Saturday, August 18, 2007

Up Your Arsenal

Here is an outstanding comment that neatly encapsulates the moral dilemma of the two-faced "okay we were wrong but we meant well and anyway you were wrong toooooo" crowd of contemptible scribblers.

Ignatieff represents the corrupt and noxious tradition of moral imperialism. There is nothing either noble or tragic about it. Throughout the course of American empire, just as with the empires that preceded it and will probably succeed it, these moral imperialists have been the enablers and helpmates of the more crass and materialistic type of imperialist. Wherever there was a sugar industry to be cornered, a fruit plantation to be annexed, a native population to be moved out, an oil field to be accessed and exploited, a strategically placed peninsula to be militarized, a community of local women to be made into a brothel to serve sailors, a popular local leader who won’t play ball with the imperial commercial interests, these fine moral fellows have floated in on the same warships with their plans to convert the heathens to Christianity or Democracy or Liberalism. They were there in South America, dishing out last rights to converted Inca souls, as the latter were exterminated. They were there in the old west, civilizing the Red Man as he was pushed into the ground or off the edge of the continent. They were in Hawaii and the Philippines and Cuba and Puerto Rico and Nicaragua, saving red socialist souls for the god of capitalism. And they were in Iraq, writing western Liberal constitutions and intellectually underwriting the butchery that got their reforming feet in the door.

I don't want to hear about how much these fellows love their country. That doesn't do it for me. The United States is drowning in an absolute flood of "country-love", and gagging on the junk food of patriotism. Before I am willing to give these Liberal moralists the time of day, I want an indication that they have some clue about the many things that are wrong with this country, and that they have some disposition to change those things. I want to see some signs that they are capable of emerging from the mass stupidity that witnesses one barbarous episode after another, only to throw them all down the memory hole and put manufactured memories, movie images and preposterous political speeches in their place. But the moral imperialists never get around to that kind of honest critique of their own societies. Their dreamy moralistic visages are always and only pointed in one direction: outward.

The moral imperialists are in love with the American Way, and want to spread it. Well I am not in love with the American Way. I reject much of that Way. I reject empire. I reject the cult of the nation. I reject the brutality of the American economic system. I reject the savagery of the westward expansion, and the genocide of the Native Americans. I reject the culture of guns, gouging and brawling and rumbling. I reject the record of continual, aggressive, warlike conquest. I reject the shallow kinetic culture of greed, acquisition and ceaseless interpersonal competition. I reject the fatalistic acceptance of a grotesquely imbalanced and undemocratic world of economic winners and losers. I reject the revolting commodification of sexuality. I reject the ongoing rape of the environment, and the prevalent love of replacing sublime natural beauty with shoddy human ugliness. But I do believe a better world is possible.

[all emphases in original]

Now, there's a great deal more that's right with America than is wrong, and our respect for the principles of law and human rights, however flawed, is substantially better than that of many countries, especially those in the Middle East, especially those in thrall to medievalist dogma.

But we are slipping, and we are notoriously averse to serious self-reflection. The existence of burqas does not absolve us from our own responsibilities, nor does it magically negate the concrete reasons why we are where we are, and fail to do anything sensible about those reasons. And smug putzes like Ignatieff, who tend to cloak their half-culpas in passive-aggressive rump bien pensant weasel words, do not help things. Nor do the Everything Changed and Everything Matters dime-store philosophakers, who refuse to face realities with the same grim determination as the Ignatieffs and the Friedmans.

One of the great things about there being a million little debates on the internets is not only that they serve as correctives to the bland posturing of the Serious Thinkers, but that they knock down the smug delusion that these people know something profound that escapes us peons. This has been consistently proven untrue, yet the same people are saying the same things, five years and countless lives later. And other people nod and respond, and cooperate at least objectively in the ridiculous notion that any of them still deserve a place at the discussion table.

They don't deserve such a place as long as they continue to avoid the central task accorded them, which is repudiating their initial foolishness of judgment. And they may be right, in the professional sense -- if they admitted that their esteemed judgment was so tragically, fatally flawed, they really would be out of a job. The operational integrity of The Village utterly depends on preserving the veneer of studied perspicacity.

The most recent week of guests on The Daily Show, two of whom were Bill Kristol and Cheney hagiographer Stephen Hayes, illustrates this perverted logic. No doubt Jon Stewart brought them on to be willing, somewhat amiable targets for what Stewart (to his credit) has evolved into a slightly more aggressive, penetrating interview style. (Though Stewart is also in the habit of trying to backtrack and lighten things as the interview winds up, which is a mistake. There is no reason to give even the appearance of retreat from sniveling tools like Kristol and Hayes, who are well-compensated for their intellectual panhandling.)

Stewart's intent seems to be to render their arguments inoperable, which is not difficult to do. But because these people have no substantial ethical moorings, and because they are part of a corrupted process, just having them on actually serves to legitimize them further. It should not be an opportunity for weasels and hacks to show that they can be good sports and take a joke; it's not a fucking joke. These are repulsive people whose paid mission is solely to defend other repugnant people, and their lies, corruption, cronyism, and failed policies, which affect us all. I don't think Atrios was off the mark when he recently opined that Kristol is a person of the sort whose image should be routinely spat upon by decent people at this point. And in a thoughtful, contemplative nation more tethered to its founding principles, that would be the case.

Instead, people like Kristol are welcomed and lauded in what passes for modern salons of Serious Discourse in this country, without a trace of irony. Being wrong in and of itself is not a crime, but nor should it be buffered by its "good intentions". It should be hauled out and recognized for exactly what it is, and why it happened in the first place, not for personal retribution, but to avoid future occurrences.

But when you have people who were clearly, objectively wrong, and refuse to admit such, and either color their professional regret with dolorous pud pounding (like Ignatieff), enable it by cheerfully licking the same boots that got them there (like Hayes), or insist, at absolutely zero personal cost to themselves, that we must prepare to trudge yet further into the Big Muddy, and by God use their same fucking map that got us there in the first place (like Kristol), the least a responsible media presence can do is to stop giving them a soapbox. Kristol has his own fucking magazine, yet the Washington Post feels some ontological need to give him a column. Hayes is a sloppy thinker and a lackey to the worst sort of people American politics has to offer. Ignatieff peddles his weepy tropes in the country's largest magazines.

These people are nothing but poseurs, charlatans, pseudo-intellectual concern trolls. There is no goddamned reason for any responsible media entity to give them so much as the time of day, even if the mission is to refute what they say. Facts never mattered to them in the first place; what makes anyone think that even the most comprehensive refutation of their bullshit will sway them or their idiot fans one iota?


woodguy said...


I have been a regular reader of your website for probably a year or so, although I suppose I am technically a "lurker" in blogosnomenclature, reading you with awe and profound appreciation each and every time (well almost) I visit. I was an English Lit major in college--eons ago--and this latest post forced me to finally comment on what I have found herein.

I am in awe of your turn of phrase and command of language. I look forward to reading your perspective on the mess in which we find ourselves and agree with your comments in almost every instance (which makes us both brilliant, I think). You are an island of sanity in a sea of excrement. I find your writing succinct and rare in today's world of illiterate prosthelitising.

I drone on...The primary impetus I have for contacting you tonight is my complete bewilderment at why I see post after post of yours devoid of comments. Surely there are others who share your (our) feelings about where we find ourselves; why the paucity of reaction from "out there"? I read other blogs and witness readers' comments arriving at a fast and furious pace. What gives? I see links to other sources at this site, yet I don't remember having ever seen a reference to you at any other site. I love to steer others your way, but my sphere of influence is severely limited, and my rantings may well be a detriment rather than an incentive for others to puruse and profit from your wisdom.

I drone on...The lack of commentary on your wise and literate musings and unique perspective has bothered me for some time, and tonight I had to get this off my chest.

Suffice it to say my appreciation is genuine and profound and I look forward to your next posting.

cavjam said...

It is tempting merely to assert that as he has been wrong about everything, he should be, were there a free market function to punditry, consigned to the remainder bin; but Bill Kristol is a criminal conspirator in a war of aggression, a war crime.

Heywood J. said...


Wow....I definitely appreciate the words of high praise. I always hope that these little virtual jeremiads will hold up to scrutiny, both now and later. I check in on some of the old stuff at random from time to time. Most of it seems to have aged pretty well, which surprises me as much as anyone else.

Things like commenters and hit counts, I do wonder about the quantity, but I try not to worry about those things too much. It can be counterproductive and demoralizing to sit by the hit counter and wait. Although after 2½ years at this, I can't shake the feeling that I should be averaging well over 100 hits per day. I'm just not sure what to attribute that to.

But the commenters that do come in from time to time are uniformly excellent, and I enjoy engaging them, and I appreciate their input. The relative lack of volume might be that the posts tend to be long, and that I go for elaboration over concision. I also haven't really gone about cultivating a "community", primarily because I have no idea how to, and not much time in the day to begin with.

Heywood J. said...


I agree with you that many of these idiots are indeed malign in intent and execution, and thus categorically war criminals. Kristol is at the head of that gang, made all the worse because, for all their high-minded rhetoric, they always make sure to sub out the wet work. No dirt under our Billy's manicure, no sirree.

So yeah, first against the wall and all. But at this point, I would just settle for responsible media outlets just having the guts and sense to openly repudiate them, turn their backs on them. That would be an enormous step.

woodguy said...


A sincere thanks for your rapid response. It is comforting to know you are out there.

I should tell you that soon I shall festoon some the local highway overpasses in my neck of the woods(a dense neck, indeed) with calls for IMPEACHMENT and I shall drink a toast to you as I do so.

Keep the faith and I sincerely hope you continue writing--in whatever format is to your liking. Consider your facility with language a rare gift to be nurtured and used often and well.

I shall be in contact as inspiration dictates and time permits.

Thanks again for all you do.

cavjam said...

So yeah, first against the wall and all. But at this point, I would just settle for responsible media outlets....
"[R]esponsible media outlets"; I love that. Your satirical touch is still nonpareil.

Just as an aside, filed under irony of ironies, Billy Baby is currently giving lectures, at Hahvahd no less, on Xenophon. Xenophon was an advisor and aide de camp to Cyrus the Younger in his mercenary battle against the Persians. Before deciding to take the job, he was advised by Socrates to seek guidance from the Delphic Oracle. Xenophon never asked whether the idea of battle was a good one, just which gods to entreat for success.

thedevilzone said...

I have to say, David Rees's take on Ignatieff made it all worthwhile.

just having them on actually serves to legitimize them further. It should not be an opportunity for weasels and hacks to show that they can be good sports and take a joke; it's not a fucking joke.

Yes, yes, yes. This is the main thing that drives me nuts about TDS; I'm so sick of watching Jon pal around with useless tools like Kristol, McCain, Zakaria and Brian Williams (the latter two aren't in the same league as the former, but still, fuck 'em and their puddle-deep insights). I saw C&L hyping his interview with Kristol, saying "this is how it's done!", so I watched it on my TiVo and was underwhelmed. He almost sounded apologetic and whiny. I can't remember what exactly Jon said to him, but my recollection of the gist of it was "gosh, you know, we love America too, and it hurts our feelings when you call us names and say we hate freedom, especially when you guys are, you know, kinda sorta wrong about a lot of things."

I know he does a lot of good work that more than makes up for his softball interviews; it's just beyond maddening to see people who should either be in the Hague, or, as TBogg says, making an appointment with Mr. Noose and Mr. Stout Overhead Beam, getting talked to and joked with as if they're buddies.

I guess I wish a "comedy" show would take advantage of that status to allow on more of the Dirty Fucking Hippie types that we know will never make it onto a "real" news show. Scum like Kristol and McCain don't need yet another fucking outlet.

Heywood J. said...

Zakaria is one of the few whom I can actually cut a bit of slack; he has qualified his support from the very start, and had very precise observations about how easily things could go wrong. He has not been a witless Bushie tubthumper, nor has he had to whack off a contrived column of crocodile tears to placate his inner demons.

But still, yeah, can we still afford to remain neutral on a moving train, as the saying goes? I don't think so. Zakaria has been too tepid for my tastes in his placid repudiations of Bushtard doctrine, but since he's never going to encourage troglodytes like Kristol and Hayes to do the honorable thing and fuck off and die already, it's about the best one can hope for, in terms of literate commentary.

It really comes down to finding a way for individuals to make a concerted, collective effort to push this commentary "clerisy" off their pedestals, and find people who can do more than just regurgitate compromised wisdom. In other words, why does anyone in their right mind still watch, say, Tweety Matthews, other than in the hope of catching him saying something stupid?

Heywood J. said...

That Rees essay really is one of the more brilliant fiskings I've seen in some time. And he couldn't have done it to a more well-deserving wanker than Ignatieff, who at the end of the day is nothing more than a manufacturer of weaselly excuses for indifferent policy-makers.