Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 8, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

SPEAK FOR YOURSELF....Responding to my suggestion earlier today that the American public increasingly opposes the Iraq war regardless of how well it's going, Tobin Harshaw of the Opinionator says:

It's a good point, but I suspect some will feel Mr. Drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it.

Not only is this baseless (read the post and judge for yourself), it's craven. Even worse, it's bad writing. Roy Edroso explained why a few months ago when he contrasted the different ways Christopher Hitchens and Rod Dreher have written about their reactions to 9/11:

One of the things I still admire about Hitchens' writing is that I believe him: not his belligerent analyses, but his portrayal of his own thoughts and feelings. He identifies clearly the personal obsessions that informed his strange reaction to the horrible event — the multicultural versus the monochrome. He puts responsibility for his feelings on himself, and dares the reader to find him insane, because he doesn't care what the reader thinks. Hitchens seeks not to beg his reader's attention and understanding, but to command it.

Dreher has none of this. To speak in the first place of "the feeling all, or nearly all, of us had on 9/11" is a glaring sign that even in confessional mode, Dreher thinks in groupthink, and his announcement that our group feeling was "one of ultimate meaning returned to the world" shows that he can't even get groupthink right. "It couldn't last, but it was — I have to confess — a great feeling... And we were clear that Everything Mattered." Even if you weren't there, you'd have to doubt this, it's so phony. The problem is that Dreher can't take ownership of his own strange thoughts — he has to project them on all of us. I think in the back of his mind he knew he was saying something awful, and so sought to offload responsibility for them.

If you can't take responsibility for what you're saying, you might as well shut up.

I've been meaning to link to that post of Roy's ever since I first read it. It's a good writing lesson.

Kevin Drum 8:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (68)

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Comments

How the hell does Harshaw pull enjoyment out of Kevin's post? Projection, most likely. And do people really pull their views of the war from political leaders? If true, they're more gullible than I suspected.

Posted by: bigcat on November 8, 2007 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Of course another way of accounting for Hitchens' utter attention to his own thinking and his complete indifference to the thinking of others is his abject slavery to his own self.

Finding common ground is not a bad thing by itself; it's bad only when done badly -- and doing it to contrive hundreds of millions of sock puppets to mouth your own peculiar beliefs would be a nice example of how one can do a botch job of it.

Posted by: frankly0 on November 8, 2007 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

Both the numbers and the timespan are small, SO DON'T READ TOO MUCH INTO THIS.

Still, the FACT that opposition is increasing even though more people think the war is going well is STRIKING, and STRONGLY suggests that opposition to the war is past the point of no return.

Apparently the American public is smart enough to realize that MILITARY PROGRESS ISN'T really that MEANINGFUL without political progress, and we HAVEN'T SEEN A DIME'S WORTH of that.

Unless and until we do, I don't expect THIS TREND to change.

Both the numbers and the timespan are small, SO DON'T READ TOO MUCH INTO THIS.


Posted by: majarosh on November 8, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/articles/warisaracket.htm

Posted by: sameoldjeff on November 8, 2007 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

A simpler theory: Christopher Hitchens is one of the finest political writers in the world--dreadfully wrong though he can be--and Dreher isn't.

Posted by: Ross Best on November 8, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

As if it's a bad thing to take pleasure in people finally realizing the folly that has cost so many lives for dubious goals if not for the vanity of one man.

We should indeed welcome this development.

Posted by: gregor on November 8, 2007 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

It's a good point, but I suspect some will feel Mr. Drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it.

Talk about boldly saying nothing. It's like the old 'some people say' qualifier. Some will feel Mr. Drum shows(fill in whatever absurdity you prefer). It is quite likely that if enough people are exposed to Kevin's post some will feel that way about it.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O/F in 08! on November 8, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

Drum: Not only is this baseless, it's craven. Even worse, it's bad writing.

My, aren't we sensitive?

When we write "don't read too much into this" and then proceed to go ahead and "read too much into this," we invite the accusation that we "show a bit too much pleasure in making" our point.

Hey, we've all been there. We need a martini.

Posted by: Econobuzz on November 8, 2007 at 9:34 PM | PERMALINK

Whether Harshaw is right or not -- and I express no opinion on that subject -- [i]any[/i] writer (or politician) who supports his opinion by attributing it to "some" or "many" instantly loses all credibility.

Such writing is an attempt to make an opinion sound popular without naming anyone who actually believes it, and nothing more. It contains no substantive information whatsoever.

Kevin, keep fighting the good fight against cheap propaganda.

Posted by: dal20402 on November 8, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

It's a good point, but I suspect some will feel Mr. Drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it.

Kevin, this is not just baseless, craven, and poor writing, but it is also ugly and lazy.

The author is all but conceding your point, presumably because he is too lazy even to attempt a half-ass refutation, and instead opts to smear your point with an ugly /ad hominem/.

Posted by: Disputo on November 8, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, have no problems remembering my feelings on 9/11...It was just like the moment you began to 'hi side' on an open class motoX bike on a fast sweeper! Time slows and then resumes with a jolt.
I also remember filling up all my cars/bikes with gas that day on the assumption that we would over react and go after the "right" people.
Much to my surprise that was NOT what happened, I had a basic misunderstandimation of just how stupid/criminal Bu$hco WAS/IS.


Posted by: jay boilswater on November 8, 2007 at 10:10 PM | PERMALINK

I've met Dreher before. He's not a very deep or very original thinker. His "crunchy conservative" schtick is pretty week, too, because he'll ultimately butter his bread on the side of unregulated big business conservativism vs. real environmentalism.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on November 8, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

>...the folly [Iraq war] that has cost so many lives for dubious goals if not for the vanity of one man...

I've become ever-more cynical about this.

Iraq is sitting on more than 100 billion barrels of oil, and that's just the known reserves. Most of the country is unexplored due to its previous problems. Estimates are as high as 200B, second only to Saudi Arabia, and their fields have less life left.

At the current price, that's $20 Trillion in oil. But in fact the price could become meaningless. The global peak in oil production was in 2005. The value of that oil could be north of $40 Trillion. Or priceless, to a US economy that waits until the last possible second to change the way it uses energy. It could be survival.

So far the war has only cost $0.5 trillion. Yes, not much oil is being pumped - but maybe that's not something the planners to cry over either. Better to save it for later, when it's needed more.

The war in Iraq was absolutely about one issue: the peak in crude oil production. Knocking down Iran now is about ensuring a safe passage in the gulf, for the oil.

It's possible Bush is enough of an idiot for vanity about this, but for the ideology and class of people around them, this is a longer term game. "Losing" Iraq and even the presidency this time around probably doesn't matter much. The point is to have the bases there in 10 years, and the regimes held weak. It ten years, there may be enough of an "emergency" to save a "way of life" that the game could played out nakedly then.

So the war coule be the opposite of vanity. Bush and Cheney may be celebrated in their dotage for looking out for the empire's long term interests, after risking (and as it turns out losing) their own reputations with the general public.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on November 8, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Jeebus, Tobin Harshaw must have gotten the same RNC memo that Howard Kurtz got recently.

(and Kevin has a stalker, sort of like the one Greenwald is reporting, the same sickly, greasie, contorted sytle of mockery)

The peddle the war is going great meme.
See if anyone believes it or buys it?

Soon it'll be peddled out of NRO, Border starts talking once more of Bush’s surging poll numbers? The tired, over-used same old crock that is making the public sick of Bushism.

Tobin Harshaw should go crawl back into what swamp he crawled out of, Yuk!

Posted by: Me_again on November 8, 2007 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Harshaw and his ilk need to show a little less enjoyment in slaughtering Iraqi civilians, which is all we are accomplishing in Iraq currently.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 8, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Still, the fact that opposition is increasing even though more people think the war is going well is striking, and strongly suggests that opposition to the war is past the point of no return.

The biggest problem is the Ron Paul one, the cost of war, and now the added economic downturn to boot.

Mr. Harshaw worse enemy isn't Dems looking at real numbers on polls, dispelling Harshaw's desperate "we're winning" meme, (look here, there is an irrelevent poll number BUT don't look at that other stuff on poll print out-and other stupid Bushite fantasies and delusions). The real problem for Harshaw is those fiscal conservatives that gave Ron Paul a 4.6 million. Ralph Nader never pulled in that much money in so short a time. Mr. Harshaw better hope Ron doesn't go indy.

Posted by: Me_again on November 8, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

Who were the 90% or 90+% of Americans who were so stupid as to ever trust George W. Bush or believe anything he said?

I would never let feelings of shock or sadness in the face of a horrible tragedy make me so brain dead.

And, really, in the great scale of things, 9-11 was pretty minor in terms of the loss of life on that day.

Posted by: Anon on November 8, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

The Packers are now 7-1 atop their Division with as good a record as anyone in their Conference. This, with practically no running game and with a relatively inexperienced receiver corps.

Poll time....

1. Are the Packers doing better than last year? Yes.

2. Are they doing better than you expected going into the season? Yes.

3. Would you support a continued near-exclusive reliance on passing with only minimal reliance on running the football? No, because then opponents' defenses will make it harder and harder to pass against them. And because it's hard to project continued success (like playoff wins) without having a reasonably balanced offense.

See... that wasn't so hard.

Posted by: Terry Ott on November 8, 2007 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Mukasey nomination is agreed to

53-40

Posted by: majarosh on November 8, 2007 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

I can get used to this punch-back attitude, Kev...

Posted by: elmo on November 8, 2007 at 11:31 PM | PERMALINK

It is a primary human behavior to seek pleasure and avoid unpleasure. The invasion of Iraq originally provided pleasure to America and now the occupation of Iraq does not. Americans want to avoid knowing anything at all about the occupation of Iraq so much, any mention of the civilian casualties immediately induces amnesia. Unfortunately for our mass unconscious mind, and even worse for the Iraqis, our soldiers are still there, which creates a social incongruence that does not allow us to escape the painful guilt of our crimes. We feel bad and want the troops out of Iraq so we can once again seek pleasure as a nation. I understand why that might be pleasing to realize.

Posted by: Brojo on November 8, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's a good point, but I suspect some will feel Mr. Drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it. -Tobin Harshaw [Whoever that is]

Typical projectionist piddle. Imagine some inanity then write about it as its truth.


Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 8, 2007 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Terry Ott, you may be right. But I suspect some people will think you're a complete sissy in making it, having had of it as it is.

No offense, because I'm not personally the one making baseless insults. :^[]

Posted by: absent observer on November 8, 2007 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Brojo on November 8, 2007 at 11:32 PM

Actually, what I think Tobin is trying to 'frame' in his readers is Democrats want the US to lose.

This is a tired old talking point rehashed.

Posted by: Ya Know.... on November 8, 2007 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

I used to be on high school swim team with Harshaw.

He was a complete prick. And a crybaby.

Posted by: Enceladus on November 9, 2007 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

I know, Ya Know...., but Tobin is unconscious of the fact the American public no longer receives pleasure from not losing.

Posted by: Brojo on November 9, 2007 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK

OT BREAKING NEWS: Benazir Bhutto has been placed under house arrest.

Posted by: Disputo on November 9, 2007 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

I used to be on high school swim team with Harshaw. He was a complete prick.

So you're saying that he was very hydrodynamic...?

Posted by: Disputo on November 9, 2007 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

Ya Know, you could be right about Tobin.
I do find it troubling that some find it necessary to discount any good news out of Iraq.
There is no doubt that practically all Americans want the Iraq war to end. The disagreements stem from how to end the war and that is the question that needs to be discussed, without name calling, without rehashing past mistakes, without arguing that how we entered the war is relevant to how we end it.
Some believe the only option is to end the war by winning and that is a valid position.
Some believe the war has already been lost or is unwinnable and that is a valid position.
Some believe we should get out immediately and let the Iraqis settle it, and that is a valid position.

JMHO

Posted by: majarosh on November 9, 2007 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

OT Pakistan


http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/08/AR2007110800134.html?hpid=topnews

Posted by: majarosh on November 9, 2007 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK
...not only is this baseless (read the post and judge for yourself), it's craven. even worse, it's bad writing.

that's a good point, but i think mr. drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it.

Posted by: skippy on November 9, 2007 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

Unless one defines winning the war as returning Iraq to all of its citizens, unburdened by US interests and ambitions, then I hope the US doesn't win the war. I personally don't think the war was started because of faulty intelligence. It was started deliberately and deceitfully to provide the US with a base of influence, control and profit in oil-rich Iraq and the entire region. I don't want a single American base to remain in Iraq. And while knocking down the 'superbases', the US might as well get rid of that ugly preposterous embassy. I'm happy when I see any sign of Iraqis winning their country back and unhappy when I see any sign of the US completing its agenda there.

Posted by: nepeta on November 9, 2007 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

"that's a good point, but i think mr drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it"

That's a good point, but I think Mr. Skippy shows a bit too much pleasure in making it.

Posted by: MFB on November 9, 2007 at 3:06 AM | PERMALINK

That is quite possibly a somewhat good (or not) point, although some might be inclined to perhaps arrive at something similar to a conclusion that people such as MFB show... [cough!]...[sputter]...

Weaseling is wearying.

Posted by: glorified jughound on November 9, 2007 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

There are too many communities now feeling the effects of the war for people to continue to blindly support it.

Comments to our local radio station (near a large Marine base) have changed from blind hoo-ha to a real disgust for the war as marines rotate in and out of Iraq for the second - third - fourth time.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) on November 9, 2007 at 3:56 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce?
I have to say you slay me. As if George had a reputation! Ha Ha Ha! He was the selection of an uncaring mindless meat eater machine that's allowed to run rampant in the world today on the premise of fear. Fear for all occasions. Fear of the "Lord". Fear of the "Bad Guys". Fear of the ghosts of aborted babies. Fear of homosexuality. Fear of communism. Fear of mediocrity in a changing world that we pretend to promote equality but love the differences in the haves and can haves and the have nots and never wills. What a stupendous example of definition, almost like a thirteen year old who claims to want to be different but wants so badly to be the same and accepted.
Would anyone want to acknowledge the fear of a drug addled, alcohol damaged underachiever who dodged service when his opportunity to serve was clear and available? Would anyone want to fear a connection to this black stipend payment to the american nightmare from the clear connection to not only a egregious assassination but a complete breakdown of any semblance of accountability of legitimate authority of America's government? Of course not. No one would so no one does.
Speaking of making realities. All it takes is to perceive of the need for murder and the associated carnage and it is so ... while the american public gets fed TV. (It Takes A Thief, Man From U.N.C.L.E. etc.) Enjoy the "empire" while it lasts.

Posted by: Yer Mother on November 9, 2007 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with elmo.

Posted by: Mina on November 9, 2007 at 6:12 AM | PERMALINK

Gosh, I remember my first thoughts on 9/11, and they weren't anything like these guys'. I won't presume to speak for everyone else, though I suspect that quite a few people thought the same things, which occured, in my case anyway, in this order:

1) Oh my god! Those poor people!
2) And we're going to have to deal with this with that monkey as a "leader"!
3) Damn, now I'm going to be forced to hear that shitty and detestable Lee Greenwood song over and over and over again!

Posted by: Jennifer on November 9, 2007 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, Kev, does this mean your hundreds of "those Republicans are really racists & bigots" entries are juvenile & wasted efforts?

Well, it made you feel better to type them, and that's all that counts.

Posted by: RW on November 9, 2007 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Roy Edroso is perhaps the best writer writing on the Internet these days.

Posted by: Kranko on November 9, 2007 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect some will say Tobin Harshaw is a kleptomaniac. But I would never say that.

Posted by: DR on November 9, 2007 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

I do find it troubling that some find it necessary to discount any good news out of Iraq.

That's because there really isn't any good news coming out of Iraq. There's a coordinated, multi-million dollar propaganda machine, led by the likes Col. Boylan, who's been caught lying repeatedly about sending nasty E-mails to various bloggers. There's a contract with people like the Lincoln Group to spread clearcut propaganda about how things are going in Iraq. There are specific conference calls for so-called "warbloggers" that exclude anyone who disagrees with the DoD on the conduct of the war. But is there any real information coming out?

They painted a school today? Great?

Now, I don't know how it's supposed to work for people who get their information from Fox News and completely ignore the housing meltdown, the fact that the Chinese are flooding this country with poisonous products, the over 9 trillion dollars in debt, and global climate change, but here's how it works for me--

Good news is fine. But good news is not necessarily "news." I really don't care that Bhutto got up today and had a cup of tea and spoke about freedom in Pakistan and didn't trip over the cat in her foyer. I care about the fact that her home is ringed with Pakistani troops and that she's under house arrest. Does that make me a pessimist about Pakistan? Because I don't care that she didn't trip over her cat? No, it means I'm paying attention to what is newsworthy.

Apply the same logic to Iraq--millions displaced and fleeing the country, bodies showing up tortured all over Baghdad, and entire sections of the country have been completely and totally ethnically cleansed. Couple that with the fact that we are only seeing improvements because the Mahdi Army/Militia is not attacking US troops and couple that with the fact that we're giving Sunni tribal leaders, who a year ago were killing Americans as well as the Shia militias, money and guns--you'll have to excuse me.

I don't fucking care how many schools they painted. That's "human interest news" but it's not "news."

Show me where there's clean water that's not giving Iraqis diseases like cholera, electricity for sustained periods of the day, and no tortured bodies showing up and that might be considered news, as in, improvement in the quality of life for Iraqis, and that's fine.

But we're constantly having Republicans piss out the window and tell us its raining. Sorry, I'm not into that. I know Republicans are into that shit, but I'm not.

Posted by: Pale Rider on November 9, 2007 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

Agree with simplest theories.

1) Harshaw took a cheap shot because that's what's easy to do.

2) Hitchens writes about his own feelings and thoughts incessantly and is pretty consistently wrong because he's an ego-centric nut case who mistakes his own delusions for reality.

3) Dreher is just not that interesting.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on November 9, 2007 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

Now fast forward to 2009--when a Democrat is running the Iraq war...

Think about that for a minute--Republicans will be swept from office and the conduct of the war, or rather, the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq--will be the order of the day.

How fucking "optimistic" and focused on "good news out of Iraq" does anyone think the Republicans are going to be? Does any serious adult who's been even slightly aware of current events in this country for even a brief period of time think they're going to restrain themselves from trying to score political points over any misstep or mistake in bringing our troops out of Iraq?

Careful how you answer that--seven years of cravenly using our military as a campaign wedge issue and five years of wearing blinders about Iraq are pretty well documented. I certainly don't want to hear McCain, Huckleberry Graham or any of these other idiots tell me "bad" things about Iraq when all they've done is tell me how things are going so well in Iraq.

Harshaw says:

It's a good point, but I suspect some will feel Mr. Drum shows a bit too much pleasure in making it.

Nobody enjoys cleaning up after Republicans, so why don't you take a seat while the adults put right what the immature children fucked up beyond recognition, okay?

Posted by: Pale Rider on November 9, 2007 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Bruce, a few thoughts for you:

Iraq is sitting on more than 100 billion barrels of oil, and that's just the known reserves.
Actually, that's an unknown known. They were calculated at that. In 1990 the Kuwaitis were accused by Hussein of slant-drilling into Iraqi fields - you may remember the aftermath of that particular episode.
The extent of that drilling hasn't, to my knowledge, ever been publicly disclosed. It could have been total bullshit and purely a public casus belli(greenlighted by April Glaspie) or the Kuwaitis may have actually extracted Iraqi oil through dozens of wells. The duration has never been established either - Hussein was in no position to investigate post-Desert Storm(nor to request an investigation), and the Kuwaitis certainly never made any declarations of whether they resumed or started doing so once they re-constructed the drilling operations damaged and destroyed by the Iraqi invasion.
It is entirely possible that billions of barrels of those reserves were pumped into Kuwait and sold, or spilled and burned in the aftermath of the invasion, and billions more pumped and sold during the period post-Desert Storm. Which would be a substantial dent in those reserves.

Another bit from you - I've got two pieces that tie together neatly:

The value of that oil could be north of $40 Trillion. Or priceless, to a US economy that waits until the last possible second to change the way it uses energy. It could be survival.
So the war coule be the opposite of vanity. Bush and Cheney may be celebrated in their dotage for looking out for the empire's long term interests,
Bush ran up the Strategic Petroleum Reserves during the immediate post-9/11 period - and refused to disperse any of it during a period that it could have made a difference in economic growth(or more precisely, recovery in economic growth). To my knowledge, the SPR is full up, and it's sole purpose is to support military activities, as you can't run an FA-18 or a M1A1 on ethanol or biodiesel.

What you have glossed over(by skipping over it entirely) is that changing the way the US economy uses energy is intrinsic to its long-term interests. It is also intrinsic to the empire's long-term interests - once the oil runs out, if there's no alternatives, the US military machine becomes a bunch of very expensive doorstops - although still useful for oppressing Americans!
But I digress - the benefits of discovering, developing, or utilizing fossil replacements would have had a discernible positive effect on many things, oil prices, dollar valuation, moral rectitude, and popularity of extremist Islamism chief among them.
Bush and Cheney haven't done anything substantive to address alternative energy.
I said anything substantive, not nothing. Their efforts have been similar to those of a teenager who, upon being told to clean their room, gathers dirty laundry into a pile and calls it a day. While casting pizza crusts under the bed.
The funds spent thus far in Iraq could have been used in pursuit of alternate energy sources, and would have provided tangible benefits already - mostly in the realm of world opinion on whether the US is in fact representative of humanity's greatest hopes and aspirations or just a bunch of selfish douchebags. Although, throwing $10 billion at photovoltaics in 2001 would certainly have yielded more progress than has been made without it.

Posted by: kenga on November 9, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK
Good news is fine. But good news is not necessarily "news."
Fuckin' A right!

Kinda like "I just saved a lot of money on my car insurance! Let's not talk about what happened to your family in the fire."

Posted by: kenga on November 9, 2007 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Whether Harshaw is right or not -- and I express no opinion on that subject -- [i]any[/i] writer (or politician) who supports his opinion by attributing it to "some" or "many" instantly loses all credibility.

Such writing is an attempt to make an opinion sound popular without naming anyone who actually believes it, and nothing more. It contains no substantive information whatsoever.

Kevin, keep fighting the good fight against cheap propaganda."

Posted by: dal20402

It's doubly dishonest - not only is that wh*reson blaming the failures of the war on those who opposed it, but he doesn't even have a sliver of honesty to assert it as his own opinion. He has to blame it on 'some'.

Posted by: Barry on November 9, 2007 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Typical of the right-wing hacks, to indulge in slanderous imagining of "pleasure" etc. taken in making points about depressing events that are the norm now in Bush-world.

Posted by: Neil B. on November 9, 2007 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

That bit by Edroso is good. I don't expect that sort of understanding of political writing in this country. Not from blogs either.
Moral seriousness and sincerity are poses, they're attitudes made for public consumption. Dreher's writing is a mashup of a need to be liked and taken seriously and of professionalism masquerading as objectivity. You think he's the only one who sounds like that? You think the rest of the world doesn't cringe at the self-importance of american liberals?

Objectivity in language is everything that you and your friends take for granted. That applies to the members of the soi-disant "reality based community" as much as any other. Hitchens has no such illusions. British reporting is still unprofessionalized compared to American journalism. He's got his head up his ass, but Hitchens says what he thinks and doesn't look over his shoulder for confirmation every five fucking minutes. That's refreshingly un-American

Posted by: Seth Edenbaum on November 9, 2007 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

soi-disant "reality based community"

As much as I love to see soi-disant put to use, I think your knowledge of the etymology of "reality based community" is a bit wide of mark.

Posted by: uri on November 9, 2007 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect some will feel that Mr. Harshaw should be suffocated with a Bolivian unicyclist's jockstrap.

Posted by: Bolivian Unicyclist on November 9, 2007 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kenga>What you have glossed over(by skipping over it entirely) is that changing the way the US economy uses energy is intrinsic to its long-term interests...utilizing fossil replacements would have had a discernible positive effect on many things...

Hey, I agree with your point of view completely. I was just trying to see things from theirs. Through efficiency gains and solar/wind/nuclear etc, we are technically capable of turning things around in time without a disaster. We just won't.

But I still think Bush's backers may be betting Iraq is sitting on a lot of under-explored oil. If not - then the war never made any sense at all.

Posted by: Bruce the Canuck on November 9, 2007 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

uri, I know where the phrase comes from, do you know how its used?
"You think the rest of the world doesn't cringe at the self-importance of american liberals?"
Is the defense of American prerogatives synonymous with the defense of reality? How many Swedes would agree with you on that? How many Italians? Is there some streak of internationalism in American political discourse that I'm missing?
Reasonable people agree, "we" have to do something about Iran So who's reasonable exactly? And who's "we." This is the language of American liberalism. Defense of reason becomes defense of the reasonable. Moderation is standing in the middle of a boat that's drifting to starboard. Meanwhile Gaza is being destroyed and one million Iraqis are dead. When we start bombing Iran it won't be Bush's fault. Who gave the idiot his guns?

Posted by: Seth Edenbaum on November 9, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce - I thought that comment didn't jive with past ones you've made ...
Nonetheless, when that meme gets out there, I've of the opinion it needs to be refuted every single time, any place it's found.
Else, it lends support to the "'We just won't' cause there's no need" crowd. My $.02 anyway.

Posted by: kenga on November 9, 2007 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

If you believe the label is ill-applied, that's your prerogative. In my mind, it is important to note that the label wasn't coined by those who have appropriated it.

Seth, are you calling for a more Radical liberalism in America? I'm having trouble parsing out anything but denigration of the status quo.

Posted by: uri on November 9, 2007 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

If I were calling for more "radical liberalism"[sic] why would I be defending Hitchens?
There is no reality based community, and it's a mistake to use the term, just as it's a mistake to accuse anyone of not being 'objective', or 'neutral.' All of these end up being about little more than consensus. Good intentions mean nothing. Sincerity is a mannerism not a methodology.

What can you say to American liberals who can't even admit that their arguments originate in exceptionalism. What does it take to make some people look in the mirror? Radical? Maybe self-awareness is radical. Hitchens knows what he is and what he believes. He argues from a position, not from what others think a position should be. He doesn't defend a label, he defends a principle. Maybe he's wrong or even nuts, but I've seen people march and stomp around like they were playing SDS, defending Bill Clinton, who was after all a "moderate republican" and a sleazebag. Do these people even know how much the ground has shifted? They've rationalized a liberalism as being to the left of the right, and nothing more. But you can rationalize on top of anything. Without a history there's no foundation.

History is a fog, but it's not a fog you escape by ignoring it.

One of the things I still admire about Hitchens' writing is that I believe him: not his belligerent analyses, but his portrayal of his own thoughts and feelings. He identifies clearly the personal obsessions that informed his strange reaction to the horrible event - the multicultural versus the monochrome. He puts responsibility for his feelings on himself, and dares the reader to find him insane, because he doesn't care what the reader thinks. Hitchens seeks not to beg his reader's attention and understanding, but to command it.
That's really well put, and it's a good description of how a writer or an articulate mind should engage the world: engaged subjectivity. Hitchens is more interested in his own moral integrity than in being right. He doesn't claim the authority of prosecutor, defense attorney and judge all wrapped up in one. No one has that right. Everyone is partial. Everyone has biases. Hitchens is true to his biases and to himself, not what he thinks he his supposed to be. American political liberalism among the educated classes is based on delusion that dressing up in glasses and a lab coat means earns you the title of an objective observer. It's not true for the press, it's not true for academia and it's not true anywhere.

Posted by: Seth Edenbaum on November 9, 2007 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

"British reporting is still unprofessionalized compared to American journalism. He's got his head up his ass, but Hitchens says what he thinks and doesn't look over his shoulder for confirmation every five fucking minutes. That's refreshingly un-American..."

Man, that's a maelstrom of misconceptions, except -- in the end, it's right.

1) Reporting is NOT a profession. It's a craft. It's an acquired skill, but there really isn't a body of knowledge, like there is for heart surgery. You can DEVELOP the knowledge, the way you do with a craft ("I never had good luck with crooked grain..."), but that's not a profession.

2) I am passionately against the lazy elitist American habit of thinking we are remotely like the Brits, e.g., Peggy Noonan writing about Thatcher at Reagan's funeral: "We are one people, after all." Bullshit.

British independence and eccentricity are DIFFERENT, culturally, from the native American varieties. Hitchens has just become a naturalized US citizen, but he is culturally British and probably always will be.

3) It is NOT a particularly admirable American habit to be a Babbitt -- but I gotta admit, SE is right: it IS an American thing to be looking over your shoulder to see if you're still like everybody else. But what makes this particularly American, and particularly like, say, Dreher?

4) I had big fights for awhile on another blog (devoted to Catholic stuff) with Dreher, when I was first working out "theAmericanist". (This was in Dreher's Roman Catholic phase.) I don't think it's entirely fair to tag his habits as "groupthink."

What Dreher desperately craved was to be PART of something bigger than he is. I don't sense that in Hitchens at all.

5) So I don't think what Hitchens is doing is "unAmerican", I just think he's doing it in a British way.

PJ O'Rourke does it in an AMERICAN way, if you like; but it's remarkably similar.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 9, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Yanno, I WAS gonna mention that often having his head up his ass might be the reason why Hitch doesn't look over his shoulder... but never mind.

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 9, 2007 at 6:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Reporting is NOT a profession. It's a craft."
And craftsmen aren't objective. Lawyers are craftsmen.
My Trade:A Short History of British Journalism. Not a great book but a good one.

The reason I go off on this is that it's not a problem of journalism but of American political intellectuals' relation to the world. America has a long tradition of naivete and distaste for the sophisticated. it's almost ideological at this point, even in the academy. We're a nation of puritans and drunks.

"Yanno, I WAS gonna mention..."
[cough] um.. yeah.


Posted by: s.e. on November 9, 2007 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

O'Rourke fits. So does Buckley. For the left, Mailer, Didion and Vidal all come to mind. Didion's the best journalist of the american political scene of my adult life. She writes with the informality of a blogger, that is: as a political amateur. She's a professional writer, not a professional intellectual. And she's a better observer than any Poli Sci. prof. that I've ever met, ot read.

Posted by: s.e. on November 9, 2007 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

I second Krank on Roy Edroso - he's the best.

Posted by: denise on November 9, 2007 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Hitchens desires certain stuff and that is all there is to Hitchens at bottom. Hitchens has no political political philisophy of any sort but rather Hitchens has a political personality which is the case for neo-cons generally. Laying waste to the achievement of the United States is a pastime for neo-cons. Essentially there is a negative dialectics to neo-conservatism that is not grounded by Marxism or Trotskyism but rather is guided by the destructive personalities that animate neo-cons.

Posted by: Larry on November 10, 2007 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

'If you can't take responsibility for what you're saying, post a 1000 posts a day' is the way the Internet works. There are essentially no 'star posters' on any site on the web who fail to belong to a trolling clique and, of course. webmasters troll sites routinely. Approval for 'If you can't take responsibility for what you're saying, you might as well shut up' is at very best naive.

Posted by: Paul on November 10, 2007 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin's point was about writing, but there's a related point about professionalism in a democracy, particularly POLITICAL professionalism.

SE's right that it is a very American trait to loathe and mock sophisticates, which gets downright schizophrenic when it's nurtured by academics. JFK had a line someplace about America being a place where every mom hopes that her son will grow up to be President, but every dad fears that to do that he will have to become a politician.

What I used to fight with Dreher about began with "the Situation", the Catholic heirarchy's complicity in child abuse. I basically agreed with him that folks like Cardinal Law belonged in jail. But Dreher characterized the problem as 'clericalism', the idea that "the Church" refers to the priests more than the faithful, which didn't interest me that much. He went on to object to the role the Catholic church plays in American politics -- not aggressive enough on abortion (IIRC, he was all for banning pro-choice folks like Kerry from communion; we had a lively argument about the failures of the Church to stick with that over the swastika), and way out of their depth on social justice issues. Finally, he left the Roman church because he felt it was too political; when he entered his current faith (last I checked) he wrote about how it was only about God, and he felt comforted and at home.

So I don't think it's fair to say that he's a groupthink guy, exactly. He thinks for himself. But he wants to think OF himself as part of something larger than he is, and it's that impulse to identify with the Big Picture that Kevin and the Opinionator are pointing to in Dreher's writing.

Hitchens has a different angle on what he is or isn't part of: he's an iconoclast, where Dreher WANTS to put icons on his mantel. I'll never forgive Hitchens for the sheer vulgarity of his attack on Mother Theresa (she smiled at me once in an elevator, so shoot me: I was smitten) over "the missionary position", and I thought his take on Clinton was at least as much a silly projection/speculation as "the feeling all, or nearly all of us had..." (Hitchens recalled how he and his friends used to play Collaborator, wondering which prominent politician would cooperate with a conquering power and which would be the resistance leaders in the hills: Clinton, Hitchens was sure, would have welcomed our insect overlords.)

Conservative second-stringer Matt Labash famously wrote that media conservatives consciously feel and act like part of a movement -- they bitch about "the liberal media's" lack of objectivity, but make no attempt to be remotely objective themselves: their responsibility for what they say and argue is TO the movement, not to any "professional" ethics.

It's the same impulse, to feel a useful part of something larger than yourself, that moves Dreher: who is, after all, a "crunchy conservative".

What's missing, of course, is what practicing the CRAFT of journalism oughta teach folks, particularly people who cover politics: in the middle of all the corrupt theatrics, there are people who are doing remarkably important and difficult work navigating the crosscurrents of public opinion flowing over the rocks and shoals in boats that don't point well -- and leak.

To oversimplify, the Dreher's are too busy serving as part of the movement, and Hitchen's is too interested in his own perceptions: where are the guys who actually observe what's going on, and report it plain cuz THAT's what they've trained themselves to do?

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 10, 2007 at 7:34 AM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on November 10, 2007 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

2007 Deadliest for US in Afghanistan - A.P. 11/9/07

2007 now the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Iraq - CNN 11/6/07

shorter mhr...

nothing succeeds like more dead americans

Posted by: mr. irony on November 10, 2007 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

"... no success like failure, and failure is no success at all..."

Posted by: theAmericanist on November 11, 2007 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK
The US public does not like the Iraq war….meatheadrepublican at 12:41 PM
No one and no policy has done more to aid al Qaeda that George W. Bush. He lost the Iraq war the day he invaded and he is currently losing his war in Afghanistan. Only guys like you play al Qaeda's game and only you and your political allies aid and abet their efforts. If you could read the public's opinion as expressed in the polls, the American people want out and they want out sooner not later. This war is a fiasco and counterproductive to American interests, which is exactly what Republicans want. Posted by: Mike on November 11, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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