December 27th, 2006

blowhard

Miss a little and you miss a lot

It was true of the Jerry Lewis telethon, and it's true of Town Hall. I quit reading it for the holidays, and look what they do: they deposit gem after gem, day after day. Why, just look at what's available today alone: Mike S. Adams continues to delight himself by getting over on his fictional students. John Stossel stands up for the rights of Hooters girls. Douglas MacKinnon, in the course of excerpting his terrible new novel, displays a delightful misunderstanding of how the Roman empire fell. Brent Bozell confuses secularism with Christianity while lamenting "Black Christmas". Jonah Goldberg wins a gift certificate for being the 100,000th conservative to claim that moral relativism means that no one is allowed to make, or stand by, their own moral judgment. Dennis Prager points out that the difference between moral Judeo-Christians and immoral liberals is their belief in scripture, but fails to mention that this belief is also shared by the fundamentalist Muslims he so despises. Herman Cain bravely stands up to the deadly "politically correct police" by wishing us a merry Christmas. Walter Williams offers a uniquely kooky attack on the draft, claiming that it is a confiscation of wealth and resources and arguing that we could have the mightiest army in the world if we just paid our soldiers a competitive wage (Walter is apparently unfamiliar with conventional military wisdom as regards the placing of national security in the hands of mercenaries). And Thomas Sowell pens a hilarious column about how if western nations are rich, it is only because they've earned all their wealth, and you can't claim that wealth belongs to "the world" because if you look in the phone book there's no person listed named "The World". (No, he really says this.)

I mean, seriously, it's like...well, Christmas over there. Almost every single editorial is a towering acheivement of lying, self-flattery, delusion, blind partisanship, and standing up to nonexistent enemies. But, as usual, the grand prize goes to neo-conservativism's very own Junior Alfred Rosenberg, Ben Shapiro. In a piece entitled "2006: The Year of Retreat", Ben, who sports a boner every time someone says 'Islamofascism', writes a pretty predictable diatribe about how the wolves of Muslim fundamentalism are at the door and it's our namby-pamby, weak-willed failure to recognize the whole race of Mohametans as the sworn blood enemies of freedom that will cause them to overrun our cities and rape our babies. There's a couple of things worth specifically addressing, though, even ignoring the tone of this (and practically every other) piece on Islamism (despite their near-sexual desire to compare themselves and their speechifying to Churchill's bold stand against the pure evil of the Nazis, their rhetoric has a terrifyingly similar tone to anti-Semitic propaganda of the early 1930s).

We are engaged in a war of peoples and causes, Islamic against Western. We are isolated; the Europeans (aside from the stalwart British) have abandoned the cause of Western civilization in favor of a crippling post-modernism that promises an Islamic future.

Hmmmmm. Seriously, what does that sound like to you? Does that sound like something Churchill would say? Or maybe that someone else would say? Also, how does the embrace of postmodernism promise an Islamic future? Wouldn't it promise an atheistic future? Or, if the argument is that it weakens people and makes them susceptible to absolutism -- okay, that makes no fucking sense, but if it did, wouldn't that just as easily promise a fundamentastic Christian future?

We have been vastly more successful than the Allies were in the early months of World War II; we have toppled two enemy regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Okay, I'm going to drop my jokey facade for a second here and get one fucking thing straight: if the enemy is Islamism, Iraq was not a victory. It was a complete and total unmitigated defeat. By invading Iraq, toppling their government and occupying their cities, we have delivered radical Islam a far greater victory than the one they scored on September 11th. That day, we gained the world's sympathy and kindness; the day we invaded Iraq, we pissed it down the drain. We invaded a country that, though brutal and cruel, stood as one of the few in the Middle East not consumed by sectarian violence and extreme religious radicalism, and turned it into the most raging bloodbath of inter-Islamic warfare in the world. We took what was (again, admittedly, by force -- but that's not a solution we've shied from in the past, especially against socialism) a country entirely free of terrorism, violence and bloodshed by imams and jihadists, and turned it into the region's most fertile breeding ground for terrorists. In one dire action, we changed the murder of American soldiers from an exceedingly difficult endeavor taken at massive risk before the eyes of the world into a daily routine, as easily accomplished as waking up. If, as these people would have it, the preeminent enemy of freedom today is radical Islam, then Iraq cannot by any accounting be held as anything more than a complete and utter failure, a defeat so profound that it can't possibly be defended. To hear it numbered as a victory against an enemy (read: Islamist) regime is to depart the realm of reality and even propaganda, and to enter a world of pure abstract fantasy that recalls nothing less than the ever-shifting wars of Oceania in Nineteen Eighty Four.

2006 saw Islamic terrorists operate openly from government offices in Palestinian Arab areas, and towns and villages in southern Lebanon. And 2006 saw Israel respond by restricting its military action and planning a strategic retreat from more and more of its own land.

You might want to ask the people of Lebanon, who suffered around twenty times as many casualties in the recent conflict as did Israel, how "restricted" its neighbor's military action was. As far as retreating from its own land, Israel has already violated its own agreement with the United States not to build any more settlements in the Palestinian territories; so much for intransigence on one side.

2006 saw Islamic civilization's murderous rage over Danish cartoons and papal pronouncements.

Number of people murdered over the Danish cartoons: zero. Number of people murdered over the Pope's pronouncement: zero. But, of course, those numbers are poised to shoot right up! Even one death would be an infinite increase in the total number, that's how evil the Muslims are.

The enemy presses us from all sides; he weakens us internally. 1938 saw German civilization doubt the justice of its cause and shy away from the means necessary to preserve its survival. But 1939 can be the turning point, when we recognize the nature of the threat we face and steel our wills to finish the battle our enemies began. What we do now will decide the fate of countless millions; we can destroy the chains forged by Jewish civilization to bind our children. We can lead the unborn into the warmth and sunlight of freedom or we can condemn them to shackles. History will judge us harshly if we do not turn around now, stand our ground and say to our enemies, "The triumph of liberty begins here!"

Whoops! Sorry, I changed some names and dates there.
chinrub

...in HISTORY!

That last post got me to thinking. Long ago -- 1980 I believe it was, long before Vanity Fair, before Spy Magazine even -- a young Kurt Anderson, fresh out of Harvard and a stint with the Lampoon, wrote an amusing book called The Real Thing. Long out of print, the book's worth seeking out at used shops; it's funny and insightful as well in its goal of discovering the ideal, quintessential examples of various things -- from beers to sitcoms to military weapons to law firms to preadolescent traumas to junk foods.

What put me in mind of it is the fact that it contains a chapter on the quintessential bad historical analogies. The leading candidate, if only from numbing overuse, is that such-and-such a current event is exactly like the fall of Rome, says Anderson. That analogy's tedious, constant misapplication is still very much with us over 25 years later, as Douglas MacKinnon's inept column proves. However, Anderson rejected it on the grounds that it was too easy: anyone can, and does, use it, and it's historically distant enough that it can't entirely fall flat on its face. So, in the end, he concludes, the ultimate in bad historical examples is comparing things to the latter days of Weimar Germany -- decadent, degraded, sunk in moral depravity, full of denial, economically shaky, and ripe for the plucking for some nascent future Hitler and his cronies.

I have to admit, it's pretty compelling as the sine qua non of bad historical analogies. My personal favorite is comparing things to the last days of the Byzantine Church, but that lacks both broad application and universal recognition. Certainly the favorite today is comparing things to the Second World War, with us in the place of the Allies and an endless succession of bogeymen (communists, homosexuals, Islamists, liberals, anti-globalization first-wave economists) in the place of the Axis; the appeal is obvious, since it casts us back to the last time we all pretty much agreed on a big war that was actually worth fighting, but the failure of these various enemies to assume Hitlerian proportions (not to mention our own failure to assume WWII levels of heroism and courage) lead the whole thing to fall apart. WWI analogies are much more apt, I think (moral confusion over the purpose of the war, substantial ideological differences between the allies, a villain who's not nearly as menacing or potent as he's made out to be, a general air of intolerance of dissent, and powerful economic interests urging on a war to stave off a massive debt crunch), but for obvious reasons, not nearly as popular.

So how's about you? What's your favorite bad historical analogy? Think about it.
stoopid with two Os

It's International Bad Analogy Day!

1. James Brown:Gerald Ford ::

(a) Fred Wesley:Kenny G.
(b) Michael Corleone:A.J. Soprano.
(c) Anaïs Nin:Sitting Bull.
(d) “I Got Soul (Super Bad)”:”I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden)”.

2. Somalia:Ethiopia ::

(a) Italy:Ethiopia.
(b) Eritrea:Ethiopia.
(c) Jamaica:Ethiopia.
(d) Lee “Scratch” Perry:Mulatu Astáque.

3. George W. Bush:George H.W. Bush ::

(a) Gilligan:Maynard G. Krebs.
(b) Peter Griffin:Homer Simpson.
(c) Chevy Chase:Dan Aykroyd.
(d) George H.W. Bush:an enema.

4. September 11th, 2001:the invasion of Iraq ::

(a) rape:pizza.
(b) moon rocks:Godley & Creme.
(c) Gleiwitz radio station:the invasion of Poland.
(d) losing your son in a drunk driving accident:burning down a bus station.

5. “Culture war”:”civil war” ::

(a) “war on drugs”:”war on inflation”.
(b) culture sample:civil suit.
(c) Brent Bozell:Walter Peck.
(d) Civil War:Infinite Crisis.