Sunday, January 21, 2007

The poverty of sleaze

Dinesh D'Souza is a sleaze. A highbrow sleaze, sure. Or maybe middlebrow. In terms of actual content, it's a travesty that major newspapers are giving him a forum to spread cheap McCarthyist accusations.

But why kid ourselves? Rush Limbaugh's Oxycontin ravings have been mainstream Republican wisdom for years, at least a decade and a half. That dopefiend bigot Limbaugh and his many imitators blanket the lowbrow end of the Republican market very well. D'Souza is one of the more literate Republican propagandists writing with academic pretensions, being a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. Since his latest book, a vigorously testosterone-charged attack ont he Islamunodefeatocratists called The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11, is aimed at a popular audience, I guess we should count it as "middlebrow". But whatever position on the brow it emits from, the basic impulses come from low in the brain stem, seat of primitive responses.

Beflore I got inot another of his op-eds, don't miss Jesus' General's
post of 01/19/07 on D'Souza, which generated an e-mail exchange with Testosterone Man himself, which the General reports here and here.

The San Francisco Chronicle gave half a page on Sunday to Testosterone Man for a piece entitled
Pelosi's crew and Osama bin Laden share common goals 01/21/07. They even helpfully illustrated it with this famous 1998 AP photo of Osama himself:

I suppose it's a sign of journalistic "fairness" by today's standards that they didn't doctor the photo to show him smooching with Nancy Pelosi.

It should be a sign of trouble when someone is arguing two incompatible points at once. Especially when there's no good reason to be arguing either of them. Now, I'm a bit of a Hegel fan myself. You know, dialectics, contradictions, Aufheben (Hegelian "negation"), etc. So I can handle things being complicated.

But D'Souza's point seems to be that Al Qaida hates us because of the values and practices of the "cultural left". But "the left" just lu-uvs Bin Laden and his Sunni Salafist extremism. Though they very deviously pretend they don't. But they do. Or something. It doesn't make any [Cheney]ing sense, in other words.

Okay, just for grins, let's pretend that there's something more to Testosterone Man's latest gambit than slinging sleaze up against the wall to see what sticks. The only way to make even half-sense out of it that I see, apart from resorting to clinical explanations, is that rightwingers have always seen "the left" in the US as the main enemy in the global war on terror (GWOT) pretty much from the moment that second plane hit the Twin Towers on 9/11.

The "left" for them is the Real Enemy, and encompasses the entire Democratic Party, socialists and communists (the few who would actually describe themselves as such), mainstream and liberal Christians, Jews, Arabs, Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, feminists, unions, gays and lesbians, scientists, college professors and anyone who dissents from Dear Leader Bush's conduct of the Iraq War. In other words, 75-85% of the entire US population.

Here's the basic argument of this op-ed by Testosterone Man. The Democrats aren't serious about fighting terrorism or getting Bin Laden, unlike our Dear Leader who diverted massive resources from chasing Bin Laden and Afghanistan and domestic anti-terrorism measures in order to launch a needless war against Iraq. The Democrats oppose Bush - which is the normal role of opposition parties in normal democracies - so that means the Testosterone Men who follow Dear Leader faithfully are faced with a "liberal-Islamic alliance". And Democrats are obsessed with sex. Unlike Christian fundamentalists. That means "leftists" don't really like Bin Laden because he's opposed to sex. But this is really a very devious, clever cover for "the left" because what they really want is for the Islamunists to win. It's obvious which side the"leftists" support, you know, the Sunni death squads in Iraq. Or maybe the Shi'a death squads Or the Kurds. (Whatever: Muslims are Muslims, right?) And those devious, sinister Democrats are sneakily using the fact that, oh three-quarters or so of the people oppose continuing US presence in the Iraq War, to criticize Dear Leader's policies there. So it's obvious that Nancy Pelosi and Michael Moore and Jane Fonda hate America.

All right, I admit, I had to make it sound more coherent than it is to summarize it. But that's pretty much the gist of Testosterone Man's argument in this piece.

When you're dealing with a faith-based system of fantasy like T-Man's op-ed, in a way it's kind of useless to pick apart individual claims. Since this kind of argument is designed to begin and end with the assumption that the Real Enemy is "the left" and they must be supporting radical Sunni Salafists like Bin Laden, then even contrary evidence just becomes evidence of the clever deviousness of The Enemy.

As I've said here before, Bin Laden and other jihadists have said very clearly that Cheney's and Bush's Iraq War helped the jihadist cause. When the US leaves, whether in 2007 or 2017, they will say that this represents a great victory of the faithful Muslims over the infidels. Of course they will make propaganda either way.

But Bin Laden's public posturing shouldn't be more than a tiny factor in considering whether the Iraq War is in America's interests and in calculating the costs and benefits of continuing that war. One of the major costs has been a de-emphasis of hunting down Al Qaida groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Or just think of how many American ports could have been supplied with state-of-the-art security inspection capabilities, or how many commerical airplane cargo holds could have been bomb-proofed for the tremendous amount of money we've spent killing Iraqis in war that has no real prospects for turning out to be any kind of "success".

But just for practice, let's look at a few of D'Souza's propaganda techniques. This is one of my favorites:

He now openly praises American leftists like Robert Fisk and William Blum ...
British journalist Robert Fisk is an American? Who knew? I thought he was a British citizen living in Beirut. Is he a "leftist"? Beats me. He seems to be a hard-headed realist in terms of his reporting and hefrequently criticizes Labour Party leader Tony Blair, who he calls Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara.

And who the hell is William Blum? Ah, a quick Amazon search reminds me he's the American author one of whose books Bin Laden mention favorably in one of his messages. Is Blum a "leftist"? Beats me. I'd never heard of him before Bin Laden mentioned that book, and I'm guessing most of the rest of American Democrats hadn't either. I do recall seeing a brief interview with him on TV after that.

This is evidence of the Grand Liberal-Jihadist Conspiracy and Good Republican White People? Wow.

And, of course, there's the old standard, the stab-in-the-back excuse:

The left could not stop Bush in Afghanistan, but it is on the verge of stopping him in Iraq. Now that Iraq has become the central front in the war on terror, the left is working overtime to engineer a Saigon-style evacuation of the American military.
Gee, I've been following antiwar proposals pretty closely, and I've haven't encountered anyone left, right or center advocating "a Saigon-style evacuation" of Iraq. I mean, I'm guessing that "Saigon-style evacuation" would be a rush evacuation where we dump helicopters into the sea and such.

The only thing I know that would be likely to bring about such an event would be an escalation of the war that led the Shi'a in southern Iraq to turn in force on the US forces and cut their vital supply lines to Kuwait. One possible outcome to the McCain escalation now being implemented. Testosterone Man, like even many war critics, seems to assume that how long the US stays in Iraq is exclusively an American choice. But a "Saigon-style evacuation" is a definite possibility. Though the Mahdi Army and other Shi'a militias would be the ones forcing it, not the Democrats or "the left".

You get the general idea. Pick a paragraph of his op-ed at random and see if it makes any sense in a reality-based world.

For grins, you might also want to read the review of Testosterone Man's new book in the 01/17/07 issue of The American Conservative,
MTV Made Them Do It by Tom Piatak. Piatak does some verbal arobatics himself, trying to agree with T-Man's attacks on the "cultural left" while also arguing for withdrawing from the Iraq War. His bottom line is, withdraw US troops from the Middle East, ban Muslim immigration to the US and (maybe) ban Islam in the US, though that last point requires a bit of reading between the lines. Oh, he also doesn't agree with T-Man that them thar Muslims hate us because of our sex practices (or "the left's" sex practices). He says it's because, you know, those Muslims are just violent and T-man is an "Islamophile". (?!) Here's Piatak's conclusion:

D’Souza’s Islamophilia also blinds him to the fact that the conflict between Islam and its neighbors originated with Mohammed, not Hollywood. Mohammed began the process of conquest. A Christian West that was far from decadent was the target of Islamic aggression for centuries and survived only because of the valor of Christian warriors in such places as Poitiers, Malta, Lepanto, and Vienna. This Islamic assault on Europe ended only because Turkey was unable to keep pace with European military technology, not because the Ottomans became irenic. In our own age, too, it is only Muslims who react to "a decadent American culture" by resorting to terror. [I though Timmy McVeigh was Catholic! - Bruce] It is hard to avoid the conclusion that no matter what we may have done to make them hate us, tensions on the frontier between the Islamic world and its neighbors are virtually inevitable.

The solution to the problem of radical Islam is not to romanticize Islam, as D’Souza does, by imagining that a shared opposition to such practices as gay marriage can create a genuine community of interest between "traditional Moslems" and Christians for the first time in history. Nor is the answer to invade and democratize the Islamic world, as Bush and the neocons want. Rather, the solution, as Srdja Trifkovic suggests, is to exclude Mecca from America and to disengage America from Mecca, thereby eliminating the greatest threat Islam actually poses —invasion through immigration - and minimizing the tensions and provocations that help Islamic radicalism to spread. (my emphasis)
The "valor of Christian warriors"? Does anyone actually use language like that outside of graduation speeches? (Apparently so in The American Conservative.)For Piatak, the only problem with T-Man's argument seems to be whether he's providing the right reason to hate Muslims.

Expect much more of the same fromtoday's
Biloboized Republican Party.

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