Saturday, July 09, 2005

Bob Somerby on the fright wing and a long post on not being "stupid together"

It's Saturday afternoon and there's an entry going up here! What???????

Yes, I'm working with The Third Estate Sunday Review. We're on our first break. And this entry could have gone up Friday but I was too tired and this will provide an entry for those who feel this site goes dead on Saturday evenings. This is a link fest of items members sent it. [Note: The linkfest does not happen. I'll leave this in because I'm pressed for time and also it underscores that these are rough drafts.]

We'll start with The Daily Howler which Stephanie sent in. This is Friday's Daily Howler (which wasn't up in time to make it into the Democracy Now! post) where Bob Somerby is addressing standardized testing as well as the fright wing. We'll excerpt from the critique of the fright wing:

GO BACK TO ARUBA: Last night, Joe Scarborough was plenty upset about those London bombings. Indeed, he offered a "special edition of Scarborough Country"--and quickly began to let us know who was at fault for this mess. For his first guest, he brought in "terror expert Steve Emerson." And he began to lay out his great thesis:
SCARBOROUGH (7/7/05): Now let's bring in terror expert Steve Emerson. Steve, you know what? You listen to Kelly [O'Donnell]'s report, you see what they're, they're concentrating on at the G8 conference--I understand anti-terrorism hardly made the list of the agenda of the eight most powerful leaders in the world.

Have we taken our eyes off the ball again on terrorism and instead focusing on things that aren't as important? Have we "taken our eyes off the ball again?" Have we begun "focusing on things that aren't as important?" These were superlative question for this host to ask. Sadly, here was his list of segments from the previous evening. On that program, he had started with: "Tonight's top headline--outrage in Aruba, as protesters target Natalee Holloway's mother!"
Full list of segments on Scarborough Country--July 6, 2005:

*Interview with NBC’s Ron Blome in Aruba.
*Bullying interview with John Merryweather, former Aruban diplomat.
*Interview with Linda Allison, aunt of Natalee Holloway.
*Interview with Paul Reynolds, uncle of Natalee Holloway. (The program was now half over.)*Interview with Tim Miller, who is searching for Natalee Holloway in Aruba.
*Video clip of Steven Groene, speaking about his kidnapped daughter, Shasta Groene.
*Interview with "legal expert" Stacey Honowitz about the Shasta Groene matter.
*Interview with Bernie Goldberg about his latest liberal-bashing book.
*Live pictures of Hurricane Dennis.
That was it. More than half the program came from Aruba, where Scarborough has been rubbing his thighs every night since June 1. None of the program concerned hard news. But one night later, Scarborough closed his special edition by letting us know who's been failing the country. Our question: Is there a way to be more phony? Has anyone ever achieved it?

Bob Somerby's also addressing the standardized tests. Hopefully, we'll grab from that tomorrow but when Somerby's critiques are to the point and humorous, I can't resist highlighting them.

They also bring up an issue that two members e-mailed about. Should we speak of the bombings or do a breather? That issue was raised Thursday. Obviously, it's one I ignored. One of the two even wondered if Pru's statement (wondered ahead of time, when it was noted Thursday morning that she was working on one) should go up?

Absolutely we should weigh in. The other side was going to try to make political hay out of it.
And they were going to do their usual distortions.

I don't know that on an issue like this we hold our tongues. Others may feel differently. That's their right. But as Somerby notes, Joe Scars wasn't holding his breath and counting to ten. That's, my opinion, how we lose out. We don't make our case early on. When we do make it, the fright wing's already got their own spin out there and we're left with responding to it.

If someone wants to clutch the pearls and say, "No, no, no! We must not talk about this!" That's their business and they don't have to come here while we do. (Or ever, if they don't feel like it.) But waiting on the sidelines doesn't accomplish much. It does allow the echo chamber to get their talking points out and stake dominance to how the story will be told.

When Susan Sontag wrote her brief essay (three paragraphs?) for The New Yorker, there was nothing wrong with those paragraphs. She was making the point that we needed to be rational.
(Which is why she said " Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together." And shame on The New Yorker for pulling that essay.) But if we're not stupid, if we're not a blubbering mass of fear and uncritical emotion, we can't be manipulated?

Oh, wait, we don't want to be manipulated. Right? So why did some join in the attacks at the time (some from the left or "left") and even a year or so later some felt the need to draw a line between themselves and Sontag's reasoned comments? (Cowardice is my bet. And one certain overly hyped, majorly disappointing book that wants to make it into the left cannon will always haunt the author who presents as an intellectual but revealed cowardice, when strength was needed, by distancing himself from Sontag over a year after the essay was published.)

The fright wing went into overdrive. Here was an intellectual critiquing the immediate coverage -- coverage which did nothing but appeal to fear and make you feel powerless (which works well with the desire on the part of some for the "Tough Daddy"). The coverage was awful with few exceptions. A psychologist told me at the time that the smartest thing anyone could do would be to turn off their TV.

There was Sontag, while we were supposed to rally around fear and the Bully Boy and the inane and incessant coverage that told you nothing but appealed to your emotions by rerunning the attacks endlessly, making an argument for rational thought.

The Bully Boy couldn't take us to where he did if we'd thought rationally. So shut her down, came the cry and it's shocking how many chose to participate in that. (Including some on the left.) Pru's statement is something I applaud. And it should have been how we responded. The Toby Keiths want to portray this image of how "tough" America is.

We didn't see a lot of strength or thought in mindless responses (or in Bully Boy playing Bunny Fu Fu scampering around the nation that day). We saw a lot of "Oh my Gods!" (Ani DiFranco's "Self Evident" is a track worth listening to). We saw a lot of people running scared. And the media aided that. They pushed every false rumor they could.

This wasn't America grieving from strength, this was America showing the worst traits of a daytime TV talk show.

Maybe it's a myth (I'm not old enough to have lived through it) but the response to Pearl Harbor, as I understand it, was to grieve, to show strength and to use your mind. Almost sixty years later, the fright wing pushed us into being soft, stupid and scared. Instead of an approach that said the attacks were awful but we will get through, we went into non-stop feelings checks. Blubbering around the clock, whimpering. If they were the Greatest Generation, they certainly put us to shame because we didn't possess (as a nation) the rational thought or the quiet strength to take in the events.

And the clampdown ensured all that followed. On the right, they attacked anyone offering some perspective or urging strength in a hideous time. On the left, we saw a lot of wimps who felt that nothing should be said because "we're in mourning." (We weren't mourning. A day of grief, a national day of grief, might have helped us. Constant scare tactics and appeals to base emotion did nothing to help us. And shouldn't be mistaken for mourning which requires something far less superficial.)

So the notion that we'd be part of the clampdown here is a false one. We won't do that. We won't look to the Toby Keiths to put the idiotic into song and lead us further into unthinking.

We could have used more Jewel in the immediate aftermath and far less "Oh my God!"s. I'm speaking of her song "Hands" (off Spirit):

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken

We were broken because we allowed ourselves to be. We allowed ourselves to be scared children looking for "Tough Daddy" to come in and make everything better.

And we turned on our TVs and listened and watched day after day there was no new information offered, only heated rhetoric. Sucking up to the nipple of the 24/7 news feed that offers not news but sensation (and "footage"), we were reduced to something far worse than the right can ever accuse the left of doing, wanting or seeking. The right controlled the media, they controlled the message. (Assisted by "moderates.") The fact that we were reduced as a nation to a bunch of cowering children reflects how damaging they are. But they're a fear based people. They leave in fear of the boogey man that's always out there. Maybe it's Communism, maybe it's feminism, maybe it's gays and lesbians, but they need their straw man and they need to believe, really believe, in that straw man. And they need to believe that the entire world is out to get them and that only they (via their whimpering apparently) can save us.

They can't save us. We could have used some tough talk. Tough talks not "kick some ass!" Tough talk is, "This was horrible, but look around you, the country's still here. Grieve, but know we're still here and we made it through."

Instead it was "the next attack might" which quickly lost a qualifier because there was no "might" there was only constant fear.

There were people who lost loved ones. And they should have been acknowledged, no question. There were also a lot of "people in the street" who didn't know the first thing they were talking about but wanted to jump on the fear wagon and our media was happy to present them while shutting down any voice that didn't speak out of fear.

In dark times you need courage and that wasn't to be found. What was it, two, three days later when Bully Boy finally grabs a bull horn and tries to grandstand? That is and was unacceptable.
He is not a great leader, he is the one who went fleeing. When the nation needed him, he was hopping around the country. He was completely useless in a time of crisis.

And "logic" of "Oh, well he had to be protected" falls apart not just because there was nothing to be protected from during his Bunny Fu Fu play. It also falls apart because guess what? George W. Bush is not our king. The safety of the person is not as important as the role he was supposed to be filling. He wanted the title, he used every trick he could to get it (in court and out). But when he had it, he didn't use it in a time of crisis to do what a real president does. He used it to protect his own ass.

We don't elect someone to the position of Protect Your Own Ass. We elect them to the position of President and they're supposed to provide leadership. That is their role. He provided none.
His actions were shameful. And a far cry from the tales we're told of an earlier George who held the position. (I'm referring to Washington, not Poppy.)

As he scampered around the nation his actions furthered the fear. And we saw attacks on anyone who called Bully Boy's actions for what they were, blatant cowardice. The Tough Guy, the Big Man, couldn't do what a leader does which is lead the nation. He could only flee. Repeatedly.

And Woody can churn out all the dime store psychology books he has in him (an apparent reservoir that will never dry out) and speak of nonsense like "calicium of the backbone" but the reality is there was no backbone in the Bully Boy. History should make that point plainfully clear.

After the nonstop mocking of Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" (an acknowledgement, not a wallowing in despair) there was no mocking of the coward who couldn't even address the nation as a rational adult. There should have been. There damn well should have been.

And what nonsense did we get with the London attacks? Idiots saying it was time to rally around the Bully Boy once again. Why is that?

Every damn thing in the world that happens does not just to happen to the Bully Boy. He is not our king. He needs to do his damn job. (That'll be the day.) He is our elected official (make that "elected") and he is there to do a job, to work for us. A lot of us seem to have forgotten that.

We live in a country without royal titles (though notice the hacks that grab them up when they visit foreign countries and ask yourself how they can still get away with claiming to be "patriots" -- yeah, it's just an "honorary" title and it goes completely against what this nation is supposed to stand for). In America, respect is supposed to be earned not granted by royal decree.

But the wack jobs will rush in to suck up to power and to betray the people -- we the people hold the actual power. So to suggest that we should ever lay off remarks out of "respect" . . . What happened in London happened in London. Why it happened goes beyond London and rational adults are allowed to note that we aren't any safer as a result of occupying Iraq.

We're allowed to point out that the fly paper argument is as ludicrous as it always sounded. And we're allowed to say that a strutting bantam rooster isn't a leader no matter how Woody pimps Bully Boy At War or other pundits rush in and obscure what was obvious to our own eyes.

When we were attacked, the national dialgoue was reduced to a never ending feelings check, with highs and lows cited (highs usually created by the likes of Peggy Noonan, out of thin air, with remarks of the manly nature of her pin up that had no basis in reality).

If you're a domestic member (or visitor), this is your country. Act like it. Don't bite your damn tongue for fear of being called names. Use your free speech. And if for some reason you're watching the likes of Joey Scars (not a slapdown to Somerby, he watches all that junk to critique it and let you know the lies that are being shaped), watch with a brain -- an active one, a critical one.

Somerby's showing us that yet again when a tragedy strikes, the fright wing's not interested in "healing the nation." They're interested in spinning and lying. Demonizing the left. And they'll offer any lie to make the point (over and over in their echo chamber). Now the G8 is the great left summit! Weeks ago it was knock the protestors as the "looney left" but now the G8 itself is evidence of the "looney left." They move the goal post every damn time and if you're silent, you're not just letting them do that, you're helping them do that.

Actions have consequences. And we're on year five where the fright wings denies that in terms of their Bully Boy. They'll go into overdrive creating scapegoats to try to prevent people from realizing what is going on. So self-styled moderates need to realize they're acting like appeasers, not rational, thinking beings. (And yes, I'm thinking of an idiot on the Times' op-ed pages.) "Don't say anything critical in this time" might be good manners at a funeral, it's no way to run a country. (It can, however, ruin a country.) Democracy means participation so when the gatekeepers of moderation start tut-tutting remember they can preach from on high only because they're heads are so full of hot air that they naturally float up there. (That's not a cloud they're resting on, it's their own giant egos.)

The nation, the world, needs more critical thought, not less. And the echo chamber of the fright wing never stops, never pauses. It's endlessly vomitting out distortions and lies. Telling someone to be silent in the face of that is not only idiotic, it's undemocratic.

We'll close with Pru's words which are wise and which I support one-hundred percent. (And obviously this didn't turn out into the link fest I'd planned. Hopefully, I'll pick up the other things members wanted to call attention to in a later post, on another break. A hope, not a promise.) While some were playing Tiger Beat and trying to figure out if Tony Blair's emtpy words meant "we love him now" or not (I'm not making that nonsense up, which sadly came from the left, but I won't provide a link to it), Pru wasn't trying to shut off the thought process.

Pru on the bombings:
Pru: Maybe we're better informed by our media? Maybe our proximity and awareness of other nations prepared us? While yesterday's attacks were nothing like the attacks on the United States on September 11th in terms of scope or damage, they were attacks none the less. We, as a country, have suffered a great loss.

But as I looked around yesterday, I saw grief that was mature and reasoned. There was no need to question, "Why us?" It's perfectly obvious why us. We have engaged with and supported the policies of the United States not limited to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. This has been done despite the large objection coming from the people of our country and despite the fact that the objection has only grown as we have been confronted with the reality that there is no "win" in Iraq, not for us, not for the States.
"Why us" does not trip off our tongues because the answer is obvious and frightening.
Equally obvious has been the answer which is that we must pull out of the illegal occupation. Thursday's events make that quite clear and, all around me, that was the sentiment most often shared.
Prime Minister Tony Blair did not shirk the way the Bully Boy did. He was present and accounted for. However, what he had to offer were empty words that, while more eloquent than anything that tumbles out of the Bully Boy's smirking mouth, said very little. Terrorist attacks. Check. Empty words supposed to warm us. Check. The reasons for the attack? Silence.
All around I heard people asking the hard questions and supplying the tough answers that the Prime Minister refused to address. We've grown to expect that from him and there is a sense among some that what is in the best interest of England is not the primary concern of our current Prime Minister.
There was also a sense that for all his posturing and playing poodle to the Bully Boy, Prime Minister Blair has done very little that has truly protected our country. Possibly there is no way to protect one from the events of today; however, Prime Minister Blair has asked for outlandish powers and even those granted him have been ineffective as was demonstrated before our own eyes.
We are a determined people and the determination we share now is not one of vengeance but one of addressing the events that led to the attacks. What Prime Minister Blair clearly wishes to avoid is not being ignored by the people of my country. Our determination to withdraw from the Bully Boy's illegal war of choice has only grown stronger.H
earing reports that the insect known as Fox News in the United States was bragging that the attacks had taught us something caused me to recoil. Then I realized that they were correct about the teaching, just incorrect about the lesson itself. What it has taught us, the lesson, is what we already knew: an illegal war of choice leaves us all at risk, an illegal occupation that provides the window dressings of success but no real improvement is as meaningless as any words our Prime Minister could muster. The lesson confirmed what we already knew. The occupation must end and troops must withdraw. Until that happens safety is a myth that will destroy us all.

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