Thursday, April 16, 2009

Napolitano apologizes for reality

From Fox News

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized to veterans after a report issued by her department said troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at risk for being recruited by right-wing extremists.

"To the extent veterans read it as an accusation ... an apology is owed," she said during an on-air interview on FOX News Thursday, a day after veterans' groups and members of Congress blasted her for the report, which they said libeled members of the armed forces.
This is another example of the corrupting influence of reality-detached ranting. The DHS report did not slander veterans, it did not call them extremists, nor did it suggest that returning veterans should be the targets of surveillance. It said that "right-wing extremists" seek to recruit and radicalize veterans to take advantage of their combat skills. There is nothing controversial about the notion that military veterans returning from a war are susceptible to being recruited into extremist groups (Timothy McVeigh, anyone?)

Historically, disenchanted returning veterans feeling that they've been "stabbed in the back" are among the first groups that fascists recruited from. For example, the authoritative scholar of fascism Robert Paxton observed in The Anatomy of Fascism that he

half expected to see emerge after 1968 a movement of national reunification, regeneration, and purification directed against hirsute antiwar protesters, black radicals, and "degenerate" artists. I thought that some of the Vietnam veterans might form analogs to the Freikorps of 1919 Germany or the Italian Arditi, and attack the youths whose demonstrations on the steps of the Pentagon had "stabbed them in the back." Fortunately I was wrong (so far). Since September 11, 2001, however, civil liberties have been curtailed to popular acclaim in a patriotic war upon terrorists.
Is this an attack on veterans, is it demonizing them as extremists? No. It's recognizing a historical reality about how some veterans enter into radicalized extremist politics. Understanding the factors that contribute to such radicalization help us consider how we might seek to prevent it from happening in the first place. But the reality-detached lobby of the Drudge-Hannity-Limbaugh-Fox axis of misinformation seeks to cut us off from that reality, leaving us less capable of understanding and thus confronting the world we live in.

And here we see the same sort of problem denying/problem exacerbating dynamic. Movement conservatives work themselves into a fit of indignation over the suggestion that extremists seek to radicalize returning vets, demanding (and getting) an apology from Napolitano; meanwhile they are busy telling returning vets that they've been stabbed in the back by Democrats who cut their funding, which is itself another reality-detached claim. Indeed, these same individuals so outraged that anyone would dare suggest that the "stabbed in the back" mythos might be used to recruit veterans are part of a movement which has relentlessy pushed a "stabbed in the back" meme. It must. Given that reality does not factor into the movement's considerations, blame must be found for any failures - real or perceived.

And if we are so unfortunate to have another McVeigh style incident, these same individuals will be outraged at the notion that their rhetoric had anything to do with it, even though persons like Malkin have expressed their respect and admiration for Ann Coulter, someone who has written multiple books accusing Democrats of being anti-American traitors, and suggesting that the only thing wrong with Timothy McVeigh's act of domestic terrorism was that he did not target the New York Times building.

Blogger's Note - I had planned on completing my Tea Party/historical revision post today, but keeping up with this and Savage has set me back a day.


Tor Hershman said...

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd." - Voltaire

Was Voltaire certain about that?

I'm certain about this

NAL said...

Was Voltaire certain about that?Undoubtably.

C2H50H said...

If we ever find out who the people who manned the gulag created by the Cheney torture and assassination bureau are, mark my words: we'll find veterans of the first gulf war, as well as a host of other ex-military.

These are the people who went through SERE training, or who ran the "School of the Americas" training program for the Central American military dicatorships.

Peruse the comments on right-wing blogs and you'll find them using names like "hawk-something" and acting like they're the owners and operators of this republic and the rest of us are weak-willed pansies. Classic examples of authoritarian followers, they're utterly ripe for being co-opted into domestic terrorism.

Let me be perfectly clear: these are a small minority in the military, even now, with its relaxed requirements on recruits. The vast majority of people in the military represent the best of us. But there are always those in any population whose morality suffers under stress, and who lose what little capacity for empathy they ever had -- and military service in the Bush years has been incredibly stressful. The result is a significant number of people who, like McVeigh, will turn out violent and anti-social.

Every month that the insane wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, we manufacture more like them. Crime prevention agencies that ignore or deny these facts imperil the public safety.

Sheldon said...

Yeah its amazing how these idiots are responding "they insulted the troops" blah blah blah.

Isn't it obvious that the military is made up of a heterogenous population?

Veterans will react to their experiences in a whole variety of ways.

Some will adjust just fine, some won't.

Some become left-wing anti-war activists like the heroic (in my opinion) IVAW. Some become pro-war conservative ideologues, but will remain within mainstream establishment parameters.

And a few may move towards right-wing patriot movements, and that is who the DHS was warning against.

And it is also worth noting that we already know that some military veterans are adjusting poorly and this is evidenced by the statistics on domestic violence, suicides etc..

And now it seems the Fox News and talk radio centered right-wing in this country are being very hyperbolic in their rhetoric in this country, which will feed right-wing extremists.

Hume's Ghost said...

"... acting like they're the owners and operators of this republic and the rest of us are weak-willed pansies ..."

This is almost exactly the terms that Paxton uses to describe the profile of the Italian veterans who became the first fascists.

"these are a small minority in the military"

Yes. The Malkin-sphere has problem with basic reasoning, especially when it conflicts with their sense of victimization and rhetorical expression of "support" for the troops. Saying that some fruit are apples (and that some of these apples may go bad under particular conditions) is not equivalent to saying that all fruit are apples and will necessarily go bad.

"Some become left-wing anti-war activists ..."

Howard Zinn comes to mind. I love how chicken-hawks like Limbaugh demonize anti-war folks as being girly, gay, sissies, while someone like Zinn was actually in the military and fought in WWII. Paul Kurtz, who epitomizes what Limbaugh demonizes as being an efete liberal "new castrati", also was in the military during WWII.