Sunday, August 28, 2005

VDH Watch 8: Vic vs. the "fascists" and prophets of immorality like Jimmy Carter and there's unintended consequences and stuff

Here at the Blue Voice, I've so far concentrated my posts on the Christian Right and on the VDH Watch.

When I first started, I wondered if I would be able to find sufficient new material on a regular basis to use about the Christian Right. That hasn't turned out to be a problem at all.

The VDH Watch has presented an unexpected challenge, though. It's not that Vic doesn't give us regular examples of hackery to dissect. It's just that his columns offer so many instances of flaky historical analogies, heavy-handed propaganda lines and cheerful breezing past reality that it's hard to know which parts to pick for comment.

Let's see what we can do with this one: The Biteback Effect: Do we even have a word to describe the new criticism? by Victor Davis Hanson National Review Online and 08/19/05.

In this one, Vic seemed to have started out with taking the favorite conservative claim that any liberal social program will have "unintended consequences" that produce exactly the opposite result that they claim (e.g., a jobs program produces more unemployment) and trying to apply that to the critics of the Iraq War. Then apparently he liked the idea so well that he decided that anything war critics say will increase support for the war.

Since support for the war is not much larger than the hardcore Republican base at this point, if Vic's theory is true then the antiwar movement must have been exceptionally quiet, because the war's popularity goes down and down. If more people were criticizing the war, you see, more people would support it.

Man, talk about getting lost in your own propaganda!

But, as always, our man Vic leaves plenty of other low-hanging fruit while making that particular addle-brained argument. Like this:

Indeed, throughout this conflict the United States has been apprehensive that it was becoming too brutal in its effort even as the Islamic fascists were convinced that we were too weak to fight such a war.
Now, those of us in the reality-based community have to wonder, just who are the "Islamic fascists"? The people we are fighting in Iraq? The government of Saudi Arabia? The ruling party of Eghypt? As used by the Bush fans, "Islamic fascist" (which is at least an improvement over their neologism "Islamofascist"!) is simply a propaganda term to associate the Bush Wars with the "Good War," as the Second World War is seen by most Americans.

On the basis of an FBI agent's e-mail alleging loud rap music, cold room temperatures, and the rough handling of a Koran, former president Jimmy Carter and Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin advanced Guantanamo as a national scandal and proof of our amorality in this war.
This is stock middlebrow defense of the sadistic, criminal torture in the Bush Gulag.

The lowbrow/OxyContin version says it was just good ole boys (and gals) havin' fun like frat boys. And besides, them, them Muslim terrorists cut off people's haids.

According to Vic, the Gitmo station of the Bush Gulag is like this:

Rules of interrogation, Korans, prayer arrows pointed to Mecca, visits by U.S. congressmen, Middle Eastern food, inmates as voracious readers of Harry Potter, and the absence of a single inmate lost in captivity: All of that suggests humane treatment toward terrorists - often caught in combat, always out of uniform, and not subject to the Geneva Convention. Guantanamo seems radically different from any prison run by any other current wartime state ...
Practically a paradise, it sounds like!

The sexual humiliation at Abu Ghraib was reprehensible, but the reaction of its critics was equally so - as in Ted Kennedy's assertion that "Saddam's torture chamber reopened under new management.
Apparently in Vic's way of thinking, calling torture "torture" is just as bad as actually practicing torture. This shows how little difference there is between the thinking of "Bush's favorite historian" and the OxyContin crowd. Vic modestly provides us on his Web site a tribute from the American Legion magazine calling him "America's historian in chief." Yes, that would be the geriatric hate group American Legion which calls for violent suppression of expressions of majority opinion on the Iraq War, with the tacit support of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

I wonder if Vic will still say that if the Pentagon eventually has to release the photos and videos from Abu Ghuraib now being fought over in court, which apparently are far grosser than anything that has been publicly available so far.

Being the frontline kind of guy he is, Vic goes on to say:

We bandy about Abu Ghraib as something out of the Inquisition, but for those on the frontline it means something far different from the ritual beheading, torture, and murder that characterize the enemy's way of doing business. (my emphasis)

Like I said about Vic and the OxyContin white guys ...

Does America's historian-in-chief mean to say that when They do it, it's torture, but when We do it it's... well, just don't call it torture, okay?

Vic says that Cindy Sheehan has become "a deeply disturbed object of cynical partisan manipulation by the Michael Moore/ Left." So says a man who happily pimps his deeply fake historial analogies to the Bush propaganda machine. I suppose his psychiatric diagnosis of her is an example of what Gene Lyons calls "the Soviet practice of diagnosing Dear Leader's critics with psychiatric disorders".

Then our man Vic goes into a vague rant about how "we" expect or believe this and that and therefore it makes anyone who criticizes Dear Leader into the "hysterical Left" and also makes whatever they say have the opposite effect of what they intended. For instance:

In the age of utopianism we demand impossible standards of perfection. Then when they cannot be met, we conclude that we are not good at all ...

To be fair to Vic, it does take a bit of talent to take a completely meaningless comment and make it sound like a philosophical abstraction. I mean, as long as you skim through it quickly.

You see what I mean about the low-hanging fruit? It just keeps coming.

And in a war with enemies like few other in our recent history, the contrast between rhetoric and reality is only accentuated: panties over the head of an Iraqi inmate, no head at all on an American prisoner ...

Yes, there are contrasts in the Iraq War. Like, a war started to combat "weapons of mass destruction", no actual "weapons of mass destruction" to combat.

As we fear that we have fallen short of the postmodern therapeutic age, Islamic fascists brag they are avatars of the Dark Ages.
Actually, Vic I think "avatar" is more of a Hindu concept. But since I don't know what the heck he's talking about with that line anyway, maybe I shouldn't worry about it too much.

But this Vic-ian shot at war critics must have taxed even VDH's formidable powers of hackery:

Thus instead of joining in the effort to defeat Islamic fascists, the opposition and our pundits nitpick and moan, hoping for media attention and political points, convinced that none of their triangulation aids the enemy - since we aren't really in a war at all.
Now, let's see, who is it that says that the Iraq War and the Afghan War aren't wars? Ted Kennedy? Michael Moore? And apparently Vic thinks that Jimmy Carter thinks that the Guantanamo gulag station was opened in 1979 under his administration.

If OxyContin makes your head spin any more than this, I never want to try it!

Biteback occurs because the truth cannot be warped or distorted by its assailants: We are waging a moral war involving rules of engagement, the promotion of democracy, freedom from fascism, and billions of dollars in aid to others.

Do you think that the National Review editors just call up Vic and say, hey Vic, send us another one of those articles pretending the Iraq War is just like the Second World War?

By the time he gets to his next-to-last paragraph, he's spouting the following, presumably (and safely) assuming that anybody who's gotten this far is in the proper OxyContin frame of mind by now:

When Jimmy Carter talks of morality, I brace for even more amorality - like his contrived 2003 broadside against a sitting president in order to win a Nobel Prize from anti-American European judges. Dan Rather still lectures on journalistic standards - which reminds us of the protocols of forged memos.

Jimmy Carter, Dan Rather, forged memos, peace, it all kind of goes together, somehow or other. And there's probably a Second World War analogy closely connected if we work at it a little.

A sensible awareness of the possibility of unintended consequences actually makes sense. To take a hypothetical example, we might decide one day to invade some Middle Eastern country to establish democracy and combat religious extremism there. And as an unintended consequence, we might wind up with a Shi'a Islamist regime that rules by sharia law and allies itself closely with Iran. Just hypothetically speaking.

But even with a champion hack like Vic, it's kind of sad to see him go into a spiral of incoherence. Which can happen when you ride on a superficial idea for too long (in this case, the "unintended consequences" notion in its sophomoric form).

Jimmy Carter - promotes immorality - to please those "anti-American" Europeans? It sounds like Vic was just free-associating on his favorite bogey men by this point.

But aren't you required by the national Code of Hackery to work Bill Clinton into a rant like that somewhere?

[To enjoy more Vic-class hackery, see Index to the VDH Watch.]

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"It is the logic of our times
No subject for immortal verse
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse."

-- Cecil Day-Lewis from Where Are The War Poets?


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