Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Laundering hate

Given that Mr. O'Reilly has insulated himself in the hermetically sealed world that is his ego, which has found a home in the alternate Fox News Universe, it's understandable that he would be a bit confused about what the difference between liberalism (and conservatism and libertarianism) and what is commonly understood to be known as "far left" politics is. But I think we need to go ahead and get a better working understanding of it.

So since O'Reilly's Talking Points - "The Difference Between Liberals and the Far Left" failed to live up to the promise of its title, I consulted American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists, & Others (1996)by John George and Laird Wilcox. The authors write

The far left in America consists principally of people who believe in some form of Marxism-Leninism, i.e. some form of Communism. A small minority of extreme leftists adhere to pure Marxism or collectivist anarchism. Most far leftists scorn reforms (except as a short term tactic) and aim for the complete overthrow of the capitalist system including the U.S. government. In Lenin's view, the battle for an eight-hour work day was nothing more than a "tactical maneuver to improve the power position of the party" and those who saw it as something more were guilty of vulgar reformism.
As examples of the far left in America, the book focuses on: Communist Party USA, Socialist Workers Party, Black Panther Party, Students for a Democratic Society, Progressive Labor Party, Workers World Party, Revolutionary Action Movement, Revolutionary Communist Party, and Communist Workers Party. No doubt if the book were written today, Daily Kos would fit right in. [Blogger's Note - Sadly, this can't even count as parody or satire, as plenty of folks in O'Reilly/Malkin realm agree, but for the record, this is sarcasm.]

The groups above were not only radical, but most were also violent and militant. They were authoritarian and anti-democratic (although some of them spouted democratic rhetoric). The contrast between these groups and what O'Reilly casually and routinely categorizes as "far left" is stark. For example, Bernadine Dhorn, part of the Weathermen, said of the Charles Manson murders:

"Dig it. First they killed those pigs; then they ate dinner in the same room with them; then they even shoved a fork into a victim's stomach! Wild!"

And another example: in April 1970 the national committee of the Socialist party issued the following statment about the Black Panthers

Their totalitarian ideology and obsession with violence are not minor matters. They are not merely psychological tendencies apparent among a minority of Panther members. Nor do they spring from a need for black self defense against police oppression in the ghetto. They are a central element in a consciously held, rigorously enforced and a militarily agressive political philosophy. One may, perhaps, explain the rise of the Panthers in terms of injustice of ghetto life, just as one can explain the rise of Fascism in terms of the wartime humiliations and post-war economic collapse of the German nation. But to explain is not to justify. All genuine liberals and democratic radicals must vigorously oppose the Panther's political program.
This quote is significant in that it illustrates both how far the gap between the far left and liberalism is - given that socialists are further "left" than liberals are - and what genuine extremism actually is.

So why is it that O'Reilly is unable to differentiate between communism/socialism and liberalism? Richard Hofstadter offers us an explanation

"The fundamentalist mind ... cannot find serious importance in what it believes to be trifling degrees of difference: liberals support measures that are for all practical purposes socialistic, and socialism is nothing more than a variant of Communism, which, as everyone knows, is atheism."

It should be noted that Hofstadter was not speaking of religous fundamentalism but a secular fundamentalist style of thought that had emerged out of the fusion of religous fundamentalism and reactionary political forces in the '30s and '40s. One can see that this describes pretty accurately O'Reilly's reasoning in the Talking Points in which he merges liberals and the far left.

O'Reilly has a long tradition of accusing enemies of being communists and/or fascists. In this regard, he is a kind of generic Joe McCarthy. He has taken a standard right-wing meme and repackaged it in a manner that allows O'Reilly to make broader and more sweeping paranoid accusations than McCarthy did.

Take a look at this, for example. That's O'Reilly saying that the Atlanta Journal Constitution is a "far left publication." Really, that's just flat out absurd ... and its the sort of thing that any respectable news network should be embarrassed to have said on air. Yet that's really nothing compared to O'Reilly's latest book in which he creates a fictional cartoonish movement that he asserts is attempting to destroy "traditional" America.

"My goal is to expose and defeat people who have the power to do you great harm. My weapons will be facts and superior analysis based on those facts," says O'Reilly channeling McCarthy in the intro. The "people" O'Reilly believes have the power to "do you great harm" are "secular progressives" as the purpose of Culture Warrior is to "expose the secular-progressive movement in our country for exactly what it is, to explain why it is so harmful for America, and to identify the movement's top leaders."

See, liberals (or anyone or any entity that O'Reilly has a problem with), re-named in the No Spin Zone lexicon as "s-p"s, are radical far leftists and yet they're also - at least at Daily Kos - "no different" from the KKK and Nazis in terms of spreading hate.

What's more, O'Reilly has previously on his program stated that there really is no significant far right in America, but the far left is powerful and threatening to take over the Democratic Party. You can see O'Reilly's ego rationalization in effect here, where he has projected out not just "liberal" bias at CBS but an entire "s-p" movement trying to attack O'Reilly and his network because they're defending "tradtional" America in order to dissipate the dissonance that should result from him being a part of Fox News, which is itself a part of the conservative movement - the most significant and powerful political movement in the country.

So let me quote the aforementioned authors again

The core values of the American right are individualism, capitalism, religiosity, and nationalism. This has been consistent for most of the twentieth century.

The great majority of far right organizations and individuals tend to adhere to an ideology that includes: strong support for religion (primarily Christianity), intense nationalism/patriotism, anti-Marxism, antiliberalism, anti-social-democracy, and support for nations that are traditional authoritarian dictatorships. In addition, a number of extreme right organizations have developed convoluted conspiracy theories that embrace some elements of superstition and mysticism, such as the "Illuminati" and Masonic conspiracies.

Many right extremist groups focus on ethnic/racial chauvinism as the main component of their ideology - Aryan Nations, the various Ku Klux Klans, the Nation of Islam, and the New Order, for example. Others, such as the John Birch Society and Christian Crusade, eschew ethnic/racial prejudice as part of their ideology.
So from that what does it sound like America is closer to? The far left or the far right?

The authors list the John Birch Society and the Christian Right as examples of the far right. Tim LaHaye, a former JBS organizer and one of the leading figures of the Dominionist movement, has seen his Left Behind novels sell around 60 million copies in one form or another. He also founded the secretive yet influential Council for National Policy.

Pat Robertson shows up in the book as another far right figure. If you want to see how close the Republican party has come into transforming into a religious party, then check out how many members of Congress score 80 to 100 percent from the Christian Coalition.

You can probably guess that Jerry Falwell - a guy who said that the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision was a Satanic plot - counts for the Christian Right, too. See here for the role Falwell played in shaping the course of American politics.

James Dobson, the guy with more influence than Falwell or Robertson? Yep, he's there.

Guess who has interacted with all of them? That's right! Bill O'Reilly. Here we have O'Reilly promoting the Left Behind books of LaHaye. Also: O'Reilly telling James Dobson about how "s-p"s don't have any morals, O'Reilly appearing on the 700 Club to let Pat Robertson know he's a "traditional" American (more on this in a moment) and O'Reilly interviewing Jerry Falwell after Falwell told an audience that the anti-Christ will be Jewish and telling Fallwell that he should reconsider making such statements because his opponents will attempt to smear him.

But, you might protest, didn't Bill lecture Hillary Clinton about not promoting or legitimizing hate? Yes, he did - but in his mind he's not a hypocite because when it comes down to it, at a fundamental level O'Reilly doesn't really disagree with these folks.

"LaHaye", the authors tell us, "also writes that humanists are amoral, one world socialists." The only difference here between O'reilly and LaHaye is one of terminology.

After 9/11, Robertson and Falwell went on tv and blamed the attack on people "who have tried to secularize America" for having incurred God's wrath. Remember O'Reilly's outrage over Ward Churchill's comments about 9/11? Where is his outrage over what Robertson and Falwell had to say? It's funny how O'Reilly's outrage always seem to come out in a fashion that helps to white-wash the hate of some of the most bigoted figures in the country. Take, for instance, O'Reilly using Falwell's death as an opportunity to attack "s-p"s or O'Reilly threatening to cut a guest's mic when she told him that Bill Donohue is a bigot (he is.)

I'll digress here for a moment. Donohue has said that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular ... Hollywood likes anal sex." Here we have O'Reilly telling us that Daily Kos spreads hate just like Nazis and the KKK, but when someone tries to inform him that Bill Donohue has made statements that, at least, are structurally similar to the bigotry expressed by the likes of Nazis and the KKK he becomes outraged and orders the guest not to smear Donohue.

Why? As I said, I suspect its because O'Reilly's bias blinds him to the hypocrisy, because at a fundamental level he agrees with these guys that America is under assault from subversive, radical anti-Christian forces. Just take a look at this?

It's hard to be optimistic when fundamental creeds like America's Judeo-Christian philosophy, like competitive capitalism, like responsibility for one's actions are all under fire by the likes of George Soros and other "open society people."

Even the optimism of President Reagan would be challenged by organizations like the ACLU, the NAACP, and some large urban newspapers who want to tear down traditional America and replace it with a secular entitlement-driven system.
What O'Reilly does is to launder the hate of these figures ... he repackages it in a more palatable form that is free of some of the more absurd and obvious characteristics of their bigotry. There are so many examples of O'Reilly serving as the medium for the transmission of Religious Right bigotry that it's hard to know where to start ... this is partly why I've found it difficult to finalize this post. Here's an example of O'Reilly giving a sympathetic forum to a representative from the Traditional Values Coalition. That's the same TVC that said this two years later

The list goes on, but it is important to see the coalition that has formed: Islamists, Marxists, Hollywood Liberals, and Homosexual activist groups – all aligned with the Revolutionary Communist Party to vilify President Bush, Christians, and the war against Islamic terrorism.


A dangerous Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic coalition has formed – and we’d better be willing to fight it with everything in our power. These people are playing for keeps. Their hero, Mao Tse Tung is estimated to have murdered upwards of 60 million people during his reign of terror in China. Do we think we can escape such persecution if we refuse to fight for what is right?
What was that again O'Reilly was saying about not legitimizing "hate" groups?

And lest you forget ... according to O'Reilly the "traditional" American power structure just so happens to be mostly white Christian males and that O'Reilly believes the "far left" (e.g. the New York Times) wants to "change the complexion" of the USA by "flood[ing] the country with foreign nationals." In the post I wrote about O'Reilly revealing his "white, Christian, male" persecution complex I stated

I tend to think that s-p/traditional was something O'Reilly came up with for marketing purposes, but I begin to wonder if it has something more to it than that ... perhaps O'Reilly is creating a cognitive model that allows him to blind himself to the inherent prejudice of his beliefs.
I'm finding this conclusion harder and harder not to draw, especially when one keeps coming across ambigous comments that sound vaguely racist such as O'Reilly last night saying that he doesn't want Mexicans "clustering in neighborhoods and changing the tempo of the whole neighborhood" or not so ambiguous comments like calling Mexicans "wetbacks."

This is an idea I've been turning over for a couple of years now. That as the American zeitgeist shifted and racism/bigotry became something less socially acceptable, the standard right-wing "conservative Christian America is under assault" meme evolved and became more generic. The example I've been using of this is the war on Christmas meme (which has evolved and changed to successively accuse Jews, Communists, Liberals, and finally S-Ps for supposedly waging war on Christianity vis-a-vis X-mas), but the best articulation I've seen of his point is by Michelle Cottle in an article for The New Republic about Ann Coulter.

Once upon a time, people were allowed to harbor all sorts of ugly prejudices against blacks, Jews, gays, Catholics, Mexicans, the Japanese, the Irish, uppity women--you name it. Ugly or not, it's human nature to pin your troubles on The Other--however you choose to define it. Can't find a job? Blame the Mexicans. Crime on the rise? Blame the blacks. Can't find an adequately adoring wife willing to put up with all your crap? Blame the feminists.

But increasingly it is socially unacceptable to badmouth individuals simply because they are members of a particular race, religion, ethnic group, etc.--or to attribute unflattering characteristics to such groups. You can decry what certain groups do--for instance, threatening the institution of marriage by (gasp!) demanding that two men be allowed to get hitched, or making a mockery of the law by sneaking across the U.S.-Mexican border in search of lousy jobs--but not who they are. Obviously old fashioned bigotry will never completely die out. But in today's stereotype-averse culture, there are fewer and fewer places where jokes about blacks/Mexicans/Jews being lazy/dishonest/greedy will earn you hearty laughs rather than uneasy glances--or a pop on the nose. And 9/11 angst notwithstanding, an overly broad remark about Arabs or Muslims can get you labeled an ass-backward bigot faster than you can say "Pat Robertson."

So what's an angry, frightened populace to do with all that pent-up desire to name-call and finger-point? Easy: Channel it at folks in the opposing political camp. For hard-right wing-nuts this means attributing every filthy characteristic imaginable to Democrats/Liberals/the left, ascribing venal motives to their every action, and blaming them for every misfortune to have befallen your beloved country over the past half century. Under the new rules of the game, you still can't deride Mexicans--but it's perfectly acceptable to deride liberals for pushing policies that allow Mexicans somehow to screw up your life. Ditto blacks, Asians, Eskimos, Episcopalians, and lesbians named Jackie. As a bonus, partyism can be rationalized as a more thoughtful brand of bigotry--since theoretically your hatred is an expression of political philosophy: You don't loathe liberals (or conservatives) for who they are but what they do. As practiced, of course, the phenomenon increasingly goes well beyond hating the sin into the realm of hating the sinner. Thanks to my Republican upbringing, I have long-time friends who sincerely believe that whatever Democrats/liberals/lefties do/believe/advocate by definition must be either irredeemably wicked or irretrievably stupid. (Some of them, I suspect, still pray for my full recovery.)
"A more thoughtful brand of bigotry" ... Cottle is not the first to notice this. In his essay "The Psuedo-Conservative Revolt" Richard Hofstadter wrote (bold emphasis mine)

Sociological studies have shown that there is a close relation between social mobility and ethnic prejudice. Persons moving downward, and even upward under many circumstances, in the social scale tend to show greater prejudice against such ethnic minorities as the Jews and Negroes than commonly prevails in the social strata they have left or are entering.12 While the existing studies in this field have been focused upon prejudice rather than the kind of hyper-patriotism and hyper-conformism that I am most concerned with, I believe that the typical prejudiced person and the typical pseudo-conservative dissenter are usually the same person, that the mechanisms at work in both complexes are quite the same, and that it is merely the expediencies and the strategy of the situation today that cause groups that once stressed racial discrimination to find other scapegoats. Both the displaced old-American type and the new ethnic elements that are so desperately eager for reassurance of their fundamental Americanism can conveniently converge upon liberals, critics, and nonconformists of various sorts, as well as Communists and suspected Communists. To proclaim themselves vigilant in the pursuit of those who are even so much as accused of "disloyalty" to the United States is a way not only of reasserting but of advertising their own loyalty — and one of the chief characteristics of American super-patriotism is its constant inner urge toward self-advertisement. One notable quality in this new wave of conformism is that its advocates are much happier to have as their objects of hatred the Anglo-Saxon, Eastern, Ivy League intellectual gentlemen than they are with such bedraggled souls as, say, the Rosenbergs. The reason, I believe, is that in the minds of the status-driven it is no special virtue to be more American than the Rosenbergs, but it is really something to be more American than Dean Acheson or John Foster Dulles — or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The status aspirations of some of the ethnic groups are actually higher than they were twenty years ago — which suggests one reason (there are others) why, in the ideology of the authoritarian right-wing, anti-Semitism and such blatant forms of prejudice have recently been soft-pedaled. Anti-Semitism, it has been said, is the poor man’s snobbery. We Americans are always trying to raise the standard of living, and the same principle now seems to apply to standards of hating. So during the past fifteen years or so, the authoritarians have moved on from anti-Negroism and anti-Semitism to anti-Achesonianism, anti-intellectualism, anti-nonconformism, and other variants of the same idea, much in the same way as the average American, if he can manage it, will move on from a Ford to a Buick.
And I'm not the only one who has picked up on O'Reilly acting (unconsciously and not deliberately, I believe) as a kind of bridge between the more standard (and extreme) "right-wing" hate memes. Dave Neiwert, responding himself to O'Reilly's "white, Christian, male" comments noted

While I was cruising through far-right racist websites -- something I do with some regularity anyway -- I kept running across a familiar theme: white male Christians are under siege, an "endangered species," and "white culture" is likewise on the brink of vanishing in a swamp of brown people.

Even though we've been hearing this pap from the white-supremacist right for lo these many decades now (really, this meme dates back to the early 20th century), and it has been a standard plaint of neo-Nazi and Klan websites for most of their existence, there was a reason it kept popping up on my radar: I was looking for material relating to Bill O'Reilly.
I said before that O'Reilly is a kind of generic Joe McCarthy. I don't think I've seen a quote that better illustrates that than this one:

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded. You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.
Not only does this statement display O'Reilly's demonization of "s-p"s, it also shows how he can so perfectly act as a medium for the transmission of the Dominionist message ..."oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces" are assaulting "traditional" America ... that IS the Dominionist (also see here) message, as well as being pretty much the same message peddled by white supremacists with the exception that they add in "anti-White" forces. The only difference is the name given to the designated scape-goat and the fact that O'Reilly most likely does not share the totalitarian theocratic vision that the likes of Falwell, Robertson, LaHaye, or white supremacists (like the ones who belong to Christian Identity) adhere to.

And let's just pause here and fully take in the planet sized dose of hypocrisy/double standard eminating out from O'Reilly: he called Pat Robertson a "traditional" American. By doing that, O'Reilly legitimized a man who is a hate-monger/bigot/conspiracy theorist par excellence. Where in the world can he possibly find the nerve to lecture the rest of the country on not legitimizing the "hate" of Daily Kos?

Ah, I almost forgot .. the John Birch Society. How about this: three examples (in addition to LaHaye's origins in the society) that come to the top of my head that should be enough to rebut O'Reilly's contention that "the far left" is more significant than "the far right" in America.

1.Ann Coulter being invited to speak at the CPAC convention year after year to see that JBS style extremism (Joe McCarthy is Coulter's hero and was a victim of liberal treason according to her) is now the mainstream of movement conservatism.

2. Glenn Beck bringing a John Birch Society representative on his CNN program to help spread conspiracy theory.

3. Regnery, the company that in the 50's published the work of JBS founder Robert Welch, publishing a revisionist book as part of a popular series by a racist JBS sympathizer and then O'Reilly's Fox News colleague Sean Hannity promoting said book.

I'm getting burned out on tracking this subject, but for more on the influence of the JBS and how the mainstream of movement conservatism has been shifting towards it, see Michelle Goldberg's work on the subject.

O'Reilly's statement that the far right is marginalized in America but the far left is threatening to capture the Democratic party is the opposite of the truth: he has inverted reality in order to make it more suitable for his ego. And in the process, he's helped to spread the hate of some of the most reactionary and bigoted people in this country.

Addendum: After posting this I started to surf the net a bit, and I came across this post from Ed Brayton about the hilarious letter written by Jesus General in response to an exchange Brayton had with Faith2Action in regards to Janet Folger promoting anti-gay lies originating partly from Aryan Nation propaganda. I said to myself, "I bet at some point she was on the O'Reilly Factor and got a sympathetic ear."

Guess what? She was.

The controversy about Harriet Miers raises a larger question about media hostility toward Christians. "I started noticing the attacks on Christians about a dozen years ago," author Janet Folger told The Factor "What we see now in sitcoms, movies and news reports is that Christians are depicted as kooks, idiots, and criminals." Journalism professor Bob Mann disagreed with Folger's contention. "As one who has worked for six newspapers, I have never encountered a single reporter or editor who would be opposed to giving both sides of this issue. I did not see either Molly Ivins or Maureen Dowd say Harriet Miers is not fit for public office because she is a Christian." The Factor pointed to statistics that indicate a vast gulf between the media and the public. "90% of Americans believe in God, while for journalists the number is 70%. The country is about 9% atheist or agnostic, but 20% of American journalists are. Atheists and agnostics are in the media far beyond the rest of society."

Monday, July 30, 2007

[insert scream]

So ... frustrated ... argh!

I started fiddling with my post on O'Reilly - blame Neiwert! I saw a quote in this post that I wanted to incorporate into mine - and ended up changing it around a bit and that spiraled into me rewriting and extending what I already had. I should have remembered it on Saturday so I could have posted it and be done, but now I'm going to end up working on it some more.

I won't say when I'll be done, as I apparently jinx myself everytime I do that.

Spot the fascist aesthetic

I'm touching up on pt. 3 of the series on O'Reilly and will have it up in an hour or two. In the meantime, you can take a gander at this post from Mark Noonan (who is also a columnist at Townhall, a site which features hordes of Fox News contributors) at Blogs For Bush to get an idea of what hate-mongering actually looks like. I'll wait for you to read it ...

Done reading? See, that's hate and it's downright creepy.

And it's a fascist aesthetic.

Notice that, like O'Reilly, Noonan see two kind of Americans: "traditionals" and "liberals." Yet Noonan is more nakedly bigoted and much more extreme. With Noonan you get the raw form of the same bigotry (i.e."the left" or "s-p"s are threatening the existence of Judeo-Christian America) that O'Reilly peddles.

That post from Noonan becomes particularly disturbing if you consider that he is comparing "liberals" to Europeans, whom he previously identified as becoming "post-human."

Then there's this

Over the past 40 years or so, our society has been ripped to shreds by the cultural left - a body of people who have probably never exceeded 20% of the American population, but who have been very successful at imposing their worldview upon American civilizaiton. The cultural left, of course, views it a bit differently - they don't see a society ripped to pieces, but a society finally freed from the dead hand of religous doctrine and prescriptive morality. For the left, the ability of a person to choose to do whatever he pleases is a precious advancement, to be defended tooth and nail against all comers.

What remains of the Judeo-Christian west (70% of America, 40% of Canada, 20% of Europe) is under double-siege: beset on all sides by Islamo-fascists and leftist who, for varying reasons, want it destroyed. Caught between these two fires, it is often hard to figure out whom to fight first. As for me, I reckon that the external enemy is the greater threat, but in the by and by we must finally confront the domestic left and force it out of power and influence. A healthy society cannot forever endure people at the top who think that morality is a social construct - the problem, of course, being that people who think like that will construct morality in a way most pleasing to themselves at any given moment.
Oh ... I almost forgot. A post on spotting a fascist aesthetic would not be complete without linking to this post from Noonan, in which he tells us that dying in war is "sublime" and that critics of the war in Iraq are "half-men."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pulp fiction

I have finished pt 3 of the "How do I detest thee?" series. Unfortunately, I don't have it with me, and thus will post it Monday.

In other news, I've mentioned before (here and here) that I'm a fan of the pulp fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Yesterday my local library was having a book sale and I found (and purchased for 50 cents) a 1978 paperback edition of The Eternal Lover by Burroughs. Or rather, the book I bought is named The Eternal Savage (apparently the publishers figured that was a more appropriate title for the target audience.)

I was pretty glad to find it as I'd never even heard of this one before, which isn't surprising given the volume of work that Burroughs churned out. This one is a Tarzan spin-off story. The back of the book description reads

An American girl goes to Africa to visit Tarzan in his jungle home, and while there she is thrust into the most astonishing science-fiction adventure on record. Through a flaw in the structure of Time itself, a handsome warrior from the Stone Age appears in modern days .. then is drawn back to his own time, bringing the girl into a world of cave people, saber-tooth tigers and prehistoric jungle.
The first chapter is titled 'Nu of the Niocene'. Yep, it's pulp literature allright.

In other pulp fiction news, the Sci-Fi channel debuts its new series Flash Gordon on Friday, Aug. 10 at 9 pm. If you haven't seen the original movie serial trilogy (1936-40) ... well, you're missing out. Plus, you can't fully appreciate Star Wars until you watch Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. Actually, maybe watch the first two minutes of Chapter 2 to see what I mean (the other link goes to Chapter 1.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Various stuff

1) I can't keep up with O'Reilly. I'm still working on Pt 3, which I hope to have up by tonight, but more realistically anticipate not being done until tomorrow. So you can consider this the Pt. 2.5 of the "How do I detest thee?" series.

I raised the issue in part 2 of O'Reilly wanting corporations to not sponsor those who engage in "bad behavior" while himself frequently engaging in unprofessional behavior such as cutting the mic of a guest. In a generous effort to prove my point, last night Bill O'Reilly cut Jane Hall's mic when she truthfully pointed out to Bill that he's been singling out unrepresentative COMMENTS at DailyKos - a standard that he can't really expect the site to be held to since you can find similar comments at his website. Before and after cutting her mic O'Reilly called Hall a liar.

The segment was also neat to watch. Neat in the sense that watching Bill O'Reilly and Bernie Goldberg smirk and chortle at Jane Hall's inability to recognize that Daily Kos is a hate site "no different" from the KKK or Nazis was quite remarkable ... one watches and gets the impression of having been transported into some alternate Twilight Zone dimension.

Yet O'Reilly, in charging ahead with his campaign against Daily Kos, has gotten what he wants. The "far left" "s-p" blogosphere is fighting back against him and turning his McCarthyesque tactics around on him. Of course, this feeds into O'Reilly's ego and just reinforces his view that he's doing something write. Head he wins, tails you lose.

Continuing his "expose" of the hatred of Daily Kos, O'Reilly cited a doctored picture he found on Daily Kos which looks like Bush is doing something sexual to a goat and his promised that on Monday he will reveal an even more shocking image from Daily Kos.

Is this really what you want Bill? You want to go back and forth scrounging people's COMMENT sections and then making people disavow them publically? How old are you ... good grief, grow up man!

Besides, you can't win. Look at this. I found that comment [Blogger's Note - the image is no longer available, so I'll just tell you what it was: a GIF of a machine gun firing into Bill Keller's face] at a site on Malkin's blogroll. Therefore, applying your standards and illogic, the O'Reily Factor is a hate site because you let Michelle Malkin guest host.

2) In Worse Than Watergate, John Dean warned that the Bush administration's obsessive secrecey would breed conspiracy theory. In the case of Pat Tillman, we're seeing that prophesy fulfilled, except so far, the administration hasn't really given us any reason not to think conspiratorially about his death.

3) If you didn't already read it, check out the post Glenn Greenwald did about how John Yoo, when he's not advocating that Republican presidents should have unlimited Executive authority, is advocating that Democratic presidents should not have unlimited Executive authority.

In It Can Happen Here, Joe Conason details that the Federalist Society (which he links to the Dominionist/Religious Right movement) is dedicated not to grooming conservartive legal theorists, but to grooming loyal partisans dedicated to expanding executive authority in the service of the conservative movement. He points out that John Yoo was a star student of the society.

4) From Discover magazine: "Is Morality Innate and Universal? " - an interview with neuroscientist Marc Hauser about his research into the biological underpinnings of our moral intuition.

The whole thing is worth reading, but I'lll highlight one Question/Answer in particular, as I think it sheds some important light on a point that tends to get overlooked.

You mention honor killings in cases of infidelity, but sometimes the victim may simply have been caught in public talking to a man who is not her husband. As a Western woman raised in the liberal tradition, I think that is immoral. Yet in societies where honor killings are acceptable, the decision to kill the woman is deemed morally correct. Why?

Let’s go back to language. You’re a speaker of English. In French, the world "table" is feminine. Why? Isn’t that weird? Isn’t that incomprehensible? For an English speaker, that’s the most bizarre thing in the world! It’s incredibly hard to learn. Yet are the French weird? They’re not weird. They speak another language.

The analogy to language is to me very profound and important. When you say, “Look, it’s weird that a culture would actually kill someone for infidelity,” it’s no
different than us making a language that’s got these really weird quirks. Now, here’s where the difference is crucial. As English speakers, we can’t tell the French: “You idiots. Saying that a word has gender is stupid, and you guys just change the system.” But as we have seen historically, one culture telling another culture, “Hey, this is not OK. We do not think it is morally permissible to do clitoridectomies, and you should just stop, and we’re going to find international ways to put the constraints on you”—now, that’s whoppingly different. But it also captures something crucial. The descriptive level and the prescriptive level are crucially different. How biology basically guides what people are doing is one thing. What we think should happen is really different. That just doesn’t arise as a distinction within language.
5) In reading this Greenwald post, I stopped dead in my tracks when I got to this bit from Joe Klein: "And now, among certain precincts in the blogosphere -- those prohibitively clever sorts who opine daily and endlessly about journalism without doing any reporting (or much thinking) about it ..."

Um, Mr. Klein ... do you think breaking a story subsequently picked up by the Washington Post and the New York Times qualifies as doing some reporting? Here's the neat thing about Greenwald's trick, he did it without following Walter Karp's code of "objective journalism": Thou shall not think for thyself, seek instead a high-ranking source.

However, it should be noted that Klein maintains that he was not alluding to Greenwald when he made that remark.

6) Digby has written a post about war, reading, and democracy that compliments nicely the one I wrote previously.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Need some more time

Pt. 3 of the "How do I detest thee?" series is actually the most substantial portion, so I'm going to need to work on it overnight to finish and will be posting it tomorrow instead of tonight.

Edit - I forgot its customary when putting someone on hold to play some music in the interim.

"Last night" by P Diddy featuring Keyshia Cole

Bill O'Reilly, How do I detest thee? Let me count the ways (Pt 2)

I'm not going to actually count all the ways I detest O'Reilly, as it would take too long. So let's just start here.

"One of the great things about America is that most of us understand right from wrong. The secular-progressives are trying to blur that, but they're losing."

Don't you just love O'Reilly? The guy has the nerve to lecture the nation about hate and bigotry while these kinds of comments are a dime-a-dozen from him.

I think I need some clarification. Do the secular-progressives, unlike most Americans, not understand right from wrong; or do they understand the difference but seek to blur it for some sinister, international financier (ethnically Jewish) George Soros master-minded open borders/one world gov't S-P plot?

I mean, given O'Reilly's history I'd have to guess ... er, I don't know ... maybe both?

I'm going to digress once and then I'll try to keep the rest of the post on a single subject. In the same Talking Points that O'Reilly stated that "s-p"s are trying to blur the line between right and wrong he also stated:

"U.S. corporations have an obligation not to reward bad behavior. And sometimes consumers have to remind them of that obligation."

I reiterate my response from Pt 1: oh yeah? Now, that's just the first example that came to mind, and the easiest for me to use since I'd already posted about it. But one could easily go on and on with examples of "bad behavior" from O'Reilly. For example, how about this? I would categorize ordering in furious rage your co-host's mic cut while asking your producer "what can we do to her" and then telling your audience that she's a liar and a propagandist when in fact she is 100% correct and you are 100% wrong as, let's say, unprofessional. Go ahead and tack on to that all the other guests that had their mics cut or have been told to shut up by O'Reilly, including Jeremy Glick, to whom O'Reilly intimated a physical threat. Oh yeah ... then there's this (which is, frankly, difficult to watch):

But back to O'Reilly's own dabbling in bigotry.

The Talking Points memo that started the show I wrote about in Pt. 1 was titled "The Difference Between Liberals and the Far Left." I think it's fair to assume from the title that the rest of the memo would then go on to explain the difference between liberals and the far left, correct?

Well, no.

The memo in actuality tells us that positions that are commonly understood to be liberal positions are in point of fact representative of the far left, that is to say, communism. Or to put it another way: instead of telling us what the difference between liberals and the far left is, O'Reilly told us that liberals ARE the far left. But in the process, we find out that positions that are held by a wide number of people across the political spectrum (e.g. we should withdraw from Iraq, warrantless domestic spying on US citizens is illegal, the US gov't shouldn't imprison people or torture them in violation of US and international law etc.) are far left (communist) positions.

Yep, someone go tell Ron Paul he's a communist because he wants us out of Iraq. Tell Ronald Reagan's National Security Director General William Odom that he's one, too. While you're at it, better let Bruce Fein, the guy that wrote the article of impeachment against Bill Clinton, know that he's part of the radical left because he thinks the President should have to comply with the law and not be allowed to illegally spy on US citizens. And Bob Barr and Pat Buchanan ... both communists. So are Greg Djerejian and Andrew Sullivan. And all the folks at Reason magazine, better let them know. Nevermind, O'Reilly's fans already told Nick Gillepsie.

Yep, progressive taxation = communism. Liberals, apparently, are not in favor of progressive taxation ... uh huh, that's a key difference between liberals and the far left. Liberals especially are opposed to using said progressive taxes for the purposes of "socialized medicine" aka universal/public health care. Hold on while I go inform Thomas Paine's ghost that he was a far left commie. While, I'm doing that ... you can let Warren Buffet and Bill Gates Sr. and Bill Gates Jr. know that they are communists, as well.

And if we unroll Bush's tax cuts for the rich the economy will tank and billions of dollars will be lost because corporations will set up shop off shore. It's for certain that O'Reilly has not read Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else by David Kay Johnston, otherwise he'd know that corporations are already using off shore accounts to dodge paying taxes (in addition to super rich people use various schemes to do the same) and that the current tax system is actually regressive and places the tax burden on the middle class. Oh, but Johnston works for the New York Times, which means that he's a far left "s-p" and can be dismissed. But then again, Kevin Phillips - the guy that came up with Nixon's Southern Strategy which yielded near Republican hegemony of the gov't - has made similar arguments, which obviously marks Phillips as another Marxist. And then there's arch far leftist Lou Dobbs.

Seriously, how did this guy get on television? This is supposed to be the "No Spin Zone"?

I'm stopping here, but I'll pick this back up when I post Part 3 later tonight.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bill O'Reilly, How do I detest thee? Let me count the ways (Pt. 1)

Last night, Bill O'Reilly asked Howard Wolfson, advisor to Hillary Clinton, "What's the difference between David Duke and the hate stuff that he puts on his website with his bloggers and this?"

By "this" O'Reilly was alluding to the vitriolic/rude/offensive comments which were critical of Hillary Clinton that O'Reilly had culled from the millions that have been posted at DailyKos, O'Reilly described them as "brutal personal attacks that the Daily Kos trades in." I'll come back to the comments in a moment, but first, let's take a look at the exchange that ensued as Wolfson attempted answer O'Reilly's question.

Wolfson: It's a good question. And the crucial difference is that David Duke's entire organization is routed in hate and racism and-

OReilly (interupting/talking over Wolfson): And the DailyKos is not?

Wolfson (continuing sentence): -and antisemitism ... It certainly is not.

O'Reilly (incredulously): No?

Ok, let's pause here and reflect for a moment. O'Reilly has just told his viewers that DailyKos is an "organization that is routed in hate and racism and antisemitism." The evidence he had given in defense of this were the following comments he had read at the start of the segment, noting before starting that "I'm not going to read them all":

"Hillary George Wallace Clinton fuck you and your ass-sucking careerist any-way-the-wind-blows careerist slag"

"We're looking at George W. Bush with tits"

"Hillary is not the answer she is owned by right-wing crazies. She is for more war, more attack, weaponizing Israel"

"Hillary Rodam Clinton - 'just trust me' *wink wink* - fuck that and fuck her"

"Hillary got stains on her dress, too?"

"Hillary Rodam Clinton is a walking talking repudiation of everything that Kos has stood for over the last four years. I have nothing but contempt for this evil woman Hillary Clinton. Damn her to Hell."
Do those 6 comments out of the millions on the website establish that the DailyKos is dedicated to spreading hate, racism, and antisemitism indistinguishable from that spread by David Duke? Nope, not even close.

Recall that O'Reilly said he wasn't going to read "all" the comments. A moment after the video continues where I left off, O'Reilly asks Wolfson if DailyKos isn't a hate site then "why does it permit this," at which point he holds up his sheet of paper with the anti-Hillary comments. You can see that the comments take up about half the page and that if O'Reilly didn't read them "all" then he must have read 6 out of 7.

Now let's consider how mind-bogglingly stupid O'Reilly is. O'Reilly works for Fox News and he is calling DailyKos a hate site because he found some comments that said mean things about Hillary Clinton? One of the principle purposes of the network is to give a forum to the sort of folks who are at the least as equally anti-Clinton as the 6 comments that O'Reilly found at DailyKos. For example, last Sunday Sean Hannity was peddling conspiracy theory about the death of Vince Foster, and Hannity has had on his Sunday program Neal Boortz, a radio personality who describes Hillary as a "fascist socialist." Or how about O'Reilly, who has on Malkin all the time ... you wanna take a look at some of the sites on her blogroll and see what they're saying about Hillary Clinton? Nevermind the incredible, staggering hypocrisy of O'Reilly lecturing anyone about not promoting hate when he has Ann Coulter on as a guest even after she calls John Edwards a "faggot."

But what's more, O'Reilly bragged about how he doesn't allow hateful comments at his pay access only website (DailyKos is open access). Oh yeah? Now, I don't really think those comments are anything to get all that riled up about, nor do I think they remotely compare to David Duke, Nazis, the KKK, Al Capone or Benito Mussolini (although someone might make a case that joking about feeding Mexicans to crocodiles does), but by O'Reilly's own standard, they make his website a hate organization.

I'll finish counting the ways I detest O'Reilly either this evening or tomorrow morning.

Update: Allright, I'm going to post pt. 2 tomorrow, but in the meantime, you can read this. That's Glenn Greenwald proving my point about browsing through Michelle Malkin's site(s). After listing several comments that the reader can judge for his/her self if they match the "hate" of the 6 anti-Clinton comments O'Reilly touted, Greenwald writes

It goes on and on like that. On a daily basis, Michelle Malkin's hate sites promote violence, rank bigotry, jihad against Muslim Americans, imprisonment of Democratic Party leaders. The comments are not deleted and are virtually never opposed. Her hate sites traffic in content which is the hallmark of white supremacism and violent groups targeting Muslims. And once she is done promoting that, she goes on Fox News and demands that corporate sponsors cut their ties with Daily Kos due to the comments left on that site.
Now, you might possibly object that Greenwald goes to far in stating "[Malkin's] hate sites traffic in content which is the hallmark of white supremacism and violent groups targeting Muslims", as, like Dave Neiwert, I browse hate sites like Stormfront on a semi-regular basis and find that Malkin's site doesn't compare if we're measuring in terms of sheer hate (although other blogs in her blogroll come much closer, e.g. LGF or Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiller). Yet, if you've been reading this blog long enough you'll notice that I personally find Malkin's anti-"liberal" bigotry to be difficult to distinguish from any other form of bigotry - be it religious or ethnic based. Also, if you read this you might find that Glenn's comment makes more sense when put in that context.

But all of that is beside the point as the comments he selected demonstrate the hypocrisy/double standard of O'Reilly.

I didn't feel like writing about it before (and I was in a hurry) but there is nothing in the anti-Clinton comments that matches the utter un-American-ness of this article by Ben Shapiro, in which, besides arguing that we might need to charge Al Gore with sedition and cautioning against buying into the "slogan" freedom of speech (which, apparently, is ACLU propaganda) -saying that we should first look at our rich tradition of supressing it, he suggests that the reason we won World War II is because the United States government put Japanese Americans in concentration camps. And guess how I originally found that article? That's right, Michelle Malkin linked approvingly to an excerpt of it.

Does Bill O'Reilly have an ounce of credibility left to his name? Can any mature adult take this man seriously?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

80s Video of the Day

"Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis

Monday, July 23, 2007

The quicksand of hate

You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear
You’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught
- Rogers and Hammerstein

The above is taken from this Deborah Lipstadt post about Palestinian children being taught – in kindergarten – to become militant jihadists. The segment that Lipstadt links to is quite disturbing, and as I have mentioned before, I consider this kind of hate indoctrination to be a form of crime against humanity.

In a previous post of Lipstadt’s that I linked to about the use of a Mickey Mouse figure (Farfour) to teach Palestinian children to hate Israelis, Lipstadt compared the tactic to Nazi propaganda, noting that some of the children would have eventually been of age during the time that the Third Reich was carrying out the Holocaust, and wondering how a young German might deal with/reconcile such indoctrination after the war.

The following letter from Melita Maschmann to a lost childhood friend documented in Hitler’s Willing Executioner’s answers that question for at least one young German:

Those Jews were and remained something mysteriously menacing and anonymous. They were not the sum of all Jewish individuals … They were an evil power, something with the attributes of a spook. One could not see it, but it was there, an active force for evil.

As children we had been told fairy stories which sought to make us believe in witches and wizards. Now we were to grown up to take this witchcraft seriously, but we still went on believing in the “wicked Jews”. They had never appeared to us in bodily form, but it was our daily experience that adults believed in them. After all, we could not check to see if the earth was round rather than flat – or, to be more precise, it was not a proposition we thought it necessary to check. The grownups “knew” it and one took over this knowledge without mistrust. They also “knew” that the Jews were wicked. This wickedness was directed against the prosperity, unity, and prestige of the German nation, which we had learned to love from an early age. The anti-semitism of my parents was a part of their outlook which was taken for granted…

For as long as we could remember, the adults had believed in this contradictory way with complete unconcern. One was friendly with individual Jews whom one liked, just as one was friendly as a Protestant with individual Catholics. But while it occurred to nobody to be ideologically hostile to the Catholics, one was, utterly, to the Jews. In all this no one seemed to worry about the fact that they had no clear idea of who “the Jews” were. They included the baptized and the orthodox, yiddish [sic] speaking second hand dealers and professors of German literature, Communist agents and First World War officers decorated with high orders, enthusiasts for Zionism and chauvinistic German nationalists … I had learned from my parents’ example that one could have anti-semite opinions without this interfering in one’s personal relations with individual Jews. There may appear to be a vestige of tolerance in this attitude, but it is really just this confusion which I blame for the fact that I later contrived to dedicate body and soul to an inhuman political system, without this giving me doubts about my own individual decency. In preaching that all the misery of the nation was due to the Jews or that the Jewish spirit was seditious and Jewish blood was corrupting, I was not compelled to think of you or old Herr Lewy or Rosel Cohen: I thought only of the bogeyman, “the Jew”. And when I heard that the Jews were being driven from their professions and homes and imprisoned in ghettos, the points switched automatically in my mind to steer me round the thought that such a fate could also overtake you or old Lewy. It was only the Jew who was being persecuted and “made harmless”.
Melita had been a devoted member of the girls' division of Hitler's Youth, and you can see how it took an atrocity the level of the Holocaust to break through the propaganda and hate that she had absorbed as a child. And reading the letter, it's hard not to see in full significance the inhumanity of Hamas using Farfour to teach Palestinian children the same kind of "lessons" about the Jews that Melita was taught growing up in Nazi Germany.

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, the author of the aforementioned Hitler's Willing Executioners, provides the following epigraph

"No man can struggle with advantage against the spirit of his age and country, and however powerful a man may be, it is hard for him to make his contemporaries share feelings and ideas which run counter to the general run of their hopes and desires." - Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Germans call this "spirit of [the] age" zeitgeist. It is part of the culture we live in, and like fish swimming in an ocean who don't "see" water, we do not (or tend not) to take notice of the medium we live our lives in. Unlike fish, however, we are capable of introspection and reflection, and become active intentional causal agents in our own environment. We can be more the passive agents in the current of culture and history.

I wrote before that children taught to hate are likely to become the target of someone else's hate, creating a circle of hatred that is difficult to break. I'm not sure the circle can be broken, maybe it can only expand or shrink.

Currently, many critics of Israel, such as Chris Hedges for example, have charged Israel with being overzealous in its retributional attacks against Palestinian terrorists. Set aside for a moment whatever thoughts you have on the matter, and let's think about this in terms of the circle of hate.

Israel is a nation that was created as a result of the anti-Semitic zeitgeist in Germany culminating in the genocidal Holocaust. The country is only two generations removed from that monstrous event. And so when Hamas does something such as this

The character Farfour, a Mickey Mouse look-alike who preached Islamic domination on "Tomorrow's Pioneers," a Hamas-affiliated children's television show was beaten to death in the final episode Friday, The Associated Press reported. The character was killed by an actor posing as an Israeli official trying to buy Farfour's land. "Farfour was martyred while defending his land," said the show's teenage presenter, adding that the character was murdered "by the killers of children."
We can expect that the people are justifiably worried about such blatant anti-Semitic hate-mongering. Now consider Israel's miliatry reprisals to Hamas in the context of it being a nation that was founded by a people that barely escaped complete annihilation at the hands of another people who engaged in rhetoric very similar to what is now issuing from Hamas.

In response to this news, Deborah Lipstadt herself responded "No comment necessary except for the fact that these are the people whom Jimmy Carter wants the Israelis and the world to trust....." alluding to Jimmy Carter's recent book which is highly critical of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians and in which Carter believes Hamas can be negotiatied with (I'm assuming from her comment, as I haven't read it). And given the nature of the video (which is quite disturbing) it is easy to see why Professor Lipstadt would express doubt about the prospects of partnering for peace with Hamas (I share similar doubts.)

But something about Professor Lipstadt's statement didn't sit right with me ... I think it was the "these are the people" aspect of it. I don't believe it was her intent to do so, nor do I have any reason to believe that she herself feels this way, but it made me think of how certain individuals (this one, for example) have conflated the people of Palestine - as a whole - with Hamas or other militants and thus given up on any kind of peace process. Giving in to that type of thinking feeds into the worldview of Hamas ... Hamas wants people to give up on peace and take up arms. Hamas "wins" when irrationality wins out.

And one of the chief ways to short-circuit rational thought is to tap into fear and/or anger (the whole point of terrorism). Its easy to see how citizens of Israel can see what Hamas is teaching children or listen to the rhetoric of Iran's president and remember the horror which happened during World War II in Germany.

In the Assault on Reason, Al Gore describes what he calls the politics of vicarious traumatization.

Throughout the world, stories about past traumas and victimizations are passed down from one generation to the next. Long before television added new punch and power to the ability of storytellers to elicit emotional responses, vivid verbal descriptions of traumas physically suffered by others evoked extremely powerful reactions – even centuries after the original traumas occurred.

In the early summer of 2001, Tipper and I went to Greece. While we were there, the pope made a historic visit to Greece, and was met with thousands of angry demonstrators holding signs, yelling epithets. I looked into what was going on. They were angry about something that had happened eight hundred years ago: The Fourth Crusade had stopped off in Constantinople, sacked the city, and weakened it for the later overthrow by the Turks. And they’re angry today eight hundred years later.

To take a second example, Slobodon Milosovic, in the early summer of 1989, went to the plains of Kosovo on the six-hundredth anniversary of the battle that defeated the Serbian Empire in its heyday. Governement spekesmen said a million and a half people came. Western estimates said a million people, came, covering the hillsides to listen to him speak. In his speech, Milisovic revivified the battle of six hundred years earlier. And in the immediate aftermath of that collective retraumatization, a brutal campaign of violent expulsion began against the Croats and the Bosnians and the Kosovars at least in part because there was a vicarious experience of a trauma six centuries earlier that activated in the physical bodies of the individuals present, in this generation a response as if they were reliving that fear of so long ago.

If you look at the conflicts on the Indian subcontinent, in Sri-Lanka, in Africa, in Northern Ireland, in the Middle East – indeed, in almost every conflict zone in the world – you will find an element of amygdala politics based on vicarious traumatization, feeding off memories of past tragedies. In each case, there is a political process that attempts to solve these conflicts through reasoned discourse. But such a response is insufficient to dissipate the continuining power of the reawakened and revivified traumatic memories. We need new mechanisms, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa – or mechanisms not yet invented – to deal with the role of collective vicarious traumatic memory in driving long-running conflicts.
As I said, set aside any issues of blame for the moment, and you can see that vicarious traumatization is playing a role in the relations between Israel and Palestine, making the prospect of a peace partnership difficult.

Last summer I wrote a post highly critical of Israel naming a military engagement in the Gaza strip "Operation Samson's Pillars".

Why in the world would Israel choose to call a mission in which they have stated that they are doing everything possible to protect innocents "Samson's Pillars"? For those unaware, this is an allusion to the Old Testament tale of Samson and Delihah, in which the Israelite hero Samson, after being a prisoner of the Philistines in Gaza, pulls down the pillars of a religious temple during a ritual sacrifice, indiscriminately killing all - men, women, children, and himself - in the temple. Could Israel have possibly chosen a more inappropriate or religiously provacative title for this mission?

One of the commenters seemed to assume that I was defending or excusing the terrorist acts of Hamas because, one would guess, I am biased against Israel. He could not be farther off base. If anything, my criticism of Israel reveals my bias FOR Israel and my prejudice against Hamas. I do not have much confidence that rational criticism will have much effect on Hamas, which is why I direct my criticism where I think it might make a difference.

As you can see in the post, I did not object so much to the mission as I did to the title of the mission. It is difficult to escape the circle of hate which feeds off of collective memories of vicarious traumatization when you persist in defining your actions in terms of a Biblical conflict from thousands of years ago that feeds into and perpetuates the fanatic religous zealotry of Hamas and which also might activate in yourself "amygdala politics" (the fundamenatlist Jewish "frontier" settlers would seem to be a prime example of this).

I've since writing that post learned that Israel calls its nuclear policy the "Samson Option." I'm going to quote at length a passage from The Samson Option by Seymour Hersh in which you can see the politics of vicarious traumatization at work.

Dimona's supporters had convinced most of the leadership that only nuclear weapons could provide the absolute and final deterrent to the Arab threat, and only nuclear weapons could convince the Arabs - who were bolstered by the rapidly growing Soviet economic and military aid - that they must renounce all plans for military conquest of Israel and agree to a peace settlement. With a nuclear arsenal there would be no more Masadas in Israel's history, a reference to the decision of more than nine hundred Jewish defenders - known as the Zealots - to commit suicide in A.D. 73 rather than endure defeat at the hands of the Romans.

In its place, argued the nuclear advocates, would be the Samson Option. Samson, according to the Bible, had been captured by the Philistines after a bloody fight and put on display, with his eyes torn out, for public entertainment in Dagon's Temple in Gaza. He asked God to give him back his strength for the last time and cried out, "Let my soul die with the Philistines." With that, he pushed apart the temple pillars, bringing down the roof and killing himself and his enemies. For Israel's nuclear advocates, the Samson Option became another way of saying "Never again."

The basic argument against the nuclear arsenal went beyond its impact on the readiness of the military: these were years of huge economic growth and business expansion inside Israel, and Dimona still was absorbing far too much skilled manpower, in the view of many industrial managers - whose constant complaints to
government officials on that issue went nowhere. dimona continued to distort the economy and limit development. There was, for example, no private computer industry in Israel by the late 1960s, although American intelligence officials had rated Israel for years as an international leader - with Japan and the United States - in the ability to design and program computer software.

The long-range social and military costs of Dimona were most certainly the concerns of Yitzhak Rabin, the new army chief of staff, and Yigal Allon, a close Eshkol adviser and former commander of the irregular Palmach forces before the 1948 War of Independence. Less compelling to the military men was the moral argument against the bomb raised by some on the left and in academia: that the Jewish people, victims of the Holocaust, had an obligation to prevent the degeneration of the Arab-Israeli dispute into a war of mass destruction. Those who held that view did not underestimate the danger of a conventional arms race, but believed that, as Simha Flapan, their passionate spokesman, wrote, "the qualitative advantages of Israel - social cohesion and organization, education and technical skills, intelligence and moral incentive - can be brought into play only in a conventional war fought by men."

A major complication in the debate, seemingly, was the Arab and Israeli press, which routinely published exaggerated accounts of each side's weapons of mass destruction. In Israel, there were alarmist accounts of Soviet and Chinese support for an Egyptian nuclear bomb. Egypt, in turn, publically suggested that it had received a Soviet commitment to come to its aid in case of an Israeli nuclear attack, and President Gamal Nassar warned in an interview that "preventive war" was the "only answer" to a nuclear-armed Israel. It was a period, Simha Flapan later wrote, when both Israel and Egypt "were trapped in a vicious circle of tension and suspicion and were doing everything possible to make them a self-fulfilling prophesy."

This sort of mentality taps into memories of collective traumatization - on both sides - and becomes a self-feeding loop. It is a trap, a pit of quicksand, that neither side can get out of.

If we're interested in reducing the amount of hate all around, then we need to think with our full cognitive capacity, and not let our amygdala take over.

I'm no expert in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, nor am I even all that informed about the subject, but one of the solutions I would propose would be for Israel to declare its nuclear weapons progam and then to voluntarily disarm.

I know that such a proposal will meet with howls of protest, and I could be completely wrong, but I think its worthy of at least consideration. The removal of Israel's nuclear arms would deligitimize the efforts of other Middle Eastern nations to pursue nuclear weapons and could be a powerful bargaining chip to prevent a nation such as Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Given that many analysts believe that if Iran were to obtain nukes it would lead to the entire Middle East becoming nuclear armed states, it would appear to me that it would be in Israel's interest to give up their nuclear weapons if that would help prevent that from occurring.

Some might object that without nuclear weapons as a detterent, Israel would be a sitting duck for the forces that wish to see the nation obliterated. I find this to be a meek objection. Israel is military superior to most (if not all) of the groups/states who agitate against it. Also, if we can remphasize the role of collective security and international law, we can assure that any nation that attacks Israel will have to deal with the reaction of Israel's allies. And this is where the United States military strength and status as a world power can be put to good use.

I could be wrong. But I throw out this idea to give an example of the type of thinking I think necessary to breaking free of what seems to be an endless cycle of needless violence.

The acts of Palestinian terrorists are reprehensible and inexcusable. There is no debate about that. But we should not allow them to draw us into their destructive circle of hate, as when that happens, the circle expands, and everyone in it is worse off for it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Speaking of O'Reilly ...

In the initial post I wrote about O'Reilly calling Daily Kos a hate site "no different" from the KKK or Nazis I wrote he is incapable of admitting error or noticing his own hypocrisy because:

that's the way Bill rolls. He seems to have developed a pathology around his inability to get ahead at CBS. That pathology consists in believing that this was due to "s-p" (read: liberal) bias and not the fact that he is a unprofessional hack with anger management issues. This has become the core of his identity ... he can't admit error because it would be unravel his sense of self. So he keeps building on top of this fantasy edifice ... if his failure at CBS was not his fault, his success at Fox and the failure of the network to impose professional standards on him are evidence of his demi-god like qualities. And anyone that fact checks O'Reilly, well, obviously, they're just more "s-p" haters ... a demi-god can't be wrong.

Unlike, say, Malkin or Hannity, O'Reilly is not a movement conservative ideologue. He's a Bill O'Reilly ideologue: his dogmatism is his narcisistic egoism.
To help make sense of that evaluation, take a look at Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). Here's the synopsis:

Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over who is right? Why can we see hypocrisy in others but not in ourselves? Are we all liars? Or do we really believe the stories we tell? Renowned social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson take a compelling look into how the brain is wired for self-justification. When we make mistakes, we must calm the cognitive dissonance that jars our feelings of self-worth. And so we create fictions that absolve us of responsibility, restoring our belief that we are smart, moral, and right—a belief that often keeps us on a course that is dumb, immoral, and wrong.

Backed by years of research and delivered in lively, energetic prose, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) offers a fascinating explanation of self-deception—how it works, the harm it can cause, and how we can overcome it.
An excerpt of the first chapter is available, here, and, incidentally, Michael Shermer also saw fit to relate the authors' research to President Bush and his inability to change course in Iraq in this Skeptic column for Scientific American.

Edit - I just noticed that the authors themselves have written a brief op-ed about Bush and Iraq.

Just when you thought you knew crazy

Somebody sent me a link to The French Connection.

Enter, at your own risk, to get a sampling of what extremist paranoia looks like in a pure, unadulterated form. One of the hallmarks of extreme extremism (I know, I know, "as compared to moderate extremism?" ... well, yes, white supremacist/neo-nazi Stormfront is "moderate" compared to the site above) is that they don't trust anyone - even ideologically similar extremists. You could see that with this lunatic (Bill White), who calls Stormfront a "pro-Jewish" website, and you can most certainly see it at the site above, where there is speculation about various hate groups (that hate Jews) in reality being Zionist fronts.

I mean, damn, this stuff would make Richard Hofstadter's head spin.

A suggestion for Bill O'Reilly: browse the site above, and then browse here, and then maybe possibly re-evaluate your conception of what a hate site is.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Art of the Day

Idylle Atomique (1945) - Salvador Dali

Can Al Gore catch a break?

Earlier this week I read the news that endangered Chilean sea bass was served at the wedding of Al Gore's daughter. Here's the initial story. The article is titled "Gore's message loses bite" and opens with the tag: ONLY one week after Live Earth, Al Gore's green credentials slipped while hosting his daughter's wedding in Beverly Hills.

If you do a Google search for Gore and sea bass you'll see a cacaphony of voices saying that Gore is a hypocrite, he's got no environmental credibility, this shows global warming is a fraud, etc.

I figured that if I waited a week or so information would come out showing that something was missing from the initial story. I also considered the possibility that Gore didn't micro-manage every aspect of his daughter's wedding or, possibly, didn't know the status of Chilean sea bass.

So what do you know, Gore isn't a hypocrite.

The night before the wedding, People magazine reported, the Gores were at a dinner for 75 at the nearby Crustacean restaurant where a six-course tasting menu included Chilean sea bass - also known as Patagonian toothfish.

The reaction was swift: writing in in the Australian Daily Telegraph, Rebecca Keeble of Humane Society International, a conservation pressure group, complained of the danger to the species from "from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities".

She noted that "more than 50 per cent of toothfish traded is illegally caught, and includes juveniles vital to the ongoing toothfish population". She called on the US government to help crack down on illegal fishing by sanctioning Spain for allowing its nationals to fish illegally for the species in conservation areas.

And in the meantime, she acidly suggested, "Al Gore could choose something else to eat". Her attack on the former vice-president, and his implied hypocrisy, were rapidly picked up by bloggers around the world.

But the fish enjoyed by the Gores were not endangered or illegally caught.

Rather, the restaurant later confirmed, they had come from one of the world's few well-managed, sustainable populations of toothfish, and caught and documented in compliance with Marine Stewardship Council regulations. The Gores' spokesman, Kalee Kreider, admitted that the fish has been on the menu, but said: "The Gores absolutely agree with this humane society and the rest of the environmental community about illegally caught Chilean sea bass."
It turns out the fish served at his daughter's wedding was from Whole Foods, the company that Jonah Goldberg argues is part of the liberal tradition of fascism (specifically, eco/environmental-fascism) in his upcoming book (no kidding, you can't make this stuff up).

But here's the kicker. The truth won't matter. That Gore is a hypocrite has become ingrained in the minds of our culture thanks in part to the mainstream media and in large part to the noise machine. The damage is done, and this will become part of the standard conservative movement canon about Al Gore.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Thomas Jefferson: fundamentalist?

As indicated in my review of Alan Dershowitz's latest book, the Religious Right has been trying to claim the Declartion of Independence as a Christian document while distorting Jefferson's actual views on religion in the process.

I kinda wish I had waited until today to have posted that, because I just came across Ed Brayton's post on the same subject, and it serves as an excellent appendix to the book review. In it, Brayton demonstrates how odd it is for the fundamentalists of today to being Jefferson as one of their own when their intellectual antecedents in Jefferson's day considered Jefferson as anything but a Christian.

I only have one problem with Mr. Brayton's post, and that is this:

"Jefferson believed firmly in one God, benevolent, provident and personal."

While Jefferson did beleive in a benevolent single God that was provident, he did not conceive of this as a personal god. The God of deism was an impersonal Creator who set the universe in motion and who does not interfere with the world now that is exists.

Update: I challenged Ed on the personal God belief of Jefferson and he responded

This is simply false. Time and again in his letters, Jefferson refers to God as being personal, provident and interventionist. Thus his famous statement in his Notes on Virginia that God's justice could not sleep forever and many other similar quotes. Jefferson's god was not the distant, watchmaker god of deism but an active, provident, personal god.
and Jon Rowe adds

We can show you quotations of Jefferson's that demonstrate he believed in a personal God who intervened in man's affairs. However, since Jefferson rejected miracles, his God didn't break the laws of nature or science when He did so.
Both Rowe and Brayton spend a lot of time covering this subject so they probably know what they are talking about. I've asked to be directed to the proper Jefferson papers to see the quotes Rowe alludes to, as I'd be interested in knowing what kind of non-Biblical non-magical personal intervention Jefferson envisioned occurring.

Update 2: Brayton provides the following quote from Notes on Virginia

And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in such a contest. -- But it is impossible to be temperate and to pursue this subject through the various considerations of policy, of morals, of history natural and civil. We must be contented to hope they will force their way into every one's mind. I think a change already perceptible, since the origin of the present revolution. The spirit of the master is abating, that of the slave rising from the dust, his condition mollifying, the way I hope preparing, under the auspices of heaven, for a total emancipation, and that this is disposed, in the order of events, to be with the consent of the masters, rather than by their extirpation.
This passage is consistent with what Dershowitz wrote about Jefferson believing the unalienable rights of man to be divine Laws of Nature, but leaves open the possibility that Jefferson believed his deistic God could intervene through natural process (somehow.) This has piqued my interest so I'll be looking into the subject further, and will withhold further comment until I'm better informed.

Update 3: Jon Rowe offers another quote here, and for those interested in the subject, this is the book I plan to read to brush up on Jefferson's views.

What he said

Watch that, then reread this. Then keep in mind what happened during the '90s when the right-wing was accusing another Clinton of being a traitor to America. (hint: Oklahoma City)

We are heading towards another revolt, but instead of being pseudoconservative, this time we'll have to call it a protofascist revolt (see here for the antecedent revolt that has already taken hold.)