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June 21, 2003

Well-chosen symbolism. This’ll definitely win over the hearts and minds:
U.S. troops psyched up on a bizarre musical reprise from Vietnam war film “Apocalypse Now” before crashing into Iraqi homes to hunt gunmen on Saturday, as Shi’ite Muslims rallied against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

With the strains of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” still ringing in their ears and the clatter of helicopters overhead, soldiers rammed vehicles into metal gates and hundreds of troops raided houses in the western city of Ramadi after sunrise as part of a drive to quell a spate of attacks on U.S. forces.

In other news, U.S. troops are now adopting the Pickelhaube helmet. Okay, probably not. But hey, they might as well. The poor bastards. [10:37 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Well-chosen symbolism.:

Copeland Morris ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 03:18 AM:

Here are a couple of excerpts from Chris Hedges' new book, "War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning". Hedges was a War correspondent for many years, and presently writes for the New York Times.

"I have watched fighters in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, the Sudan, the Punjab, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo enter villages tense, exhausted, weary of ambushes, with the fear and tension that comes from combat, and begin to shoot at random. Flames soon lick up from the houses. Discipline, if there was any, disintegrates. Items are looted, civilians are battered with rifle butts, units fall apart, and the violence directed toward unarmed men, women, and children grows as it feeds on itself. The eyes of the soldiers who carry this orgy of death are crazed. They speak only in gutteral shouts. They are high on the power to take lives or spare them, the divine power to destroy. And they are indeed, for a moment, gods swatting down powerless human beings like flies. The lust for violence, the freedom to eradicate the world around them, even human lives, is seductive. And the line that divides us, who would like to see ourselves as civilized and compassionate, from such communal barbarity is razor-thin. In wartime it often seems to matter little where one came from or how well-schooled or moral one was before the war. The frenzy of the crowd is overpowering". (Hedges, pp 171-2)

"There is among many who fight in war a sense of shame, one that is made worse by the patriotic drivel used to justify the act of killing in war. Those who seek meaning in patriotism do not want to hear the truth of war, wary of bursting the bubble. The tensions between those who were there and those who were not, those who refuse to let go of the myth and those who know it to be a lie feed into the dislocation and malaise after war. In the end, neither side can speak to the other. The shame and alienation of combat soldiers, coupled with the indifference to the truth of war by those who were not there, reduces many societies to silence. It seems better to forget"(Hedges, p 176)

Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 06:53 AM:

Patrick: I think you forgot to make a link to the quote source.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 07:02 AM:

Oops. Thanks, Kathryn. Fixed now.

David Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 11:06 AM:

I hope you don't mind a comment from overseas but it is chilling to see the parallels between Iraq and Northern Ireland. When Ted Heath sent in British Troops to Northern Ireland to protect the Catholic minority they were welcomed as saviours, much as the US troops were welcomed by many Iraqis. Within months however, any goodwill had been squandered due to heavy-handed actions against suspected terrorists, often based on faulty or out-of-date intelligence, which inevitably led to the destruction of property, injury and in some cases death of non-involved civilians. The low point, of course was Bloody Sunday when 1st Para killed 14 people and injured many more, an event which radicalised an entire generation and boosted IRA recruitment.
Soldiers are trained to fight other soldiers. They are not trained to be policemen. If you don't mind me saying so, the US government does not appear to have grasped this lesson.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 11:31 AM:

It's a good point. Libertarian antiwar blogger Gene Healy was saying pretty much the same thing, just the other day, and his comments are worth a look.

Incidentally, no need to be deferential around here about opining from overseas.

the talking dog ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 08:18 PM:

Well, lookit. This (post-"victory" occupation) happened to be my own basis for opposing the "war" (if you call the invasion of an ostensibly undefended country a "war"). In fairness, while a "cakewalk" was anticipated, it doubtless went even faster than Rummy and Cheney figured. Only an idiot who watched our non-existent reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan figured that there was any hope whatsoever for a realistic attempt at anything but the most lackluster effort after "victory" in Iraq. It just amazes me how many of our pro-war friends said "see you fools, we won so nyah-- you'
re all wrong and traitors, etc., etc.

Soldiers, I'm afraid, signed up for whatever shit they are ordered to do. Unfortunately, an endless occupation of a hostile country is what we (and they) bought here. But hey-- the oil is flowing now, so it was all worth it.

The decision was made to use a bunker buster to make damned sure no one ever knows whether we killed Saddam or not (reminiscent of an earlier decision to do the same thing with Osama bin Laden); a most interesting tactic: in two cases, a war ostensibly to get ONE MAN, and then, a tactic chosen almost by design to make it IMPOSSIBLE to tell if we achieved the mission!

So, as in Afghanistan, our personnel in Iraq are in a nasty, endless situation: there to keep order in a lawless, hostile place, while the decision from upstairs is made NOT to provide enough man and/or materiel to make the job doable.

Another day not to envy the American military man or woman.

andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2003, 08:57 PM:

....."to make damned sure no one ever knows whether we killed Saddam or not (reminiscent of an earlier decision to do the same thing with Osama bin Laden)".....

I've wondered if this strategy was deliberate - we were waiting to see if we needed the spectre of OBL or Saddam alive and threatening more than we needed the certainty and victory provided by their corpses. And the doubt is enough.
If we killed OBL (or Saddam in that first night "decapitation" attack - which I believe we did) people might say the war was over.

A full-scale invasion of Iraq after Saddam was known to be dead would have been controversial, but we wouldn't have enough control yet to stop. He might just turn up somewhere, when coincidently we have some other *interests*

I'm not complaining, I'm just saying. It's a pretty good strategy diplomatically and politically, although it does deny warrior Bush a victory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue with Saddam's head on a stick.
Maybe Rove's got other plans...can you see Bush giving his Republican nomination acceptance speech at ground zero with Saddam and OBL's heads on the podium as bookends for our warrier king?

Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 03:30 AM:

Talk about life imitating art...

Damien Neil ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 05:20 AM:

I find it saddening that Wagner appears to be remembered only as a soundtrack for a popular film.

I don't know that I see much significance to the music soldiers choose to listen to. The actions they engage in are far more important, and I think the author of the Washington Post story would have done better to focus on those, rather than trivialities.

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 09:43 AM:

Cheer up, Damien. I'm confident that millions of people still hear Wagner performed in concert every year. But if the average semi-musical man or woman thinks of it at all, "Ride of the Valkyries" probably does remind them of Apocalypse Now. Talk to the 124th Infantry Regiment if you're distressed by this use of Wagner. They chose the soundtrack.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 10:22 AM:

"But if the average semi-musical man or woman thinks of it at all, 'Ride of the Valkyries' probably does remind them of Apocalypse Now."

Or Bugs Bunny.

Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 10:30 AM:

Soldiers, I'm afraid, signed up for whatever shit they are ordered to do. Unfortunately, an endless occupation of a hostile country is what we (and they) bought here. But hey-- the oil is flowing now, so it was all worth it.

Talking Dog: Soldiers sign up to follow orders, you betcha. But they were told by the people that give the orders that they were going to go in, win the war, and then rotate out. The top brass hasn't honored that promise. I can see why they feel betrayed.

Simon ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 12:31 PM:

But hey-- the oil is flowing now

I remember reading somewhere that Saddam wsas regularly selling oil to other countries (even to the US? I don't recall) during the entire so-called sanctions period.

Maybe somebody knows about this. I seem to be very bad at googling or other researching of questions like this, and I don't accept the position (put forth by a pro-war person on a previous occasion) that because I can't pull this stuff out of a hat means I've lost the argument.

Anne ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 01:21 PM:

My first thought was that Wagner was the favorite composer of that guy I can't mention without bringing in Godwin's Law.

felix ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 01:51 PM:

"But hey-- the oil is flowing now."

The oil is NOT flowing!

What is being loaded onto tankers now was in storage up to now. The oil infrastructure is largely intact oil cannot be pumped at any meaningful levels because spare parts have been looted and everything is being sabotaged bit by bit.

If and when the Iraqui oil starts flowing the price of crude will collapse to the low twenties to high teens - It has been at around $30/barrel for a number of weeks.

T. Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 03:04 PM:


We do not sign up, " for whatever shit [we] are ordered to do."

We sign up to serve, or for adventure, or for college money, or for three hots and a cot. We accept that in exchange for whatever we want out of it, we will have to obey lawful orders.

We are taught that unlawful orders are invalid (and Nuremburg points out that, "just following orders," is a limited defense.

Given the nature of modern America's view of the military (take a look at the recently published memoir of (IIRC) Swofford) and the continuing use of troops for what appear to be, at least to us, base purposes, dressed up to look good in public and I am amazed at how many of us re-up.

I wish i didn't sound trite but the quotation at the begginning of this thread sums it up. If one hasn't been there, I don't think I can explain it to you, but the "box" is a world apart.

Terry

Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 03:43 PM:

Anne wrote: My first thought was that Wagner was the favorite composer of that guy I can't mention without bringing in Godwin's Law.

Well, on the other hand, "that guy's" favorite author was a pacifist. Which doesn't mean that Wagner wasn't an anti-semite, but that can be established more directly.

Damien Neil ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 05:31 PM:

Paul - I'm not at all distressed by the 124th's use of Wagner, just the Washington Post reporter's apparent belief that "Ride of the Valkyries" began and ended its life as a movie soundtrack.

Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 10:43 PM:

There's a CBC Radio 2 -- the classics station -- announcer named Jurgen Goth (sp guestimated, ok? I don't think I've ever seen it written down)

At the end of the Greeting Rant from Tannhe4user, he came on in a meditative tone of voice and said "And to think that there are still people who will argue that Wagner was a sane man."

Best short summation of Herr Wagner I've ever heard, even without the subsequent discussion of why it's a bad thing to regard sopranos as expendible like that.

Darren Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2003, 11:46 PM:

I think all I can say to this is my general purpose incredulousness: I wake up every morning and I look around and I say 'so THIS is what it's like to be a good German.' Or, sometimes, if I'm feeling geeky, I say 'so THIS is what it's like to be one of the civilian aides on the Death Star.' And despite the glibness of the reference, it always chills me, as I realize yet again that while America has never really meant anything as good and nice and upright to the rest of the world as it has always meant to us Americans, for all our generally perceived corruption and ugliness and selfishness and obsession with materialism and lack of real spirituality or deep ethical values, nonetheless, over the past few years under Dubya, American has darkened an order of magnitude, or more, in the eyes of the remainder of the world.

We are no longer just the corrupt, willfully ignorant corporate-state that insists on shoving consumer capitalism down everyone else's throat because we think it's honestly a good thing to want to buy the world a Coke. Nowadays, we have become Nazi Germany, but much bigger and more powerful than Nazi Germany ever dreamed of being. We have become Lucas' Empire, and, for that matter, Reagan's Empire of Evil. We are The Bad Guys, the Black Hats, the ones that our own mythos tells us must inevitably fall if freedom is to flourish and mankind is to survive.

My country has become vile and insufferable. We have concentration camps and unlawful, illegal imprisonment for thousands if not millions based only on their nation of origin. We invade whoever the hell we want to invade, kill whoever we want to kill, lock up whoever we want to lock up. We deny basic health care not only to our citizens by the millions but to our own soldiery by denying the deadly side effects of our weaponry. Our government is steadily and very calculatedly stripping away a little more of our basic freedoms every day, and using that steady decrease of civil liberties not to keep us safe, but to make certain of the current junta's continuing power base. The current junta is using its power not to protect the citizenry or make our lives better, but to keep the vast majority of us in grinding, miserable poverty-stricken wage slavery, to support the idle decadence of a tiny sub-fraction of the overall population.

America is slowly but surely turning into every dystopia every really depressing science fiction writer ever wrote about, and we're working hard to export our own increasingly disfunctional culture to the four corners of the globe.

And I, the not so good German, keep waiting for the Homeland Security troopers to come take me away...

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 01:56 AM:

Darren Madigan slipped in ahead of me, expressing more or less my own sense of unquiet about Patrick's news item.

There's nothing new in the history of the world about psychological or chemical drugging of soldiers to turn them into more efficient killers.

But I hate the knowledge that this is happening *now* in the name of my country, in the aftermath of an unnecessary war.

Being a refugee from both the science fiction fandom and the Peace and Freedom Party of the 1960s, the first thing I thought of after reading Patrick's blog entry was the soldiers in Chip Delany's "Lord of the Flames." Delany's soldiers were the excess poor -- drugged and warehoused to fight a Nowhere War in a Matrix-like simulation. Eventually, they were incinerated by their own government.

Reading this sad item in Electrolite rekindled the sense of horror I felt when I first read that Delany novel as a teenager. (I realize that we're just discussing psychological drugging, now -- not yet the government-mandated incineration.)

Delany wrote the "Lord of the Flames" books (later collected as "The Fall of the Towers"), under the shadow of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Sometimes the 21st century news appalls me, and other times it just numbs me out. But I need to remind myself that whatever my emotional reaction to Bush's daily outrages, I need to keep seeking logical things my brain and wallet can do to vote his clique out of control of our country. The gang controlling the White House of the United States, now, is worse than any villains (Nixon, Reagan, Dr. Doom) who horrified me in my youth.

But, me being me, I can't help wishing we had more poets like Delany working right now, to keep us emtionally mindful of what war can do to soldiers.

Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 03:01 AM:

"I never wanted to be a citizen of the evil empire." (me, 15-Jan-2003)

Still, we've a long way still to fall before we become one of history's great horrors. And, truly, I don't believe we will. I do not expect our current leadership to last; the economic problems now hitting are likely to bring it down, and the sheer incompetence of this lot is likely to cause other, less predictable problems.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 03:55 AM:

*Nowadays, we have become Nazi Germany,*

Darren-- without meaning at all to defend the Bush administration, which has totally exhausted the considerable reserve of patience I set aside for it on 9/11/01 (as if my poor widdle hurt feelings were really the issue), I politely but firmly suggest that this is absolute hogwash.

Does the Bush administration have problems with credibility, accountability, and sheer competence? *Holy hell yes.* Has it misbehaved domestically and abroad since 9/11/01? *We have not the words to begin the preamble to the prologue to Volume One of its catalog of cock-ups.* But bald-faced hyperbole like this-- "we're Nazi Germany now!"-- suggests that if you're not miserably ignorant of just what the Third Reich was, you're deliberately subsuming your real knowledge for the sake of cheap, dishonest hyperbole.

I'm going to let my favorite This Modern World cartoon of all time help play the orator for me:

http://www.thismodernworld.com/media/arc/1995%20archive/95-03-08-hyperbole.gif

The Bush administration deserves to be hounded out of office for its very real abuses of power, its comedic domestic policies, its fiscal irresponsibility, and its blatant ass-covering and obstructionism on the subject of investigations into intelligence failures/incompetence, both before 9/11 and after. In short, Bush & Co. offer a target-rich environment for vicious, entirely accurate criticism on a hundred or so easily-discernible points of policy. Who does it help to engage in hyperbolic flights of rhetorical fantasy?

What we have is a country that needs some serious correction, no doubt about that. What we do not have is anything like the Third Reich. If you insist otherwise, all I can say is that you have forgotten, or never learned, the true horror of the Third Reich-- a horror that this sort of silly comparison only trivializes.

Cold hard evidence cheerfully offered, if you want some, provided the really cool thunderstorms and funnel clouds outside don't sweep me off this hilltop tonight. Minnesota thunderstorms *rule.*

Paul ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 09:14 AM:

we have become Nazi Germany

Please. One, this isn't true; two, it trivializes the true horrors of the Nazi regime; and three, remarks like these only help the right dismiss every criticism of their man as a hysterical exaggeration. I'm sympathetic to your anger and fear and frustration, Darren, really, I am, but crying warg won't make getting rid of Bush any easier. It'll only make it harder.

davebanjo ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 10:29 AM:

Of course, an american said it best:

Wagner's music isn't as bad as it sounds.
-Mark Twain

Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 02:39 PM:

And what's so bad about associating Wagner with Bugs Bunny? This whole venture has produced one flashback after another of Bush in a poorly fitting breastplate and helmet, jamming his spear down a rabbit hole while singing "Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!"

And considering that our Prez is pretty much a cartoon character anyway, I look forward to the day when we can send him home, and he can watch MTV videos with his best friend Beavis all he wants.

Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 03:03 PM:

You're out of order Mr. Riddel.

I won't stand for any comparisons of our Commander in Chief with Butthead.

I demand an immediate public apology to Mr. Butthead.

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 03:19 PM:

For those of us sitting in comfortable chairs and browsing weblogs, I have a feeling it's easier to remember that Bugs Bunny cartoon, than to picture ourselves in Iraq, scared of having our asses shot off and being offered a warrior-superiority meme to kill the fear.

I've never been in the U.S. Army, so I don't feel qualified to suggest a proper "we're fighting for democracy" meme to replace the Wagner one. But if I were out there on the frontlines having that stuff piped into my ear, I think I'd be looking for one. (I might wind up settling for belief in the innate intellectual superiority of Bugs to Elmer Fudd.)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 03:35 PM:

"For those of us sitting in comfortable chairs and browsing weblogs, I have a feeling it's easier to remember that Bugs Bunny cartoon, than to picture ourselves in Iraq, scared of having our asses shot off and being offered a warrior-superiority meme to kill the fear."

I'm not sure why you felt my Bugs Bunny remark deserved this little lecture. Are you under the impression I've never remarked on the kinds of stresses our soldiers are under? Like, for instance, in the last two links of the item these comments are attached to?

Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 04:22 PM:

Sheesh no. Your awareness is the reason why we're all here. My response was triggered by Paul Riddell's comment: "Bush is a cartoon, anyway...."

I apologize, if I came across as condescending.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 04:29 PM:

My apologies, Lenny. I must have been having a Stupid Cranky Moment.

Tuxedo Slack ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 04:59 PM:

Darren probably doesn't want me coming to his defense, given that we slagged each other off recently in email and on our respective blogs. But my disagreements are with his personality, not necessarily with his opinions. And in this case (and a great many others), my opinion is that his expressed opinion is right on.

The only change I would make to his original comment is one acknowledging that the process is in its early stages, but that it nonetheless resembles one we've seen before. 'so THIS is what it's like to be a good German in 1935.' Or, more geekily, not so much 'so THIS is what it's like to be one of the civilian aides on the Death Star' as "so this is what it's like to be an ordinary citizen of the Galactic Republic during the Clone Wars". He writes:

We have concentration camps and unlawful, illegal imprisonment for thousands if not millions based only on their nation of origin. We invade whoever the hell we want to invade, kill whoever we want to kill, lock up whoever we want to lock up. We deny basic health care not only to our citizens by the millions but to our own soldiery by denying the deadly side effects of our weaponry. Our government is steadily and very calculatedly stripping away a little more of our basic freedoms every day, and using that steady decrease of civil liberties not to keep us safe, but to make certain of the current junta's continuing power base. The current junta is using its power not to protect the citizenry or make our lives better, but to keep the vast majority of us in grinding, miserable poverty-stricken wage slavery, to support the idle decadence of a tiny sub-fraction of the overall population.

And I notice that neither of the respondents addressed his characterization of the situation in those terms. If they had explained to him how he's wrong, I might have more sympathy for their objection to his Godwin violation. As it is, the way I see it, when you're in a crowded theatre and find it's filled with smoke, you're quite justified in shouting "Fire!" and anyone who doesn't listen will, as Rosencrantz says, burn to death in their shoes.

And I believe if we learn from the past
We'd say haven't we been here before
Oh, and I believe if we open our hearts
We'd find keys to unlock every door

— Tommy Shaw, "Haven't We Been Here Before?" (Styx, Kilroy Was Here

Darren Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 07:08 PM:

Tuxedo,

Thanks.

I didn't know we'd 'slogged each other off'. I was pretty sure I'd offended you mortally by speaking the truth as I subjectively saw it about your tastes in literature, and, well, that's something that happens... Heinlein has already lectured us all on preferring the company of a skunk to a really truthful person. I offend many many many people. It's just something I'm used to.

Nonetheless, you beautifully save me the trouble of saying exactly what I was going to have to point out to a couple of literalist fools who, apparently, are incapable of reading into anything beyond the actual words in the little text window. Yes, when I said we have become Nazi Germany, I meant, we are in the early stages. We are now all German citizens in the early to mid 30s. (There are differences; one that has been pointed out at tiresome length is Hitler was actually elected democratically, at which point he then dismantled his country's electoral process. Dubya's gang did it the other way around.)

I understand that anyone on any liberal blog anywhere who makes a Nazi Germany comparison is automatically considered to have marginalized themselves, but frankly, I think that's a completely stupid rule, and one that does exactly what my critics claim I have done: it denigrates the horrors of Nazi Germany and its worth as a historical lesson.

It may be easy to draw parallels between our current national and social slide into authoritarian conformity, and the very similar slide Germany underwent beginning in the late 1920s. And it may be that very ease of comparison that causes intellectuals to curl their lips at it... if it's easy, the thinking seems to be, it must be false, or at the very least, beneath us highbrows to bother pointing out.

I say, if it's easy, that makes it even scarier.

Will we start killing helpless prisoners by the millions, based on their ethnicity, and stealing their resources, including even the fat in their bodies, the hair on their heads, and the gold in their teeth, for own uses? God, I hope not. But drumhead military tribunals that are not open to public scrutiny or reviewed by any other authority, that result in instant military executions, are only one small moral step away from this, and we are already well on our way to this. The 'laws' are already in place that will allow it.

And lest anyone out there get even remotely comfortable, think about this question: has anyone, anywhere, legally defined exactly what powers 'the authorities' will wield, if someone, somewhere, decides to take us to Code: Red on our brand new National Security Alert system? I've been told that here in Tampa, and throughout Florida, martial law will clamp down and people will be restricted to their homes for the duration of the crisis unless they have a legitimate emergency need to travel. The way the fellow quoted in the paper put it 'it will be just as if we have a hurricane or other natural disaster going on'.

And yet, does anyone out there understand who can declare Code: Red? When we occasionally move from one security status to another, who decides? Is there any limit on how long it lasts? Is there any Congressional oversight or judicial review? Does Dubya (I assume it's Dubya) have to make any finding that certain conditions have been met? Does he need accordance from the Secretary of Homeland Security and/or his National Security Director? Who makes this decision, and what happens when it gets made, and who can call it off again?

In the absence of those answers, I submit to you that we are very much 'good Germans' waiting for our very own Krystallnacht... not an exact allusion, because Kyrstallnacht actually took place before Hitler was in power, but still, it signaled, pretty much, the end of civil government in Germany. Anyone out there seriously doubt that Those In Power are at the very least weighing the option of going Code: Red right around, oh, the first Tuesday of November of 2004? Just, you know, by coincident necessity of national security, having nothing to do with whatever the exit polls may be saying at that particular moment...

Oh, the American people wouldn't stand for anything that blatant? Really? Gosh, we haven't stood for anything really blatantly horrible so far in the last couple of years, have we? Or do I need to type out the same paragraph Tuxedo quotes yet AGAIN?

I say again... we have become Nazi Germany. Yeah, it's relatively early; but in California the authorities have already ordered the undesirables to report to processing centers and be registered, or imprisoned indefinitely if their papers aren't in order. You think that can't happen wherever you live? Or maybe you just don't care because you're not from the Middle East and don't know anyone who is?

And, again... thanks, Tuxedo. I appreciate the defense. Although given the generally high level of discourse here, I hadn't expected to need it when stating something so obvious. I'd mostly expected to get yelled at for being so unsubtle, in fact.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 07:34 PM:

Darren:

(1) In fact, Krystallnacht took place several years after Hitler took power.

(2) You make some good points. So do the people you're arguing with. Please refrain from calling them "fools."

Josh ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 08:10 PM:

Darren: if it's been "pointed out at tiresome length is Hitler was actually elected democratically", then you've been listening out with the wrong people. Hitler wasn't democratically elected, he was appointed Chancellor by Reich President Paul von Hindenburg. There's an excellent book called Hitler's 30 Days to Power that covers the events that led up to Hitler gaining power.

The fact that you got this wrong, combined with the fact that you got the date of Kristallnacht wrong, isn't exactly giving me much confidence that you know a whole lot about Nazi Germany's worth as a historical lesson.

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Darren Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 02:36 AM:

PNH,

I apologize. I made the mistake many often do; they said mean things about my OPINIONS, I said mean things about them. I apologize AGAIN. But I think they took me overly literally.

Josh,

There's no reason you should have much confidence in me. I'm just a guy posting on a weblog. I long ago gave up blogging on politics on my own blog because others, like PNH and Tom Tomorrow and I presume you, do it so much better. I'm just a geek with a lot of probably erroneous pop culture details running around in a head mostly obsessed with Heinlein trivia and how the hell the vampire metabolism on BUFFY is supposed to make sense.

So, sorry about the Krystallnacht thing. I'd have sworn I'd read in several places that it took place before Hitler was sworn in, and was, in fact, the first real show of the Nazi Party's strength. But I'll take you guys word otherwise. I suppose I should just shut up and not post here, but I don't think I will. Well, at least until I get told to leave, which has happened on other blogs before. But thanks for pointing out your lack of confidence in me; it's certainly in every way justified.

Darren Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 03:43 AM:

Sorry, accidentally hit 'send' before I was done with the last, then got knocked off line, then had to go talk to my brother... it was this whole thing. Here's the rest:

'But thanks for pointing out your lack of confidence in me; it's certainly in every way justified, unless we're talking about Silver Age Marvel superhero comic books or BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER trivia.'

And, to continue my apology: yes, having looked it up, I now realize Hitler was appointed to power after LOSING the President's race in 1932 and creating a series of national demonstrations leading to the election of the Nazis as the majority party to the Reichstag, the dissolution into chaos of parliamentary procedures due to constant battles between Nazis and Communists, and a desperate German President Hindenburg asking Hitler to form a coalition cabinet after the resignation of the previous Chancellor.

I apologize again for publicly stating my previous ignorance, and sincerely thank y'all for the opportunity to improve myself in this regard.

Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 04:20 AM:

No big deal, Lenny: the fact that my brother is part of the Special Forces contingent guarding the Baghdad Airport for the next year SHOULD make me look for another meme to cancel the fear, his and mine. Barring that, laughter just might help, especially since Eric always appreciated gallows humor, so I think he'd be better off with the (disturbingly accurate) assessment that our Prez should be playing frog baseball than toy soldier.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 07:50 AM:

Darren Madigan wrote:

*Nonetheless, you beautifully save me the trouble of saying exactly what I was going to have to point out to a couple of literalist fools who, apparently, are incapable of reading into anything beyond the actual words in the little text window.*

Waitaminnit, waitaminnit-- suddenly, responding to *exactly what you wrote* in a fairly restrained fashion, giving you the benefit of the doubt before setting the conversational phasers on "frappe," is a bad thing? On what planet did you learn how to have a discussion?

*Yes, when I said we have become Nazi Germany, I meant, we are in the early stages.*

So you say now-- correction noted, but all you said at first was "Nazi Germany." That's twelve long years of horror to choose from. Like a Bridgeman's of the Damned-- thirty-six regular flavors of human misery, plus a twisted new special for every month the Reich was in business.

*I understand that anyone on any liberal blog anywhere who makes a Nazi Germany comparison is automatically considered to have marginalized themselves,*

Not in my book-- Godwin's Law is a cute joke, but I concur with you that it's hardly a sensible basis for argument. My umbrage with your post had *nothing whatsoever* to do with Godwin and everything to do with the cold, hard historical facts that you seemed to be missing or ignoring. Your misplacement of Krystallnacht and your misunderstanding of how Hitler rose to power (which you eventually noted, and apologized for in a truly bizarre fashion) support my allegation that you don't grok the Third Reich in fullness.

Fair warning-- I'm a lay scholar of the Second World War, its prelude years, and its aftereffects. I don't ask that you correctly identify the number of nails in an SS Obersturmbahnfuhrer's boots, I just ask that you know a *little bit* about what you're hollering about before you climb Mount Soapbox and start telling me that I'm a fool.

*but frankly, I think that's a completely stupid rule, and one that does exactly what my critics claim I have done: it denigrates the horrors of Nazi Germany and its worth as a historical lesson.*

I ran that through the Babel Fish and it came out: "Neener neener, I'm not actually answering the charges of trivializing Nazi brutality, I'm just going to try and stick them on you, too." Give me a break. But I digress for the sake of scoring a cheap and easy point. On with the show:

*And it may be that very ease of comparison that causes intellectuals to curl their lips at it... if it's easy, the thinking seems to be, it must be false, or at the very least, beneath us highbrows to bother pointing out.*

It's thoughtful of you to conjure a straw-man explanation for my lip-curling, really, but I have my own perfectly good reason for curling my lip at what you wrote. Keep reading.

Also, the comparison (Nazi Germany = USA, 2003) is only easy to make *if you don't know what the hell you're talking about.* We've already seen that your conception of the Third Reich is a sort of abstract gestalt-- you know they did bad things, you can even name some of the ones that have become proper nouns, but you can't (by your own admission, too) seem to string them together on the timeline properly. I hope you'll forgive me for saying that this greatly weakens the credibility of any comparison you make, regardless of how sincere and serious you may be.

*Will we start killing helpless prisoners by the millions, based on their ethnicity, and stealing their resources, including even the fat in their bodies, the hair on their heads, and the gold in their teeth, for own uses? God, I hope not. But drumhead military tribunals that are not open to public scrutiny or reviewed by any other authority, that result in instant military executions, are only one small moral step away from this,*

In this I disagree-- and please note, once again, that you need the magical alchemy of false opposition to pretend that what follows means that I *support* the whole stupid "enemy combatant"/cloistered procedures mess. As abhorrent, anti-American, infantile, and inconsistent as it is, it's not "one small moral step" removed from this.

I'm not saying that the Bush administration's "disappearances" (my phrase of choice) are a good thing, Darren. What I'm saying is that they're *horrible enough* that you can confront them on their own terms in a totally precise and accurate fashion without the need to draw links to something so goddamned awful, so much more vile by many orders of magnitude, that the comparison only makes you look like a total goofball.

This is the story of Lidice. The Nazis erased it from the face of the earth (shot the men, gassed the infants, stole the children, deported the women to Ravensbruck, and then blew up the buildings)-- in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. I still think the bastards were pissed off at the loss of the *only* Nazi bigwig who actually looked vaguely like an Aryan ubermensch rather than a pud-faced Teutonic baboon with a clown's haircut.

This is the story of the White Rose, a group of Munich university students who, in 1942-43, secretly printed anti-Nazi leaflets and scrawled anti-Nazi slogans on walls. As the website says, discussing the fate of White Rose member Sophie Scholl:

"She was arrested on February 18, 1943, while distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich.a0 On February 22, 1943, Sophie, her brother Hans and their friend Christoph Probst were condemned to death and executed by guillotine only a few hours later. "

Four short days from arrest for utterly nonviolent "treason" to a four-hour show trial, followed by *immediate fucking decapitation.*

This is Dachau.

This is the charming story of the Einsatzgruppen.

Wasn't that fun? Four anecdotes, a few hundred thousand miserable deaths. If the crimes of the Third Reich were a dark ocean seven miles deep, you just stuck your face about half a foot under the surface.

But we're not there yet. We're not teetering on the edge of that. We can't even see that edge-- it's still around a bend, behind a tree, and down another hill or six.

It's no exaggeration to say that the Bush administration's closed tribunals and its war against accountability (for the mysterious people issuing the mysterious instructions that make people vanish) are threats to everything the United States supposedly stands for, and that they need to be *kicked in the ass.*

It's also no exaggeration to say that we're not yet to the point where we're *cutting college students' heads off* for printing leaflets. And that, my friend, is exactly why I'm poking you in the stomach and suggesting that you get your rhetorical shit together. Criticism of the Bush administration practically writes itself, and your flights of fancy are only hurting your genuine points-- because they make you look like a careless schmuck. We're not Nazi Germany, even in 1933. We still have a chance, an excellent chance, to purge this dogshit from the way our country does business and to run the people responsible out of town on a rail. In order to do so, our arguments need to be logically and metaphorically watertight.

*I apologize. I made the mistake many often do; they said mean things about my OPINIONS, I said mean things about them. I apologize AGAIN.*

Apology accepted. I *am* trying to help you sharpen your arguments. Maybe in the same way a boxing instructor punches you in the head a few dozen times to teach you that you want to avoid getting punched in the head, but still... ;)

*But I think they took me overly literally.*

Once again, I think we just responded to exactly what you wrote. If you don't what to be taken literally, it's your responsibility to say so up front (or, erm, well, to not bother writing anything in the first place).

*There's no reason you should have much confidence in me. I'm just a guy posting on a weblog.*

Oh, cut this self-deingrating crap, Darren. Veering from highfalutin' Sermon on the Mount denunciations of people who disagree with you to "golly, well, even I don't trust what I write" is just a bit... weird. If you don't trust yourself to get your facts straight, check them before you post. You can *generate* confidence in yourself, and instill it in us, too, with just a bit of research. If you don't want to do so, why bother to post at all? "I'm bad at this, and I count on staying bad" isn't the same as "I know I'm bad at this, and I'm working to get better."

Hell, man, it's not like the rest of us don't wish our neurons fired faster. I guarantee that I'm too dumb to remember my own shoe size for at least two hours after I wake up every day. But you're not stupid, and you seem to be a decent fellow, and you simmered down and apologized when you realized, with a little help, that you'd given personal venom in exchange for impersonal attack. So don't kick yourself, just buck up and do better. We're all "just guys posting on a weblog."86

Look, now you've made *me* veer from highfalutin' outrage to fatherly reassurance. How's that for weird? I'm still too young to start pulling a Ward Cleaver act, even in pixels, please, God!

86 Except for Teresa. Since she has her finger on the disemvowel button, I'd just like to mention that she can heal the sick with a glance and that birds suddenly appear when she's near.

Handsome ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 03:41 PM:

Scott,

Calmly and with utmost respect:

I became angry because you, and one other person, went after one line in my first lengthy post, took it entirely out of context, and then presumed exactly which point in Nazi Germany's lengthy history I was speaking about, and based on your presumptions, beat the living hell out of my entire post. This annoyed me, and I responded with a personal attack, and I continue to apologize for the attack, but not the annoyance.

In my original post, I was very careful to state, at some length, EXACTLY why I was comparing where America is right now to Nazi Germany (and other tyrannies). You chose not to respond to those paragraphs. You chose not to respond to the essence of the post, which was my growing horror at discovering I am a citizen in a police state which becomes more and more like tyrannical and repressive and corrupt and internationally, well, EVIL, every day. You simply went after me for the Nazi Germany comparison, based entirely on your presumption as to what point of Nazi Germany's existence I was comparing our current social devolution to.

That struck me as self-indulgent on your part, at my expense. So, I became angry. Anger never solves anything, but, still, I feel you made self serving error in judgement and set out to make me look foolish because of it. I shouldn't have called you a fool, I should have simply pointed this out as admirably as Tuxedo Slack did. I should also have pointed it out in my original post more succinctly, but since I wrote about a hundred words detailing where we were in America now and why I thought so, I felt the obviously erudite folks in these chat threads could draw those conclusions themselves.

You say that we are not currently living in 1933's Nazi Germany, and go on to speak very optimistically about our chances of purging this crap from the way we as a country do business. I want to point out that when I said 'I woke up in Nazi Germany this morning', I followed it with a list of what my nation has done lately, and is continuing to do, to illustrate exactly what I meant. Your statement that you believe I am wrong, and your continuing statement of hope, is wonderful, but competely unsupported. WHY isn't America 2003 directly comparable to Nazi Germany a year or so after Hitler took power? No, we're not cutting people's heads off for leafletting, I grant you, nor have we reached the stage where we are spitting on certain hated ethnic minorities on the street or forcing them to walk in the gutters... but the French have had a pretty bad year. No heads are getting cut off, but houses and businesses have been vandalized and I believe still are being boycotted, and frankly, while again, this is a step down from the sheer horrors of Nazi Germany, it's chillingly similar, and it scares hell out of me. The Dubya-ites recent attempts to mobilize patriotic citizens into an unpaid domestic spy force also terrifies me, and again, strikes me as horribly similar to the Gestapo's techniques (among many others, historically and in fiction) to really want to avoid pointing out.

These comparisons are very easy to make, and therefore, as I said before, we seem to have created a rule against making them. I say, if we wait until Homeland Security troops are actually building internment camps for suspected Al Qaida infiltrators (anyone in America of Middle Eastern descent and Islamic religious beliefs, and what the hell, let's ship the homos off to the camps, too, they're probably in on in it with those towelhead terrorists, too, the worthless fags) to start pointing fingers and drawing parallels, well... it will be a little bit too late.

I want to believe your optimistic paragraph, I really do. I'd just like to see you support it. How anyone but Dubya is going to win the next election I do not, at this moment, see... all my fellow liberals seem to be deliberately blinding themselves with obtuse, starry eyed hope that democracy can still work in America (when we know otherwise, but never mind) and even if democracy DOES work, that the country I myself described in my own initial post, and that we all wake up in every day, could feasibly re-elect anyone except El Jefe.

I long to join your bandwagon and thump a drum, I really do. I just can't see it. Liberals, in my experience, always always ALWAYS have trouble taking conservatives seriously, because, well, they're generally stupid and seem so ridiculously narrow minded and troll like, we just have to see them as walking caricatures and absurd living jokes. But what we don't understand is stupid unthinking emotional bigots are often more powerful in democratic elections than those of us who think carefully and make reasoned choices... because the unwashed idiots will vote the way their authority figures tell them to.

We liberals, on the other hand, stubbornly insist on doing what we think is right, and you're right now reading the words of a Florida resident who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and is still truculently unrepentent about it... he would have been a MUCH better President than any of the other people running, so I voted for him, and those who think I gave the White House away to El Jefe are making a fundamental error in logic, and overlooking two salient facts: (a) I didn't vote for El Jefe, that was about forty million very foolish people doing that, and (b) El Jefe didn't win the election, anyway, so what the hell, dude.

Now, as to my 'self denigrating crap'... most of the people in these threads, I'm willing to assume, are smarter than I am and certainly better credentialed than I am, and obviously, are more knowledgeable of history than I am. I'm a geek, I type fast, I write very well, I have a lot of opinions, I enjoy sharing them. However, I make blunders nearly every time I sit down to write something, and I write a LOT. I could do careful research before setting my fingers to my keyboard (coming up with the real facts about Germany and Hitler's rise to power took about five minutes of Google searching) but I tend to do my commenting on these blogs for my own personal pleasure, because I enjoy the discourse, and I'm perfectly willing to own up to the fact that I'm not perfect, don't know everything, and I make mistakes. That's all my 'self denigrating crap' was about. I don't feel any need to present a picture of perfect rectitude in public (or private, for that matter) I'm not ever planning on running for office.

If I do make mistakes and people point them out, I'll do my best to verify that and if it's so, I'll apologize and presumably be a better human being, so that's okay. However: America 2003 has many many parallels to Nazi Germany shortly after Hitler took power. Also, I suppose, to what it must have been like living in the Empire during or after the Clone Wars, as Tuxedo points out. If my using a Nazi Germany reference continues to enrage you, I can only shrug and say, this is how I see it. Our democracy, and the citadel of liberty and human rights that America has, at least, always striven to be (however flawed our performance, historically) has precipitously devolved over the past three years into something that horrifies me, something that I think we've seen in history prior to this.

Are we as melodramatically, openly evil as Nazi Germany was? No. No one is ever going to be again. If Big Evil has learned any one lesson from Hitler, it's to for God's sake be a little bit more subtle. But just how many people do you think there are in America right now who would proudly go out and register as Homeland Patriots, or something equally vapid and terrifying, if Dubya asked them to? Who would wear armbands and walk the streets watching their neighbors, truncheons in their hands? Who would take pictures and make notes, and, if they were told to do it by someone they considered to be authoritative, put on hoods and head out under cover of night and break windows and set fires and even drag suspected 'terrorists' or 'enemy combatants' off to 'unofficial interrogation chambers'?

I think there are tens of thousands of those guys out there right now, and I think after the media spun the Homeland Patriot movement in a positive light for a week or so, there would be millions.

Of AMERICANS.

This ain't Pleasantville, Scott.

But I appreciate your continuing civil tone and apologize once again for my momentary lack of civility. I wish I shared your optimism and sincerely hope you are correct in it.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 05:40 PM:

Stolenelectioncoin, I'm assuming that's a parody, right? It's a little on the subtle side, because I've seen things almost that silly circulated in all seriousness.

In case anyone actually took it seriously, I'd just like to say: NEVER, NEVER respond to or send on chain letters (and "you and 5 of your friends" is a sufficient qualifier for that label). They're generally a tool for spammers (if you respond, they know the email address is good; plus if there are links they often uniquely identify the particular piece of email (and thus the address) the link came from. And if you send it on, it gets five more chances to get someone to respond.

I used to work for a spamhaus^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H legit mass emailer, and they used that technique sort of like a cookie...log into the website generically and it asks who you are; link from the email and it calls you by name right away.

That internet petitions are generally ENTIRELY ineffective has been discussed at length here, so I'll pass over it with only this brief mention.

Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 05:53 PM:

Handsome wrote: WHY isn't America 2003 directly comparable to Nazi Germany a year or so after Hitler took power?

Try the "Kf6penicker Blutwoche" (Blood Week of Kf6penick):

"We were beaten with chairs, whips, and rifles. In the church hall, about 35 workers were lying in their blood, their clothes torn off. The SA trampled on them with their boots. Blood and pieces of flesh were swept together and carried outside in buckets."

That was just one scene during that week in Berlin-Kf6penick, where hundreds of people (communists, social democrats, Jews, trade unionists, etc.) were tortured or murdered in June 1933.

Dachau, the prototypical concentration camp, erected in March 1933, was at that time already much more than an end run around due process. During the first few months of its existence it was also called "the murder camp of Dachau". The first murders were committed right after the camp had been taken over by the SS, usually under the labels of "shot while trying to flee" or "suicide". In June 1933, the new commander, SS officer Theodor Eicke, converted the arbitrary terror into a system of terror. Prisoners who "agitated through political slogans or seditiously met with others" were subject to the death penalty. All prisoners were systematically dehumanized.

By the end of 1933, there were no parties but the NSDAP. The trade unions had been dissolved, the media and state governments had been "coordinated" (gleichgeschaltet). Hitler had absolute dictatorial powers via the Enabling Act. The "Arierparagraph" had been passed, Jews could no longer be civil servants, members of the press or be self-employed, or inherit land (this list of anti-semitic laws is of course incomplete). Most functionaries of the communist and social democratic parties had been imprisoned or killed.

Hitler's Reich was not just a police state. It was a totalitarian state built on the principle of terror.

Handsome ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 05:57 PM:

Er... okay... I was wrong. I apologize. We're certainly NOT Nazi Germany in 1933. We have a long way to fall to get that far, and hopefully, we won't.

I say, hopefully.

Thanks, Reimer, for the unsettling enlightenment.

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 07:47 PM:

Props to you for admitting you were wrong. It shows that your position-taking is not arbitrary, and gives a strong sense that it's also not disingenous.

Handsome ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:38 AM:

Xopher,

Thanks for the props, but there seems no point in denying I was wrong. I was, utterly, and in print. I suspect I'd try to squirm out of it if I could... perhaps I could hire Bobby Donnell to argue that in fact, in a social/subjective continuum, there is no 'right' or 'wrong', and anyway, how can any of us really know what happened in 1933, when none of us were there?

But, no... within the accepted game rules ('written history must be accepted as valid unless arduously proven invalid') I'm wrong and must 'fess up. I often shoot my mouth off emotionally and think I know what I'm talking about as far as facts, and then find out I don't. It happened a few weeks ago on my blog, when I shot my mouth off about the Lynch rescue, opining that it was ridiculous to state that M-16s needed a special attachment to fire blanks, only to have someone come back and say, well, they do, on full auto. And I had based my statement on my own experience, in Basic Training, firing blanks from M-16s! If your own experience can mess you up, there's little hope... other than to bite the bullet (gee, lot of testosterone in my metaphors tonight) and admit it when you get caught flat dead wrong.

However, honestly, I've never been someone who's into the whole 'I never make a mistake' thing. I've known people like that; they're very very annoying. If I learned anything from long term experience to my college mentor, and short term experience to his, it was that it's okay to admit to it when you've made an error... and I learned it from how exasperated I got when they wouldn't, under any circumstances.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 09:15 AM:

Darren Madigan, who is apparently handsome or something, wrote:

*But I appreciate your continuing civil tone and apologize once again for my momentary lack of civility. I wish I shared your optimism and sincerely hope you are correct in it.*

Hell, man, *so do I.*

And Xopher's right. Kudos to you for your attitude and your tone. I'm sorry to have cataloged latter-day Nazi excesses after you revised and clarified your statements to say that you were referring to the early Nazi era. Your first post indicated nothing of the sort, so I responded in kind, but I should have backed off after you clarified yourself. I thought I still had a point to make; I admit that any chance to call the Third Reich's leaders bad names for any reason punches my Happy Button and clouds my judgment. ;)

*Now, as to my 'self denigrating crap'... *

I came down on it because I think you really deserve better from yourself. Clearly, you're not stupid, and you're not a jerk, and you spotted a few holes in my tirades while admitting to the ones I found in yours. I think you're entitled to a bit more self-confidence, that's all.

*How anyone but Dubya is going to win the next election I do not, at this moment, see... all my fellow liberals seem to be deliberately blinding themselves with obtuse, starry eyed hope that democracy can still work in America*

I hardly think "all your fellow liberals" are doing anything of the sort. And I hate to be picayune, but I wasn't aware that democracy *could* still work in America, since we've always been a republic. ;) I know, I know. But you may find yourself in debate against a wily opponent who would be only to happy to harp on your slight factual misrepresentation while pretending that this also dismisses your broader points. That's National Review's patented special move, in fact. Don't give the bastards an easy in-- that's what I was talking about earlier when I spoke of the need for watertight rhetoric (and hey, I'm under no delusions that my own Ship o' Argument doesn't develop a nasty list from time to time).

I'm optimistic because we've already seen that an incumbent president can be swept out of office shortly after a popular cakewalk military victory, because mundane domestic and economic matters really do count as much as all that exciting foreign policy and terrorist stuff. The first President Bush went down in flames largely because his domestic policy was pathetic; the second President Bush isn't doing any better on that front. His war in Iraq has also been less popular to begin with, and it comes with something that the truncated Gulf War I didn't-- a complicated and protracted endgame that could still go pear-shaped in an even more spectacular fashion.

Now, on the other hand, in order to exploit these glaring chinks in Bush's armor, the Dems are going to have to find a presidential candidate that doesn't come across as an uncharismatic flake or an inexperienced dupe, *and* doesn't appear to be poison to matters of national security. The last quality is particularly important. I'd be lying if I said that I was relaxed about their ability to conjure such a candidate... but if that person is out there, Bush is *wide open* for an ass-whuppin'.

*Liberals, in my experience, always always ALWAYS have trouble taking conservatives seriously, because, well, they're generally stupid and seem so ridiculously narrow minded and troll like,*

But I don't have trouble taking conservatives seriously, and I do characterize myself as a liberal. It's an extremely dangerous conceit to stereotype conservatives as "generally stupid," not only because it's a silly, baseless gut-feeling prejudice, but because it also leads you to underestimate them. On a purely practical level, dismissing your opponents as "generally stupid" is an emotional sop that may actually impair your understanding of the developing situation-- and your ability to influence it, if you so choose.

You say you went through Basic, so let me ask you-- did your DIs ever tell you that your enemy would be "generally stupid" and there was, by inference, no need to worry? Or were you trained to presume, by default, that your opponents were equipped, trained, and sufficiently motivated to do grievous harm to you if you neglected your basic disciplines?

Back to you:

*But what we don't understand is stupid unthinking emotional bigots are often more powerful in democratic elections than those of us who think carefully and make reasoned choices... because the unwashed idiots will vote the way their authority figures tell them to.*

The line between elitist generalization and sheer snobbery is about one nanometer wide, Darren. Be careful! I'd say that most of the folks here *do* understand *exactly* how useful appeals to negative emotion and bigotry can be in elections. I'd even say that many of the folks here would be *wonderful* at crafting such appeals, if they were so inclined.

*We liberals, on the other hand, stubbornly insist on doing what we think is right,*

And you're suggesting that many conservatives don't? Don't delude yourself, Darren. We're not facing Daleks. The idiots, morons, and proto-fascists that we revile are supported, for various reasons and to various degrees, by people who devoutly, sincerely, and compassionately believe that they are making the right decision and fighting the good fight, just as you clearly believe. It is just these folks who are most open to sound and reasoned rhetorical attacks, and most tragically lost by unsound, hyperbolic, bigoted arguments.

Also, you should remember that many genuinely principled conservatives (the Bush administration's fiscal policies and enemy-combatant shenanigans are actually *totally antithetical* to the stated ideals of conservativism) are as disgusted as you are with the administration. Your enemy isn't the great nebulous mass of "Conservatives," but a number of more specific factions and groups, and the first step to dealing with them effectively is to quit stereotyping them all together as a great mass of unthinking "black hat" hoi polloi.

Anyhow, cheers and best, the sun is coming up and I'm wanted in the Land of Wonderful Dreams.

SL


Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:25 AM:

One of the reasons that I am fond of the phrase "It's happening here" is that it points out that we are on the road to brutalist totalitarianism even though we haven't arrived yet. No, we don't have Dachau or street pogroms; yes, we have hundreds of Disappeared and an unrelenting, if slow-moving, assault on freedom of speech, fair elections, truthful discourse, a civil society, and cetera. The fact that we haven't arrived at the end state should give us some comfort, but should not be relied on as a guarantee that we won't get there.

Darren "Handsome" Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:31 PM:

"Handsome" is what I call myself on my blog, because of the name of the blog ("A Brown Eyed Handsome Man", something suggested by an Elayne Riggs blog post at the time, it's a thing) and is meant to be somewhat ironic, just so everyone knows.

And Kevin J. Maroney sweeps in and says exactly what I meant to and should have said the first time, in far far less wordage than I have ever managed. Thank you, Kevin.

As to conservatives being stupid: their leaders aren't stupid. The vast masses of people who have Bush bumper stickers on their cars are stupid, or if not stupid, then they are obtusely ignorant because they prefer to be that way. The Republican Party deliberately chose Bush as its candidate this year with great calculation; they wanted someone who did NOT seem like an 'egghead' but rather like a 'real man' (yahoo style) and who could thus pull votes away from Gore, who definitely came off as an elitist college perfesser type (if Gore had a political failing for America, early 21st Century politics, it was that he completely lacked a Bubba factor).

I live out here amongst the Bushies, and perhaps it's my agnostic bias speaking, but I've yet to meet a conservative who isn't also a good church goin' God fearin' man or woman, and honestly, those people are stupid sheep and they will vote the way their pastor, or Rush Limbaugh, or Bill O'Reilly, tells them to every time.

Yes, they think they're doing the right thing, but their 'right thing' comes from a different place than that of liberals and, well, those of us who actually try to think about stuff. Their 'right thing' comes from a pride in doing their duty as Americans, from a sense of warmth and belonging they get from being part of a team, from subsuming their individual will into that of a vast Republican cheerleading animal. They call it patriotism and decency and, I don't know, family goddam values, but it's all just the same old endorphin release that all we herd dwellers get when we're stomping our feet and clapping our hands in unison with the rest of our tribe at a concert. And it's okay to do that at a concert or public rally; it's NOT okay to do it en masse at a voting booth.

I honestly don't think I'm a bigot. I had, and continue to have, a very hard time believing that a candidate like Bush could even be viable, much less grab 40 million more or less honest votes. That's my own particular prejudice; I want to think everyone else out there understands that it's not a good thing to vote someone who is stupid and short sighted and greedy into high office simply because they have a nice smile. But most of them don't, and I've had to come to accept that.

However, when I say that I doubt democracy (or whatever you want to call our electoral process, Rush) actually works in America any more, I am pointing to the fact that Bush is in office and did not get elected, and as I have pointed out in detail in past posts, his party now has more than enough tools in their hands to guarantee that they will not be voted out of office if they don't want to be and are willing to be sufficiently ruthless. We liberals are, all of us, simply hoping that the game rules have not changed... that when the results of the election comes in in 2004, if Bush loses by enough that we avoid the morass we fell into in 2000, the Republicans will gracefully step down. I'm saying, I think the game rules have changed much more fundamentally and permanently than y'all are willing to acknowledge. I think the current junta in power is ruthless enough that, democracy is only going to work if it works for them. If the majority of votes go somewhere else for them... well, then, they're going to try something else. But they are not going to let Democrats get back in office just when they're about ready to start up a permanent state of war (which, in their eyes, will neatly solve so many economic and social problems) and establish a steadily expanding Imperial America. This is their wet dream, the shining toxic depleted uranium-cored vision that has empowered them since they were tiny little Reagan Youth, and it's within their grasp now and they aren't giving it up.

Now, as Sean Connery once inquired dryly of Kevin Costner, 'what are you prepared to do?'

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 10:23 PM:

"The vast masses of people who have Bush bumper stickers on their cars are stupid"

No, they're mistaken. In my opinion. Many of them are very smart. Some of them are my friends.

I hold my political views as ferociously as anyone, but there's something to be said, at the end of all things, for a seemly humility. We are all human and we are all frequently wrong. The citizen of 2153, looking back on our time, may not discern a great deal of difference between me, thee, and Dittohead 3. If we're lucky!

Darren Madigan ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 04:36 AM:

Patrick,

Wow. You really don't like me, do you?

I get this a lot, so I'm not surprised, really, but you just seem generally more reasonable than that. ::shrug:: Oh, well.

For what it's worth, my quote was actually "The vast masses of people who have Bush bumper stickers on their cars are stupid, or if not stupid, then they are obtusely ignorant because they prefer to be that way."

This is a sweeping and subjective generalization, I grant you (much the same as your entire blog consists of), but it's not quite as sweeping as your (deliberately?) out of context quote makes me look. And, of course, if you're going to pull fifteen words out of a several hundred word post and merely comment on them... something most of your posters seem to tend to do, thanks for setting such a good example of honest, open discourse... you are, by definition, taking me out of context.

I don't know why I expected better here, yet, oddly, I did... at least, from the guy running the blog.

Now, you seem to think that, for some reason, your subjective judgement (they ain't dumb, they're just plain damn WRONG) is in some way superior (I don't know, intellectually or morally or something) to mine. In other words, you're just absolutely right, and they're just absolutely wrong, and somehow, this is a more reasonable statement than mine, which is that they are either stupid or being willfully ignorant, because they like that better than actually thinking about things.

If you really think your label for those who disagree with you (just plain frickin WRONG) is a more reasonable one than mine (stupid or obtusely ignorant) well... it's your blog. I personally think that that statement is the kind of sweeping generalization (and truly narrow minded judgement) that I myself got smacked around in the top comment thread for just a minute ago, and that all us liberals jump all over conservative commenters when they make.

As to a seemly humility, there may be something to be said for it, but you are not exactly a poster boy. Non illegitimus carborundum is a sign you should post prominently over each comment thread link on your blog, it strikes me... although that's an inaccurate generalization. I simply don't know the Latin for 'don't let The Ornery Bastard who runs this thing grind you down'.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 09:27 AM:

You know, we all overreact from time to time, but I think that post bids fair to set a record.

Where you get all this stuff about me not liking you, I dunno. I think you're working very hard to ferret out a subtext that isn't there.

As to my own failings in humility: but of course. I'm reminded of the common Catholic observation that of course the Church is full of sinners; if we weren't sinners we wouldn't need the church. Likewise, a preoccupation with questions of pride and humility is probably a good hint of some personal imperfection on those fronts.

Final note: There's a big rhetorical gap between by statement ("No, they're mistaken. In my opinion.") and your two recastings of it: "They're just plain damn WRONG" and "just plain frickin wrong." If you can't hear that difference, then you have significant problems with tone in prose, and it's no wonder you've been flailing about so spectacularly in your various conversations here.

Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 11:18 PM:

Hey, Darren--

Believe me, I can understand your pessimism. The reason I don't share it is because I think I have a clearer picture of what this country has gone through in the past-- starting at the *very beginning* with legal slavery and voting enfranchisement only for white male property-holders! We grew (and bled ourselves) out of that crap. We survived the Civil War, and the heavy constraints on personal liberty that were imposed on both sides (States' Rights Dittoheads would do well to remember that Jefferson Davis suspended habeas corpus too, following Lincoln's example). We survived the Jim Crow laws, the rise of the KKK, and the disenfranchisment of virtually every European horde that stepped off the boats from the late 19th century to the early 20th (like my own ancestors, the filthy potato-eating Papist Micks!).

We survived the two Wilson administrations-- you might recall that dear Woodrow was an outright white supremacist, and during WWI the Espionage Act went even further in some respects (in constraining constitutional rights) than our own lamented Patriot Act does.

We survived the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, along with the massive constraints on movement and expression (which, despite their depth, were still milder than what was done during WWI) that were to be expected.

We survived McCarthyism, the Cold War, the Vietnam era, and the freakin' Nixon administration. The reason that I'm optimistic isn't because I've got my gimlet eyes fixed on a rosy, unexplained future, but because *we've been through this shit before* and we've come out of it before, no more an Evil Empire than we ever had been. Frankly, if you want to start talking Evil Empires, our current blundering incompetence doesn't have anything on the overt land-grabbing aggression that fueled the Spanish-American war more than a century ago.

You say that I'm "beating a drum," but I think I'm just reading my history books. That's why I'm not terribly inclined to give much credence to people running around screaming about how unprecedented our situation is. It's actually been distressingly common for the United States to be significantly out-of-whack throughout our 227-year history. The silver lining is that we seem to be equally good at getting our shit back in (relative) order. We've swept many more noxious and ambitious troublemakers than Bush & Co. into the wastebin of our collective past.

Also, lighten up on Patrick. I've only been poking my obnoxious little nose into this blog for a while, but I think you'd *know* if he really didn't like you. I think it'd be about as obvious as having "MENE MENE TEKEL YOU ARE A DUMBASS" carved into your forehead with a flaming chainsaw. It would be the sort of thing you wouldn't miss.

Cheers!

SL

Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 29, 2003, 07:17 PM:


Re stupid: I tend to think of those who continue to support Bush, et al, as stupid, which is to say, "in a stupor."

Terry

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2003, 08:21 AM:

Also, lighten up on Patrick. I've only been poking my obnoxious little nose into this blog for a while, but I think you'd *know* if he really didn't like you. I think it'd be about as obvious as having "MENE MENE TEKEL YOU ARE A DUMBASS" carved into your forehead with a flaming chainsaw. It would be the sort of thing you wouldn't miss.

Ayup. I concur.

Re stupid: I tend to think of those who continue to support Bush, et al, as stupid, which is to say, "in a stupor."

Torpid, too. Mentally languid.

Someone on a list I'm in called the pro-war members to admit that there were no WMD, and that in fact all the predictions the anti-war faction made prior to the war are coming true. I've lost a lot of respect for the pro-war guys after watching them weasel.

jfwells ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2003, 07:02 PM:

I know the comments have digressed a bit, but I just found this post and wanted to mention one thing:

As a former Psy-Opper (Panama & GWI era) I can tell you that you had better have a copy of RotV on cassette if you ever want to sweet talk a helicopter pilot into doing something beyond the normal routine for you. They all like to think they are Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now. So, you play it once then get on with your surrender appeals (or whatever else the mission was). Played plenty of other music as well. Every night during the air war, we would start our harrassment/surrender appeals with Jimmi Hendrix's excellent rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.