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Friday, September 29, 2006

New study finds widespread political illiteracy

I have to admit that I’m kind of ambivalent about torture.  I know I should be against it and all, but I honestly believe that it has its uses.  For example, I sometimes think that everyone who advocates torture, and everyone who defends torture, and everyone who engages in torture should be subjected to a little torture themselves.  Just so they can see “both sides,” so to speak, and come to a fair and balanced conclusion about the pros and cons of torture.

But because I know my advocacy of a little bit of torture for torture advocates (except myself, of course) runs contrary to some of my country’s legal traditions, I was frankly stunned by the results of a new study conducted by the conservative Intercollegiate Studies Institute, “The Coming Crisis in Citizenship.” According to the ISI, only about one-third of American elected officials understand that torture and indefinite detention are not authorized by the Constitution, and only about one-third of our representatives understand the principle of “habeas corpus.” The ISI study is a dire warning to us all:

The Coming Crisis in Citizenship: Higher Education’s Failure to Teach America’s History and Institutions presents scientific evidence that, for the very first time, reveals how much American colleges and universities—including some of our most elite schools—add to, or subtract from, their graduates’ understanding of America’s history and fundamental institutions. Commissioned by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), the present study represents the culmination of a multiyear research process involving a team of professors experienced in the classroom, ISI’s National Civic Literacy Board, and the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy.

In the fall of 2005, the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy (UConnDPP) was contracted by ISI to undertake the largest statistically valid survey ever conducted to determine what colleges and universities are teaching their students about America’s history and institutions. UConnDPP asked roughly 100 United States Senators from roughly 50 states across the country 60 multiple-choice questions in order to measure their knowledge in four subject areas: (1) American history; (2) government; (3) America and the world; and (4) the market economy. Taken together, senators’ answers to these questions provide a high-resolution image of the state of learning about America’s history and institutions throughout the nation. The results are far from encouraging. In fact, they constitute nothing less than a coming crisis in American citizenship.

Perhaps the most remarkable finding of the study is that only one of every 55 Republican Senators, on average, has an adequate understanding of America’s fundamental principles and political institutions.  The finding is all the more remarkable when one considers that Senator George Allen (R.- Virginia), long known for his efforts to preserve Southern culture and heritage, sits on the ISI’s National Civic Literacy Board and yet was unable to answer a single multiple-choice question correctly with regard to civil liberties and American legal traditions.

For the most part, Allen’s GOP colleagues fared no better.  Twenty-four of 55 Republican senators could not define “habeas corpus,” and seventeen believed that waterboarding was expressly permitted by the Eighth Amendment.  Most strikingly, fifty-two of the 55 answered “true” to the true/false question, “Article II of the Constitution allows the President to set aside all other provisions of the Constitution if he truly believes that he has been selected by God to hold the office of the Presidency.” Three maverick senators refused to answer the question directly.

The ISI/ UConnDPP study also indicates that only three quarters of Senate Democrats are capable of identifying and explaining America’s civil traditions.  Of the remaining one quarter, seven answered “true” to the statement, “American civil liberties may be legitimately set aside in the event of really, really close electoral campaigns in which one fears being labeled ‘soft’ on terrorism.” Five others responded by writing in the margins of the question, “May I focus on the economy instead?”

Intercollegiate Studies Institute National Civic Literacy Board member Michael Novak offered an explanation for the surprising findings.  “There is no doubt as to who is to blame for the sorry state of Americans’ understanding of their own history and traditions,” Novak said in a prepared statement.  “The fault lies with liberal college professors, secular humanists, and busybodies like Glenn Greenwald.  Detention orders will be drawn up within the next thirty days, with special attention to those states and Congressional districts in which there are really, really close electoral campaigns.”

I congratulate the Intercollegiate Studies Institute for an important and timely study, and I salute the National Civic Literacy Board for its efforts to educate all Americans about our history and fundamental institutions.

Posted by Michael on 09/29 at 11:20 AM
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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Liberal Thursday II

Readers are demanding to know why I haven’t said anything on the blog about Alan Wolfe’s New York Times review of Liberal Arts. “Michael,” they say, “we come here for snark and raillery and nasty, indiscriminate mockery, and you’re not delivering. Why is that? Is it because you’re a wuss, or is it because you’re a wuss?”

The real reason, dear demanding readers, is that I am a wuss.  I was also immensely relieved by the review.

Yes, relieved. Because although I think that Sam Tanenhaus is an exceptionally smart fellow (his long August 6 review of Richard Hofstadter’s life and career was quite good), and that he’s done wonderful things with the Book Review’s coverage of contemporary fiction and (especially) poetry, I know that there have been some very strange review assignments lately. By this I mean that some books by liberal-progressive writers have been given to reviewers manifestly incapable of filing a reasonably substantive review. I honestly don’t know how or why this kind of thing happens; the Book Review is a complete mystery to me.

And because it is a mystery, once I got the very very good news that the book would, indeed, be reviewed by the Times, I began slaughtering chickens in my back yard each morning at dawn, chanting “owa owa tagu siam,” which, loosely translated, means “please don’t let my book meet the fate of Katha Pollitt’s Virginity or Death! when it was reviewed by Ana Marie Cox, or Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell when it was reviewed by Leon Wieseltier. Please, please, O spirits, let not my poor little book be crushed like a bug by sneering incomprehension.”

You laugh at me, sure. You call me a superstitious old fool. You ask (as Janet asked) whether I cleaned up after each beheaded and gutted chicken. But the simple fact remains that my spirit-propitiatin’ hard work paid off. Sidney Blumenthal and Lewis Lapham thought I was a fool: “what a fool that Bérubé is, slaughtering chickens and chanting,” they said. Well, just look what happened to their books last Sunday. I rest my case.

So I’m not going to complain about that review.  Not at all!  I’ll leave the complaint department to the formidable Ophelia Benson, who composed one of her acid, savage, and acerbic posts about the review two weeks ago.  That Ms. Benson certainly is feisty!  I hear she’s working on a feistesgeschichte, or “history of spiritedness,” and I can’t wait to see the results.  Me, I’m just grateful that Alan Wolfe said some very nice, very generous things about the book and about the kind of teacher I might be.

Instead, I’ll just point to two moments that are kind of, how you say, mistaken.  Just to keep the record straight about what What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? does and does not say, you understand.

Moment one, in which Wolfe attributes to me the claim that

There is “more than a grain of truth” in the charge that Middle Eastern studies departments are generally biased against Israel.

I don’t actually say this.  The phrase “biased against Israel” does not appear in the book, and I don’t make any sweeping generalizations about Middle Eastern studies programs.  That’s partly because I don’t know enough about them to do so, and partly because I wouldn’t paint Middle Eastern studies with such a broad brush.  In the book, anyway.  Here on the blog, as you all know, I am not averse to using a big wide paint roller now and then.

So what do I say about Middle Eastern studies in the book?  I don’t remember.  You’ll have to check for yourself!

Moment two, in which Wolfe writes that my arguments against David Horowitz “do not reassure” him:

It is instructive to learn that anthropology is not a discipline composed entirely of like-minded people because left-liberals do not always agree with poststructuralist Marxists, but this hardly addresses the widespread perception that cultural anthropology has little room for those who might believe that America’s presence in a third-world country might bring about some good.

OK, there are actually two problems here.  The first has to do with anthropology itself, a discipline with regard to which, I admit, I have not considered the importance of scholars’ positions on American foreign policy.  But then, the last four anthropologists I’ve spoken to work on (a) rural Ireland, (b) immigrants in New Jersey, (c) contemporary Japan, and (d) the social meaning of prenatal testing in the United States.  I don’t know what any of them thinks about America’s presence in this or that third-world country.  I imagine that when Wolfe thinks about anthropology, he’s not thinking about any of the anthropologists who might be working elsewhere than in the third world.  But who knows what Professor Wolfe was thinking in this paragraph? 

Not me—because, as it happens, my book never says anything about left-liberals and poststructuralist Marxists in anthropology departments.  So when Professor Wolfe says “it is instructive to learn that anthropology is not a discipline composed entirely of like-minded people because left-liberals do not always agree with poststructuralist Marxists,” I have to imagine that he is thinking of some book other than mine in which it is instructive (though, finally, not reassuring) to learn this.

The only time I speak about the plurality of intellectual perspectives in anthropology departments, I refer to the well-known (and, in some cases, profoundly debilitating) divide between cultural anthropologists and physical anthropologists:

English is not, despite its reputation, uniquely fractious:  in my eight years of involvement with humanities institutes, I’ve had ringside seats for fights between Latin Americanists and Iberianists in Spanish departments; digital media designers and oil painters in art departments; cultural theorists and archaeologists in anthropology departments; and analytic and Continental philosophers in philosophy departments.

That’s on page 99.  So now you know.

My general point, of course, is that tracking the party registrations of professors tells you relatively little about their intellectual commitments as professors.  But the argument about left-liberals disagreeing with poststructuralist Marxists is a lousy argument, precisely because it doesn’t address conservatives’ complaints that the “diversity” in college faculties consists of a diversity of “left” positions.  And that, dear friends and demanding readers, is why I didn’t make that argument!  I’m sorry for giving Professor Wolfe any impression that I did.

But some good might come of this little misunderstanding in the end, because from this point onward, whenever you run into someone saying, “Michael Bérubé says that there is no liberal bias on campus because the anthropology department includes left-liberals and poststructuralist Marxists, and therefore Michael Bérubé is either a knave or a gull,” you’ll know they haven’t read the book! It’s that simple! 

For example, Wolfe’s line about anthropology departments has been picked up by conservative writer Mark Judge, who writes:

Berube pointing to the “diversity” between left-liberals and poststructuralists [sic] Marxists isn’t exactly an advertisement for a comprehensive and diverse education. . . .  Berube admits that universities are liberal reeducation camps; furthermore, when he does offer a defense, Wolfe pounces, writing that it “hardly addresses the widespread perception that [university courses in] cultural anthropology [have] little room for those who might believe that America’s presence in a third-world country might bring about some good.”

And Judge’s review has been commended in turn by Erin O’Connor at ACTA Online, who calls it a piece of “thoughtful criticism” and proposes it as a standard for future discussions:

those with the most immediate cachet are not always those with the best arguments, and Berube doesn’t draw anywhere near as much thoughtful criticism as he might. An exception may be found in Mark Judge’s review of Alan Wolfe’s New York Times review of Berube’s book, which, Judge notes, loses its analytical edge in the inexplicable manner of so many of Berube’s admirers. . . .

Though Berube’s admirers are already pre-emptively mocking readers who might disagree with his argument that there is no problem with political bias in higher education, those readers should still read the book, and they should still formulate and publish opinions on his arguments. Defenders of the academic status quo don’t want to be argued with, and they go to great lengths to shut down such argument in advance. But that’s all the more reason for substantive debate.

(And yes, that hyperlink in O’Connor’s post will lead you to Chris Clarke’s graphic novel “version” of my book—about which all I can say is, if Chris was trying pre-emptively to mock readers who might disagree with my argument that there is no problem with political bias in higher education, he will fail, fail miserably, partly because I don’t make that argument, and partly because at least one conservative critic is already wise to the fact that I do.)

Now, once upon a time, smart conservatives didn’t go around applauding the “thoughtful reviews” of people who hadn’t bothered to read the material ostensibly under review, while casting aspersions on “defenders of the academic status quo” who “go to great lengths to shut down such argument in advance.” I am deeply nostalgic for those days myself.  Accordingly, I’m all for substantive debate; I second Professor O’Connor’s call for it, and I thank her for recommending my book to people who might disagree with some aspects of it.  But I’ll say this much in advance—if someone tries to give me a hard time for my defense of left-liberals and poststructuralist Marxists in anthropology departments, and my refusal even to entertain the possibility that these professors are shutting out the “America can bring about some good in third world countries” faction of job-seeking anthropology Ph.D.s, then I’m just going to keep quiet for a bit and wait for a substantive debate with someone who disagrees with arguments that I actually make. 

After all, as I argue in chapter six, the valuable thing about the Habermas-Lyotard debate is that it compels us to think about how best to engage in debates with people with whom we fundamentally disagree.  And as I note at the end of chapter four, you’re free to disagree with me about that, too.

Posted by Michael on 09/28 at 02:45 PM
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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Multimedia Wednesday

The licensing and marketing department of this blog has informed me that there are significant problems with Chris Clarke’s world-famous graphic-novel version of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Two problems, to be exact.  Problem number one is that the novel contains too many “in jokes” about academe and blogging, such as references to Ann Althouse, Juan Cole, Stanley Fish, and “choice feminism.” Accordingly, casual readers unfamiliar with recent discussions of these figures and issues have found the novel rough going in places, as have millions of readers confused by the novel’s multiple layers of rich creamery irony surrounding its chewy nougat center.

The second problem is contained in the first, specifically with regard to the “millions of readers.” Not to put too fine a point on it, Clarke’s graphic novel is now outselling my book by a ratio of 30 to 1—coincidentally, the precise ratio of liberals to conservatives on most college faculties.  The licensing and marketing department is of two minds about this.  The licensing people want me to litigate, on the grounds that Clarke has done irreparable harm to the What’s Liberal? brand and has very likely made it impossible for us to expand into T-shirts and coffee mugs.  The marketing people argue compellingly that the electric sheep have already escaped from the pen, so to speak, and that the only way to regain momentum is to get on the sheep train and let the sheep times roll, so to speak.  They talk a lot about sheep, those marketing people.

Anyway, I’m pleased to announce that marketing has won this round, and that this blog will now be offering a new product for sale.  Just click on the image below to purchase!


This handy volume addresses and answers the major questions raised by What’s Liberal about the Liberal Arts (Graphic Novel)?  Such as:

• What is the interpretive theory expounded by the teaching assistants of the People’s Revolutionary State University (panel 16)?  How does it serve the cause of progressive re-education and universal emancipation?

• How is Chanterelle’s critique of “white privilege” (panel 51) inflected by her status as what Trinh Minh-ha calls the “inappropriate/d other”?

• Why did Comrade Adjunct Professor refuse to take a perfectly good truck to search for the missing teaching assistants (panel 23)?  What can we learn from his example?

• How does the novel work to forestall all conservative, i.e. mistaken, criticism of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Pay special attention to the novel’s ovine imagery.

• What does the Kandinsky mural symbolize?  Why is it unacceptably formalist?

L & M would also like me to provide updates on other multimedia adapations of my book.  First, I want to point out that this item, shamelessly promoted on Pandagon by a certain self-styled liberal avenger, is not an authorized audio reproduction of my work.  Auguste illegally relied on my implied oral consent for the production of this audiotape (I believe it was a wink and a nod, to be exact), whereas U.S. Code Title 17 Section 5 clearly indicates that express written consent is required.

On the other hand, this Inside Higher Ed essay by Scott McLemee and accompanying podcast interview (!!!) is the real thing.  Really real.  We wouldn’t joke around about this.  So go ahead and check it out, and discover for yourself why I can’t stand the sound of my own recorded voice.  (I also don’t like talking on the phone, either.  So these telephone interviews are kinda painful.  But thanks to Scott for putting up with my hemming and growling and throat-clearing!)

The intro/outro music on the IHE podcast, by the way, consists of snippets from Baby Opaque’s cover of “Long Black Veil.” Baby Opaque was me, Todd Wilson (guitar), and Michael Dean (bass, vocals).  We recorded that catchy little tune in the summer of 1985 at the tail end of a single six-hour session at Don Zientara’s world-famous Inner Ear Studio, back when the studio was housed in Zientara’s basement.  The session consisted of twelve or thirteen songs, most of them recorded in one take (of course—the DIY crew wouldn’t have it any other way), and it wound up as our world-famous LP, Fugue in Cow Minor.  Our world-famous five-song EP, Pain, Fears, and Insects (1984), was recorded in two hours.  (I know, this sounds like something out of the Rutles documentary:  our first album was made in two hours—our second took even longer.) Anyway, “Long Black Veil,” with backing screaming vocals from the world-famous Ian MacKaye, was released shortly after Baby Opaque broke up that summer, and it actually got some college radio airplay for a few months.  The whole thing is available for your listening pleasure here.  (See, it really is Multimedia Wednesday!) You can tell, if you listen very closely to the end of the final verse, that the drummer is kind of exhausted and dehydrated, and yet, in the words of the Maximum Rocknroll reviewer, “spunky.”

What is it doing in the podcast?  Why, making it sound mean, of course.

Posted by Michael on 09/27 at 11:17 AM
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Monday, September 25, 2006

Who’s Out to Get You?

Hey folks!  Bill O’Reilly has a brand new book that bids fair to edge out Dinesh D’Souza for the division title and qualify for the World Series of Stupid!  In this book, Culture Warrior (published, like D’Souza’s The Enemy at Home, by Random House’s innovative new Spinning Wingnut Division) the Man Who Made Felafel Famous strikes back against America’s “secular-progressive” conspiracy!

Now, if this were a serious kind of blog, I would no doubt make some kind of serious point right about now—something to the effect of how O’Reilly’s premise, like D’Souza’s, relies on nothing other than the logic of U. No.’s bold and brilliant graphic novel of 2005, “Discover the Networks,” in which secular progressives (and film critics like Roger Ebert) are the domestic-enemy counterparts to our neither-secular-nor-progressive enemies abroad—and therein lies the hidden link between Rob Reiner and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!

And if this were a petulant, I-told-you-so kind of blog, I would no doubt get all huffy right about now, especially at people who think it’s not worth the time and effort to pay attention to the spittle-flecked maniacs of the right, or who’ve told me (at various points over the last fifteen years) that the culture wars are distractions from business as usual.  Because you know what?  From Bill O’Reilly (to whom I will not refer by his initials, because this might well be construed as a slur against sensible, upstanding Malodorous- Americans everywhere) all the way up to Dick Cheney, calling liberals traitors is business as usual.

But this is not a serious blog, and it is not a petulant, I-told-you-so kind of blog.  It doesn’t engage in any sneaky duplicitous speech acts, either, the kind where it says something it’s not saying, or says it’s not saying something it is saying.  Not at all!  Well, hardly ever.  This is a happy-go-lucky mockery blog, so we’re gonna give Billy O. the same treatment we gave U. No. when he discovered his networks.

For example.  The far-left smear site Media Matters claims that O’Reilly’s new book amounts to an “enemies list.” At the outset of the book, Billy O. writes:  “Because I criticize what I consider to be dishonest and unfair media, and extremist pundits on both the right and the left as well as corrupt and/or ineffective politicians, there is no shortage of people trying to marginalize me, or worse, destroy me.” And if you check the list of Beleaguered Billy’s enemies with which Media Matters provides you, well, it looks pretty damn long—and kinda wacky and daffy.  Media Matters lists seventy-nine entries, including not only eighteen U.S. city newspapers from the New York Times to the St. Petersburg Times, but entire national broadcasting networks like the BBC and the CBC!

But this happy blog is—uh—happy to announce that it has discovered the full and complete list of everyone who is trying to marginalize or destroy (or marginalize and destroy) the brave guy who’s looking out for you.  We hereby provide it you free of charge, as a public service.  All we ask is that you add a few more names to it and pass it along down one of the available Internet tubes:

* Air America host Al Franken
* Michael Savage
* The New York Times
* Air America Radio
* Boston Globe
* Washington Post
* Baltimore Sun
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution
* Miami Herald
* New Orleans Times-Picayune
* St. Louis Post-Dispatch
* Kansas City Star
* Minneapolis Star Tribune
* Houston Chronicle
* Denver Post
* Seattle Post-Intelligencer
* The Oregonian
* San Francisco Chronicle
* Sacramento Bee
* Los Angeles Times
* St. Petersburg Times
* New York Times
columnist Maureen Dowd
* New York Times columnist Paul Krugman
* New York Times columnist Bob Herbert
* New York Times columnist Frank Rich
* New York Times columnist George Vecsey
* New York Times copyeditor Milton Waddams
* MoveOn.org
* Dave Chappelle
* Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA)
* Huckleberry Finn
* Roger Baldwin, founder of the ACLU
* Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU
* Elizabeth Cady Stanton
* University of California-Berkeley professor George Lakoff
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Harris Green
* Howard Dean
* Tia Carrere
* Progressive financier George Soros
* Progressive financier Peter Lewis
* The Hanson brothers
* Thomas Pynchon
* Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz
* Julie Andrews
* New York Daily News entertainment columnist Jack Matthews
* Dallas Morning News columnist Macarena Hernandez
* far-left Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen
* Denver Post columnist Cindy Rodriguez
* Bullwinkle Moose
* Dan Rather
* Jackson Pollock
* Tom Brokaw
* Wynton Marsalis
* Ted Koppel
* Lindsay Beyerstein
* ABC News producer Rick Kaplan
* Neil Young
* Neil Kinnock
* Walter Cronkite
* Brian Eno
* Bill Moyers
* Gary Numan
* Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
* British Broadcasting Co.
* The swarthy foreigner at the newspaper stand at 46th and Sixth who won’t look at me when he gives me my change
* Newsweek senior editor and columnist Jonathan Alter
* Ann Coulter
* David Gates and Bread
* New York Times Magazine columnist Randy Cohen
* New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger III
* New York Times Magazine crossword puzzle
* New York Times executive editor Bill Keller
* The 1973-74 Washington Bullets
* Sam Donaldson
* Jon Stewart
* Lee Siegel
* Sprezzatura
* New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof
* New York Times assistant editor Adam Cohen
* Bil Keane’s Family Circus
* Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Jeff Gelles
* Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board
* Associated Press television writer Frazier Moore
* The cast and crew of Friends
* Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker
* The L train to Canarsie
* Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson
* Cher
* Ted Turner
* Sideshow Bob
* National Public Radio host Terry Gross
* Maya Angelou
* Jane Fonda
* Christopher Walken
* Jeremy Glick, author and son of 9-11 victim Barry Glick
* Sir Edmund Hillary
* Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan
* Gloria Gaynor
* Filmmaker Michael Moore
* Patti Smith
* Barbra Streisand
* Washington State Supreme Court
* Charlie Watts
* Associated Press
* Spuds McKenzie
* Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt
* The “majority” of the Vermont press
* Christo
* Susan Sarandon
* Steve Buscemi
* George Clooney
* House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA)
* Ludacris
* Alec Baldwin
* Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin
* The woman who wouldn’t say hello to me when I got into the shower with her
* David Letterman

OK, good people, you know what to do!  Have fun—and be happy!

Posted by Michael on 09/25 at 08:02 AM
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Friday, September 22, 2006

ABF Friday:  Torture Edition!

So the kabuki dance is over, and the Party of Torture with Three Brave “Rebels” has ironed out its little differences and become, once again, the just plain Party of Torture.  And since the Party of Torture is now celebrating the triumph of its leader’s innovative legal theory, known to White House insiders and associates of John Yoo as “Arbitrary and Evil Interpretations of the Constitution and the Geneva Convention,” I figured that this humble blog could play an appropriate Arbitrary But Fun game:

Let’s pretend there’s an opposition party!

Let’s call this opposition party the “Credomats.” And let’s say you’re a Credomat Senator who’s (a) in a safe seat in a blue state or (b) not up for re-election this year or (c) in a closely contested race in which it might actually “benefit your campaign” and “energize your base” if you were to show some leadership on a critical human rights issue.  Or you could be a Credomat member of the House of Representatives who sees a great chance to step up onto the national stage in defense of truth, justice, and the American way.  Or you could be a mere candidate for office!  It’s your call—remember, kids, this is arbitrary but fun.

Now, here’s the deal.  All you have to do, in order to become a leading national figure among the Credomats over the weekend, is to get out there and say something like this:  “Torture and ‘extraordinary rendition’ are contrary to everything this nation stands for, every tradition of liberty and the rule of law for which our brave fighting men and women have died over the past 230 years.  This administration’s craven and reckless policy will not only endanger our servicemen and women overseas, all for the sake of ‘interrogations’ that have gotten us precisely zero useful intelligence in five years, as we have tortured mentally ill detainees whose pain-induced babblings have led us on one wild goose chase after another; it will also erode our moral fiber and damage us irreparably in the fight against totalitarianism and political extremism around the world.  No one who proposes such a policy is fit to lead this land of the free, and the political party that supports such a policy, and such a leader, can rightly be called anti-American.”

There!  It’s that easy.  You say a bunch of true things, you defend your country’s best political traditions, you remind millions of your fellow citizens that your party opposes the other party on some core issues, and you get some face time.  It’s a win-win-win-win!

Now, here’s the arbitrary but fun part: which member of the actually existing Democratic Party would you like to see in the role of the Leading Credomat?  Feel free to nominate yourself.  Or feel free to send some version of this post to the Democrat of your choice today!

While you’re thinking, here’s the latest meta-meta-MetaFilter joke about certain world leaders and certain graphic novels (troping off Auguste and Amanda’s meta-joke), courtesy of the intrepid blogger sometimes known as Hottie McNaturepants:


Thank you once again for your friendship and your matchless wit, Chris.  And I’ll close out this ABF Friday with a simple suggestion:  if everyone who’s enjoyed Chris Clarke’s work over the years, even to the point of nationalizing the Venezuelan coffee industry all over their monitors, would just take a moment to send Chris’s dog Zeke some love this weekend, that would be great.  And it would help restore balance to the Internets.

Posted by Michael on 09/22 at 11:00 AM
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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rhetorical Thursday

Michael Bérubé and Janet Lyon were married 21 years ago today.

Photo Credit:  Jamie Bérubé

But that’s not what we’re here to blog about!  This is Rhetorical Thursday, and you should have expected us to open with the occupatio gambit.  We have an important announcement.

Because of the overwhelming public response to Rhetorical Occasions, this blog is temporarily suspending Liberal Thursday, the new feature in which we reply to readings, reviews, and graphic novel adaptations of What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?  Liberal Thursday will be back next Thursday, unless it is suspended again.

In its stead, we offer this brief announcement from the marketing department.  The public-attitude survey is complete, and Rhetorical Occasions has now been field-tested with a series of carefully chosen focus groups.  According to marketing, the book cover is not going over because:

(a) it features a great big fat looming ghostly head;
(b) it looks too much like a faded Che t-shirt;
(c) it is not violent enough;
(d) it has a great big fat looming ghostly head on it;
(e) it looks back at you when you pick it up;
(f) men are not wearing enough hats these days;
(g) the image is that of a great big fat looming ghostly head; and
(h) the single eye in the head winks when you hold the book at an angle.

At first, we considered hitting the side of the book repeatedly with a sledgehammer in order to make it look mean,* but the logistics of this option proved too daunting.  Accordingly, UNC Press has decided to do to the cover design of Rhetorical Occasions what Capitol Records did with the original cover art for the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today LP.  We are pleased to report, as well, that michaelberube.com site administrator Kurt Nelson has stepped into the breach to provide us with an alternate cover.  We believe this new cover addresses our readers’ primary concerns about the book, particularly with regard to (c) above, and we note that it required only a slight alteration of the book’s title, while subtly retaining the “head” theme of the original cover.  The mockup of the new cover is available here.

Arbitrary But Fun Friday will appear this week as scheduled.

* Readers who do not recognize the allusion are hereby advised that Slapshot is freely available for rental or purchase, and that it is one of the best sports movies ever made.

Posted by Michael on 09/21 at 02:44 PM
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