years back, staunch conservative, used to half-jokingly say something to the effect that cows would eat us if they could. Once you get past the initial absurdity of that statement, I think it illuminates the mindset of many people -- they assume that the proper way to have a "realistic" outlook on how the world works is to assume that everyone else is out to kill us and take our shit, and to act accordingly. Better to have a benevolent American boot on everyone else's neck than to risk the prolonged terror of the [villain-of-the-week] jackboot on our own.

I think we've just been conditioned to accept this as fact, and it's a fait accompli at this point. And now we're in the morally craven position of having invaded and occupied a country for four years now, for no goddamned reason at all, and we're pissed about it because of what it's done to us. We have learned absolutely nothing from Vietnam, primarily because we never intended to. We explored how it damaged our precious psyches, and went no further. It took a while, but ultimately we find ourselves right back where we were in 1975, wondering why fucking a mousetrap has to be so painful.