I don’t read Glenn Greenwald every day, I quote Glenn Greenwald every day. He is a great writer who really gets to the core of political issues in a way that is rare indeed. Yesterday, he asked a question, “Which of these two stories is causing more controversy and outrage in the US?” And then he offered two quotes. The first was from the New York Daily News about anti-American lyrics written by Korean rapper PSY. The second was from The Guardian about American troops in Afghanistan targeting children with “hostile intent.” His point that there is an uproar about the lyrics and silence about killing children in a foreign land.
His broader point is that Americans accept this myth that our government just goes around minding its own business and then people attack us for no reason at all! Now, Greenwald is not making the case that America is evil and we deserve to be attacked. Rather it is that these attacks don’t come out of a vacuum. And until we grow up as a people and understand that, there will be ever more people angry at our policies of, for example, targeting Islamic children with our military. He makes the case better than I can:
The reaction to this story about PSY’s lyrics is quite redolent of the reaction of Americans to the 9/11 attack. Prior to the 9/11 attack, the US had spent decades propping up and arming the most repressive dictators in the Muslim world with the clear intent to suppress the views of the populations and ensure subservience to US interests. It overthrew or blocked their democratically supported leaders. Its decade-long sanctions regime against Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of people while strengthening Saddam, its former ally, and a top US official coldly told the world when asked about dead Iraqi children that it was “worth it.” Its steadfast support of Israel shielded the civilian-killing aggression of that nation from all forms of challenge or accountability. It bombed and destroyed a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan that kept large numbers of people alive.
All of these facts are, and long have been, widely discussed in most of the world, where they have generated simmering, intense fury. As one small example: the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory destroyed in the Clinton years is now a shrine, accompanied by what the Christian Science Monitor’s Scott Peterson this year described as enduring “bitterness and anger at what is widely seen as an unjustified strike.”
But most of these facts are largely suppressed, at the very least steadfastly ignored, in establishment US media discourse. That was why the 9/11 attack produced that truly bizarre though understandable reaction on the part of the US public: why do they hate us? The premise of that question, of course, was that the US is a country that simply minds its own business, doesn’t harm or bother anyone, simply wants peace for the world, and it’s thus inconceivable that anyone would ever want to harm it.
For someone who believes that, who sees the world that way, that post-9/11 bewilderment was natural: why would anyone possibly have such animosity toward the US, of all countries? When an answer to that question was needed, the US government and its media – rather than tell its population the truth about what the actual, well-known, long-standing grievances were—manufactured the self-flattering “They-Hate-Us-For-Our-Freedom” mythology and fed it to them. And many have been eating it up ever since.
The potency of this propaganda is what causes even federal judges who preside over terrorism cases to express genuine shock and confusion as to how someone could possibly be willing to plot to bomb American cities when they know that the bomb will likely even kill children. These federal judges have to have it slowly explained to them by the defendants that the US has been doing exactly that in their country and many other countries for years, and they resorted to similar violence out of a desperate inability to see any other alternatives for stopping US violence.
Obviously, artistic license or not, what is advocated by the lyrics sung by PSY (attacking and torturing the family members of US soldiers) cannot be justified, just as the targeting of innocent civilians on 9/11 cannot be. Still, singing about killing innocent people is not in the same universe as doing it, yet many Americans infuriated about the former express little if any condemnation of the latter when done by their own government. More to the point, to react to expressions of extreme anti-American sentiments—including the desire to harm US soldiers—as though they’re the slightest bit surprising or irrational is itself warped and irrational.
The acts of the US government that generate this hostility are rarely discussed in US political discourse, though they are widely discussed in most of the rest of the world. Americans would benefit from spending much less time and energy expressing outrage and offense at anti-American sentiment, and far more time and energy trying to understand why it’s so widespread and intense.
This is exactly the kind of writing that Americans need to be exposed to. Unfortunately, most of the people I know who need to hear this will only see an apologia for terrorist acts, which this certainly is not.
Update (10 December 2012 11:00 pm)
Liberal Viewer posted an excellent article about how Fox News is dealing with the issue:
Shelly Frey, a 27 year old girl was shot to death by a Houston Walmart security guard. Let’s cut through all the journalistic niceties and just admit: she had been shoplifting. That is the worst thing you can say about her—we know this because that is what Walmart and the cop are saying about her. I understand that in Texas they take crime very seriously: executing the mentally retarded and all that. But this? Death without due process for shoplifting?
Shelly Frey was with two friends: Tisa Andrews and Yolanda Craig. They were in their car when moonlighting Harris County Sheriff Louis Campbell opened the car door and told them to get out. Tisa Andrews was driving. She put it in reverse. Details are sketchy here, but you can see, if this happened, Campbell would have been hit by the door. Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Deputy Thomas Gilliland calls this “trying to run him over.” Regardless, he didn’t get hit. But I guess we are supposed to think that he was so frightened that he shot at the car as it raced away. He managed to hit Frey in the neck, killing her.
I don’t even know what to say about this case. The photo above is of Shelly Frey’s mother. I think that speaks more eloquently than I ever could. This is an outrage and I feel very certain that nothing will happen to Officer Campbell. In the end, it will all be totally justified. For now, he’s getting three paid days off.
I am a big MST3K fan, as you can see by the fact that I call Mystery Science Theater 3000 “MST3K.” I never really understood the character TV’s Frank, but I’ve long thought that the actor Frank Conniff is a brilliant man. If I hadn’t already thought that, however, I certainly would have after subscribing to his Twitter feed. Here are just a few from the last week.
First up, movie fun:
“Dark Knight Rises” is out on blu ray. The dull, plodding, overrated pomposity comes vividly to life like never before!
This tweet was extra special because he got into a flame war with a lawyer who took exception of making fun of children becoming heroin addicts. Personally, if you can’t laugh at child junkies, who can you laugh at? Cripples?
In the wake of Pearl Harbor, we retaliated against the country that actually attacked us. We never made that mistake again.
Earlier this week, I wrote about Marco Rubio’s pathetic excuse for moderating the Republican message at the Jack Kemp Foundation dinner. Basically, he didn’t change anything about his speech, he just claimed that things he would normally say helped “job creators” now helped the “middle class.” But Ross Douthat was very impressed with the speech.
In his column yesterday, Douthat writes, The Years of Senator DeMint. It is basically a comparison of what Jim DeMint did the last four years and what he hopes Rubio is going to do the next four. He rightly points out that it is normal for a party that receives a drubbing to go all Stalin and purge their ranks. Now that this is done, DeMint’s protege Rubio will lead the Republican Party out of the darkness. Something like that.
My problem with this is that the Republicans have been all reform talk and no reform action. And even Douthat accepts this. He writes, “The speech didn’t offer the kinds of policy breakthroughs the party ultimately requires.” But I think all the optimism about the party just comes from Douthat’s hope. Like most Republicans, Douthat has no problem with Republican policies. He just wants them to talk nice. And let’s not forget that Douthat was peddling this same bullshit four years ago with Reihan Salam, Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.
The Republican Party has fundamental problems that are going to stop them from rethinking their policies—at least for a while. The biggest is that they have this very weird coalition of economic libertarians and social medievalists. Almost any substantial changes will destroy one of these groups. Another problem is that they are still fairly popular; why should they change when they can still get roughly half the vote nation wide. (This, of course, is why they rightly continue to think that they can finesse their way to victory with pretty talk about bad policy.) And still another problem is that they are committed to destroying the government, and that isn’t a very compelling argument in being put in charge of it.
So Ross Douthat can continue to dream. But the future Republican Party looks very much like the past Republican Party.
In Douthat’s festival of praise for DeMint, he pushes a canard that I hate, “DeMint—and the larger Tea Party wave he rode—also succeeded in making Republicans more serious about limited government than the party had ever been under Bush.” This is bullshit. The truth is that whenever the Democrats hold the White House, the Republicans become fiscal conservatives. As I wrote many times during this last election, if Romney had won, he would have passed loads of ordinary Keynesian stimulus. DeMint didn’t make the Republicans fiscally conservative, Obama did.
A political science professor once told me about a friend of his who claimed that Richard Nixon killed his father. Every time Nixon appeared on television, this guy would start shouting. “That lying bastard!” And so on. Well, one time Nixon came on the TV, the man started shouting at it, had a heart attack and died.
I don’t watch much TV, but like many liberals, I never miss Up with Chris Hayes. One of the Hayes-approved conservatives is Avik Roy. I despise Avik Roy. Unlike Joss Barro (or even Ross Douthat), who often makes sense, all we ever get from Avik Roy is another Republican Talking point dressed up with nice words and a calm demeanor. And like the father I spoke of above, I can’t help but yell at the screen.
At first, I am just trying to correct his deceptive statements. Unfortunately, there are so many, I can’t keep up and I just go full Tourette’s, “You fucking conservative lackey. I want to rip off your scrotum and suffocate you with it. Cock sucking plutocrat bastard!” I don’t think this is an accident. I think Avik Roy knows what he’s doing. So if I end up dead, you’ll know what happened.
Rather than show you what Avik Roy does, I’ll show the reaction. He manages to make David Cay Johnston quite angry, “We need to have a fundamental discussion about tax policy but we need to follow the 500 year old principal that gave birth to democracy: the greater your gain, the greater the burden you bear. And real conservatives believe that. It is the fake radicals who call themselves conservatives who are running the debate and who are totally ahistorical.” Here’s the clip:
Let’s get Avik Roy off the TV machine. If not for me at least for the great (And Republican!) Mr. Johnston.
Reinhold Weege died last week. The Los Angeles Timeshas reported that Weege died of natural causes on 1 December. He was only 62.
When I heard the news, I recognized the name. I am very much a geek about comedy writers and I pay close attention to the writing credits of any movie or TV show that I like. And Weege wrote a lot on one TV show I still really like, Barney Miller. He is known mostly for creating the show Night Court, for which he wrote a lot of the episodes.
Reinhold Weege co-wrote one of my favorite episodes of Barney Miller with Tony Sheehan, “Christmas Story.” The main story is about Nick Yemana and a date he sets up with a woman who, unbeknownst to him, is a prostitute. It is very sweet. Here are all of these scenes cut together (6:41):
Dorothy: If you’d rather not, I understand. Nick: Well, if you rather not, I understand too. Dorothy: Look, I just thought that you’re a nice guy with a sense of humor. And kinda cute. Nick: Well, I can’t add anything to that. I can’t stay out late—I’m tired. Dorothy: Me too. Nick: I gotta work tomorrow. Dorothy: Me too. Nick: As of now, I’m officially off duty. Dorothy: As of now, me too.
Enjoy your rest, Reinhold Weege.
For the record, Nick Yemana is my favorite character on the show. There are two reasons. First, Jack Soo is a brilliant comedic actor. Second, the character is so compromised as a cop. He is something of a gambling addict and his being in a relationship with a prostitute is completely in keeping with his character. He died very young at 61. Interestingly, the actor playing Dorothy, Nobu McCarthy, also died young at 67. The “Christmas Story” curse? I leave that to you.
I have been getting a lot of very compelling spam. I call it “guilt spam.” It very politely asks for help. Some of it is clearly spam. In fact, there are two oldies along these lines that when first seen are greatly concerning. The first is something like, “Great website! But there seems to be a problem displaying in Internet Explorer.” The first time I saw that, I opened up Internet Explorer, saw there was no problem, and deleted the spam. The other is even more evil, “Great website, but you really need to check your spelling.” What is terrible is that writing a blog is a slapdash endeavor, so spelling and grammar errors make it through all the time. (Recently, a reader emailed me that I used “cite” when I meant “site.”)
But recently, I’ve been getting more sophisticated guilt spam. Normally, it is asking me to do something. And it can be quite good. In fact, the last one I got, I’m not even sure is spam:
I have loaded your site in Three totally different internet browsers and I must say your blog loads a lot quicker then most. Would you mind e-mailing me the name of your website hosting company? My personal email is: email@example.com. I will even sign up through your affiliate link if you’d like. Cheers
For the record, my web hosting company is HostGator.com, and they are only okay. I plan to move on to someone else at the end of my contract.
But there are a number of things that are bothersome about this comment. First, it was placed in an old article. Second, the article had nothing to do with the subject at hand. Third, my email address is not hard to find.
Even still, the comment did make me feel guilty enough to write this whole article about it.