Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Trial of Mad Jack....

The blithering-idiot right takes another tack against anti-war sentiment, suggesting that Rep. James P. Murtha should be hereafter known as "Mad Jack" for his continuing insistence on some sort of withdrawal of troops from Iraq (courtesy of TBogg).

I suppose that every society has its mindless, cretinous jerk-offs lusting after war, any war, as long as they don't have to fight in any of them, but, it sometimes seems as if the U.S. has more than its share. Perhaps it's because they are so loud, so insistent, that they seem more in numbers than they are.

But, I wonder. So often it seems that significant segments of the country think that victory (however that's defined in a made-up war with made-up goals and made-up lies about the progress of that war) is going to be snatched from them, personally, unless the President, the great and wondrous and godly President, doesn't get to keep troops in a miserable hell-hole of a Middle Eastern country as long as he likes (or as long as is politically expedient, whichever comes first).

Some of these people have mistaken George the Younger for St. Ronald of the Order of Infallible but Faded Movie Idols, surely. St. Ronnie could do no wrong in their eyes. And, while George the Younger fucks up all the time, they may see some weird aura around him that reminds them of their departed saint. That might explain the utter, abject confusion in some of them.

But, not all. It's just difficult to admit that there are plenty of blockheaded war lovers in this country, the kind of people that started waving flags and yelling out their windows, "fuckin' kill `em all," as soon as they heard about the task force turning toward Grenada. People who want to line all the press up against a wall and personally shoot every last reporter and editor in the back of the head, and to hell with last cigarettes or blindfolds, just because they happen to report things these true believers don't want to hear.

How on earth did these people ever get the idea that everything Repug governments do is good for us, and that any suggestion that Bush's gang of Leninists are breaking the law is treasonous? And what in their public school educations made them so sure that trying not to let your wife know you've been screwing around with the office help is impeachable, but wholesale violations of the Bill of Rights are necessary to "keep us safe?"

It's a kind of madness, but I'll be damned if I can precisely define it, or explain how it came about. It's not just because of 9/11, although it got madder still after that day. It's not just a by-product of religious fundamentalism, since many of the proponents of such Bush adulation have as casual a relationship to religion as they do to the facts.

Liking the idea of war belies a complete lack of understanding of it, or a psychopathology on the part of those who do understand it, and seeing the President as commander-in-chief of the citizenry as well as the military dips into dangerous political territory.

It's obligatory today not to make comparisons to earlier examples of the "f-word," but it's stifling to participate in such self-censorship when there are so damned many incidental parallels. We regularly endure the right wing's attempt to make flag-burning a crime (a vote on that just yesterday in the Senate), but aren't allowed to mention that as Hitler and his party consolidated power, desecration of the flag was made a crime. We lately have heard a cacophany of outraged screams from the right to prosecute the press because Bush claims the New York Times has damaged the nation's security, and are supposed to forget that Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin all turned their nations' press into mouthpieces for the state. Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all used some elements in their societies as objects of villification (a vote on that in the Senate was just recently blocked) And for reasons only that Murtha has publicly opposed the current war policy of the President, the right's current human megaphone, Ann Coulter, says that Murtha is the "reason soldiers invented fragging."

Why is it bad form to call these tendencies toward totalitarian authoritarianism what they are? In times past, we lived with extremist commentators (Westbrook Pegler immediately comes to mind in that regard), and we've lived with demagogues such as Tailgunner Joe McCarthy (Coulter's alter ego and idol). But, in times past, common sense prevailed and such characters were marginalized or censured in the public square. Common sense and reasonable public debate tended to eventually dampen hysteria and put extremism in perspective.

Not so today. If I had to guess, we are seeing today the culmination of thirty years' worth of increasing control of that public square by the wealthy right-wing elements in society, the same ones who have funded the likes of the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, Benador & Associates and the various soft-right think tanks such as the Hoover Institution and the Manhattan Institute, the position papers and commentators' opinions of which form the grist of current conventional wisdom. How else can one explain a presumed journalist, Chris Matthews of MSNBC, entertaining guest commentators on the subject of prosecuting the press without acknowledging that he's part of that same press, or that there are compelling Constitutional and practical arguments against official government retaliation against the press.

How else does one explain the penchant of the White House to micromanage every Presidential event--to eliminate both dissent and debate--by controlling both audiences and press access?

The right wing has spent thirty years trying to convince the public that there is only one dominant view on any issue. The intent in that is to quash real debate which would frequently reveal the true reasons for the policy positions of the right (the Anonymous Liberal explains well how that works here). Yelling, "treason," is just one convenient way of shutting off debate, and that's the crux of the biscuit here. The object of such tirades from the right is to avoid having to debate issues on the merits of their arguments. Logic would suggest that an elective war can have an elective outcome. One possible outcome, as Murtha argues, is to remove the source of irritation which has furthered the violence. That's a position which deserves rational debate, absent of emotionally-charged rhetoric. After all, blood and treasure are at stake. Might the right's real reasons, economic and political, for wanting the war to continue be exposed in such a debate? Very possibly.

Might the far right's real reasons, economic and political, for wanting Bush to continue to have unfettered power be exposed through investigations of the press and through the public debate such information would engender? Very likely.

And those reasons, to the eventual confusion of Bush's more mindless supplicants, have little to do with capturing terrorists and bringing them to trial. That's not what the "war on terror" is about. The so-called war on terror is not so much about changing the world as it is about changing the United States and the legal basis on which it was founded, and not for the better.

The object of the right wing in this country today is to make extremism appear normal, and to make rational public debate, which might expose that extremism for what it is, difficult or impossible. The press and national political life, through corporate and partisan manipulation, have been already partly co-opted to that end. When instances of press or political independence do appear, it is necessary for the right to attack those instances as unpatriotic, treasonous and deserving of punishment, and the louder and more insistent the voices in those attacks, the more the general populace believes that there is majority consensus for extremism.

The mystery remaining, of course, is why such tactics have been as effective as they have been. The answer to that question, of course, lies in the histories of societies which have fallen victim to such institutional madness, and in the unjaundiced appraisal of the parallels between those societies and our own, something we are not, for sake of good manners, supposed to do.

(image from


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