Sunday, May 05, 2002

Crap. It was too good to be true.

I was planning to post an essay on food and familiarity here - which will come later, and it will be full of cholent-y goodness. I was also going to hold to a self-imposed ban on discussion of the situation in .. . yeah. Well.

So one of the things that surprised me in the aftermath to the kamikaze hijackings was the emergence of Chris Hitchens as someone whose comments I actually appreciated and paid attention to, as opposed to the Alternative Radio (with David Barsamian) fatuous gasbag blowhard lecturing me on why Bill Clinton (Henry Kissinger, Robert Reich, insert name here) was evil, eeeevil. How to be frank - Chris Hitchens was on my list of progressive writers, who, as a consequence of their strange dilections for center-bashing and self-promotion, got into the TO BE IGNORED box.

Thus, when I read Chris Hitchen's journalism after the attacks, I found it to be remarkably clear-headed and straight forward. Sensical, angry, justifiably so, and completely in accord with how I, myself, felt. To whit, I agreed with Hitchens. Ak. Thshippsstst. He wrote stuff about the way the further left responded to the attacks (and the later war in Afghanistan) that fit directly into my conceptions. He slammed Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman and the folks at Zmag with verve and energy for their intellectual vanities and moral cowardices, and I, umm.. became a fan. Because I hated that response. It seemed so... so... stupid. So airy-fairy moronic. I felt genuine burning antipathy for people who expressed that viewpoint - because it seemed that advocacy of that particular critique could not possibly be honestly inspired, and that the people who therefore advocated pacifism, a developmentalist, anti-hegemonic and culture-sensitive response to the attacks - the advocates of placid and virtuous resignation - were motivated by some inner-evil, some malignancy of spirit. They were pro-hijackings, pro-mass murder, pro-death. Slobber, froth, froth. Yeah, I know - never ascribe to evil what can be adequately foisted off in the arms of the fool. But my personal reaction to the attacks, and to the peculiar and repulsive nature of the ideologies that inspired them, colored my response to their response. I still feel extremely strongly about the over-all left-antiglobalist critique of responsively violent warmaking in response to the September mass murders.

So Hitchens tickled a nice spot for me - if opinions are vitamins, and I wanted to drink from the refreshing and cathartic well of congenial orthodoxy - to him I would go, whether in the Nation, or in the Grauniad, or in the Independent - and I would take my Flintstone vita-boosters of righteous indignation. I posted excerpted pieces of the Hitchens-Chomsky fracas on rec.arts.sf.fandom in September and October. Avram Grumer did make the comment that:

Reading these is like reading a catalog of Usenet flamebait. I don't know if either of these guys ever learned how to argue honestly, but if so they've forgotten it all now.
I ignored Avram, because Hitchens made me feel right, and good, and winning over the forces of stupidity. I'm over the visceral war-mongering now.

But Avram is right. Hitchens writes Usenet flame-bait disguised as professional journalism. In his latest Nation column (May 13, titled "Single Standards"), there are these two paragraphs:

Number the first, penultimate
Here again, it is wise to look at the original political programs. The forces of Islamic Jihad say that non-Muslims are vile interlopers in a consecrated land. Their tactics therefore express their primitive ideology. Sharon and Netanyahu believe that god reserved this same territory for the Jews, and Sharon has specialized for decades in punitive wars against those impudent enough to complain at their original expulsion or subordination. He has taken this campaign of revenge against the victims all the way to Jordan, to the Sinai, to Gaza, to Lebanon and most recently to Jenin. He has welcomed to his Cabinet Effi Eitam, an open advocate of ethnic cleansing, and he has appointed a minister of internal security, Uzi Landau, who says that Israel should treat the Palestinians as Saddam Hussein dealt with the Kurds. (Funny how those who say the wrong thing are often saying what they mean.) Not one US government voice has been raised against the statements of Eitam or Landau. Not one US government voice has been raised against the Saudi financing of the suicide militias. Referring this trade-off to the international scene, it's now a race to see whether Saddam saves Sharon, or Sharon saves Saddam.
What the heck does the last sentence have to do with the thought? I can parse the sentences fine, but - he's making a leap here I don't understand. Private inner speech - rife on Usenet.
number the second, last
Facile equivalences are to be avoided. One in particular is the stupid equation by peaceniks between Sharon in Jenin and the international coalition in Kabul, which easily made distinctions between killers and noncombatants and which still does. But if the American conservatives choose to make the same mistake by identifying in reverse order, then they replicate the reciprocity between Sharonism, which is an insult to the Jews, and jihadism, which is a disgrace to the Arabs. (Perhaps a pious Christian supervision of this ghastly "process" of symbiosis is all that we needed.) September 11, more than anything, marked the opening of a culture war between those who believe that god favors thuggish, tribal human designs, and those who don't believe in god and who oppose thuggery and tribalism on principle. That ought to be the really historic and dialectical sense in which it "changed everything."
What the heck does this mean?

Sorry, Hitch. You're back in the box. So long. Love ya... not. I've got a better yes-man to robotically ditto re: the Middle East and American politics - Victor Davis Hansen!

Ahem. Tip your waitron.

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