Saturday, September 30, 2006

Neo-Cons Say the Darndest Things

I know we’ll be talking at greater length about the readings on Wednesday, but I just finished the Podhoretz piece and I’ve got to ask: what the hell? This cantankerous, meandering Bizarro-world is the kind of history you usually hear spun after two whiskey-sours at a VFW happy hour. Still we’ve got to admit that Grampa Norm perfectly fits the stereotype of a neo-con. And when that happens, comedy is usually inevitable (not the “ha-ha” kind, the mean-spirited, hammer-dropped-on-foot type).

Consider how he proves his points while we look at the “Varieties of Anti-Americanism” section. The dime-bin representatives Norm selected prove little more than how out of touch he is. Let’s look at the lineup: the unnamed host of an unnamed program on al-Jazirah, the chairman of the Syrian Arab Writers Association (I wonder how much they charge in dues), Dario Fo (an Italian Nobel laureate excluded from America by the Johnson administration), Jean Baudrillard (who wrote a book entitled “For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign” which I hope cleans up in French), and the historian Mary Beard (not that one, the unknown English one; go figure: there are two historians named Mary Beard). Cracker-jack material, Norm; you sure showed them. He collected sound bites and called them proof.

Along these lines is his seeming inability to differentiate among people with whom he disagrees. Brent Scowcroft, Pat Buchanan and anti-Semites form one peculiar group (Norm actually cites “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion;” that ad hominem seems thrown in simply for kicks, but you’ve still got to admire the chutzpah). Look through the article; you can play this game at home. Okay, here’s one: the arts(?), universities, NYC, and Hollywood (their only common connection is that they don’t agree with Norm). Bin Ladin, Hitler and Stalin [it’s important to include the reductio ad Hitlerum argument which spares me the effort of wondering where you stand on any given issue; (one of my neo-con buddies refuses to give up the term “Chi-Coms” for Chinese Communists; I always know where he stands before the sentence is even completed )], and the head-scratcher: Archibald Cox, JFK, and George McGovern (see, while Americans always seem to be “fighting the last war,” neo-cons never let up from six wars ago).

Occasionally, Norm does to history what Andy Warhol did to art. Things just come up a bit kookier. For instance, I never knew that bin Ladin and Khomeini have identical views on America’s role in the Islamic World. (Khomeini died three years before al-Qa’idah’s first attack, but never mind). There doesn’t seem to be any difference between nationalist terrorism and religious terrorism (I haven’t heard the term Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in a loooooong time), and, my all-time favorite bit of humbug: Islamism and the Soviets are/were an equal existential threat to the US. Solid.

All in all, Uncle Norm comes off –I’ll be kind—curmudgeonly. When he called anti-war activists “Jackal bins,” he’s just plain adorable (I wonder if he knows how close that sounds to Joe McCarthy’s “Jackal Pack”). Still, if you follow Norm’s advice and simply mold the evidence to fit the political theory, all sorts of great fun is possible. Hell, I could have my own condescending, patently inaccurate magazine funded by an ultra-radical group of disappointed, yet ebullient, ex-leftists. I wonder whether the PETA people pay by the hour?


Gus Van Rant said...

"This cantankerous, meandering Bizarro-world is the kind of history you usually hear spun after two whiskey-sours at a VFW happy hour."

This comment makes me want to visit a VFW ASAP.

Dr. Duke Nukem said...

disclaimer: bit long, but on consideration, not worth front page
Mr. Podhoertz's piece isn't so much funny, as that it exemplifies the "liberal mugged by reality" description.

Think of the difference between neoconservative American foreign policy and traditional American foreign policy as the difference between Robocop and ED-209. Robocop is a free-willed man/machine who will defend the innocent and uphold the law, but he can clearly discriminate between hostiles and bystanders. ED-209 is supposed to be the the latest and greatest advance in law-enforcement. It has firepower superior to anything else out there: three 20mm machine guns, 2 rocket launchers and 2 mortar launchers. However, it has great difficulty with mobility and distinguishing between real threats, distractions and the non-guilty. It could be the ultimate warrior of justice, if it would just stop falling down the stairs and slaughtering civilians.

Podhoretz is giving us a glimpse at the innermost thoughts of the ED-209. Like ED-209, neoconservatives realize that America has superior military capabilities, but also like ED-209, they have difficulty distinguishing the real threats from the innocent bystanders or just minor threats. Hence, the Islamists are Soviets, Khomenei is the same as Bin Laden and anyone who doesn't cheer, wave a flag and chant "USA" everytime they see an American official, soldier, officer or civilizan is "anti-american".

Soviet-style communism was the nemisis of liberty and individual rights - the totalitarian Skeletor to the democratic He-Man. The military muscle and imperial ambitions of the USSR were the hands around liberalism's throat in countries such as Hungary and Poland, arguably handed over to Stalin on a silver platter. Islamism - not Islam, but that's a distinction I'm sure certain right-wingers would like to erode - seems to have no qualms about continuing the USSR's ideological battle to erradicate western liberalism. They may not have an laternative economic system, but go ahead and bring them onto Good Morning America and ask them about their stance on individual rights, respect for personal choice and liberty for all. And remember I'm paraphrasing neoconese here. As for anti-americanism...if you've waded deep into the waters of neoconservatism, America is the strongest hope of promoting and defending liberalism worldwide. Any group or person that does not support America openly and often, then, is a foe of freedom. What does this showus? That neoconservatism can be seen as western liberal democracy's militantly defensive form taken against totalitarianism and facism. It has it's own built-in targeting mechanism, capable of identifiying anyone and anything as either "threat" or "non-threat".

McClintic Sphere said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
McClintic Sphere said...

The Geriatric Three wrote:

Jean Baudrillard (who wrote a book entitled “For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign” which I hope cleans up in French)

Um, no.
Pour une critique de l'économie politique du signe