Friday, April 15, 2005
Christian groups criticize “Day of Truth”
NEW YORK—Irked by the success of the nationwide Day of Silence, which seeks to combat anti-gay bias in schools, conservative activists launched a counter-event this week called the Day of Truth, aimed at mobilizing students who believe homosexuality is sinful.
Participating students wore T-shirts with the slogan “The Truth Cannot be Silenced” and passed out cards to classmates Thursday—the day following the Day of Silence—declaring their unwillingness to condone “detrimental personal and social behavior.”
The driving force behind the Day of Truth is the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group that has opposed same-sex marriage and challenged restrictions on religious expression in public schools. The event is endorsed by several influential conservative organizations, including the Christian ministry “Focus on the Family” and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Mike Johnson, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney from Shreveport, Louisiana, said organizers were unsure how many students would participate in the Day of Truth, but expressed hope it would grow in coming years as more people learned about it.
Johnson said the event is meant to be “peaceful and respectful,” but made clear it is motivated by belief that homosexuality is wrong. “You can call it sinful or destructive—ultimately it’s both,” he said.
“But in the interests of respectful pluralism and tolerance,” Johnson added, “I insist that people should have the personal choice as to whether they consider homosexuality sinful or destructive or both.”
The event has met with sharp criticism, however, from Christian activists who believe that it does not go far enough.
“Mike Johnson likes to say, ‘ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set ye free,’” said Leviticus Wright of “Focus Even Harder on the Family,” an organization that has opposed same-sex sex and has challenged the very existence of public schools. “Well, that’s one full truckload of nonsense right there. Truth alone never got anyone up off the couch. What gay teens need isn’t the so-called ‘truth’—it’s a good healthy dose of fear.”
Wright pointed to studies that showed that only 84 percent of gay and lesbian high school students experience verbal harassment on a regular basis at school, and a mere 40 percent experience physical harassment.
“What kind of world are we living in, where 60 percent of gay and lesbian teenagers can walk the school halls with impunity?” Wright asked. “Where 16 percent flaunt their lifestyles without being verbally mocked or ostracized on a regular basis? That’s not the America I grew up in– and that’s not the America any Christian should want to live in.”
Accordingly, Focus Even Harder on the Family and its allied organizations, including Campus Jihad for Christ and the Opus Dei is for Everyone Foundation, have proposed a national “Day of Fear.” The “Day of Fear” is scheduled for Friday, following both the Day of Silence and the Day of Truth.
Participating students are being offered T-shirts with the slogan “Thank God it’s Fear Friday” as well as “Fear Factor” and “Fear This” cards to pass out to classmates. “We’re hoping,” said Wright, “that by the time the weekend rolls around, the youth of America will finally be scared straight. With God’s help, of course.”
Post-satire alert, since this kind of thing has been misunderstood before: the first five paragraphs of this post are taken almost verbatim from the AP wire. Only the verb tenses in the second paragraph have been changed; the wingnuttery has not been tampered with. It comes to you direct, in all its righteous wingnut glory, and the only thing I’ve done here is to make it a bit more explicit.
The Progressive Protestant has a more humane response.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Jamie made his track-and-field debut today. His time in the 50 meter dash: 14.82 seconds. . . .
. . . good enough for second place.
Corporate sponsorships for this athlete are now available! Endorsement packages especially welcome. Jamie’s family doesn’t care for sweatshop labor or environmental degradation, and Jamie himself prefers companies that are good to animals, even dangerous animals like pythons and great white sharks. Applications by e-mail only, or have your marketing representative leave contact information in comments.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Was I ever wrong
In the opening pages of Life As We Know It, I wrote that most of my time with Jamie—that is, when I’m actually with him, doing stuff—is lived pretty much moment by moment. And I wrote this specific passage just under ten years ago:
Occasionally it will occur to Janet or to me that Jamie will always be “disabled,” that his adult and adolescent years will undoubtedly be more difficult emotionally—for him and for us—than his early childhood, that we will never not worry about his future, his quality of life, whether we’re doing enough for him. But usually these moments occur in the relative comfort of abstraction, when Janet and I are lying in bed at night and wondering what will become of us all. When I’m with Jamie, by contrast, I’m almost always fully occupied by taking care of his present needs rather than by worrying about his future. When he asks to hear the Beatles because he loves their cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” I just play the song, sing along, and watch him dance with delight; I do not concern myself with extraneous questions such as whether he’ll ever distinguish early Beatles from late Beatles, Paul’s songs from John’s, originals from covers. These questions are now central to Nick’s enjoyment of the Beatles, but that’s Nick for you. Jamie is entirely sui generis, and as long as I’m with him I can’t think of him as anything but Jamie.
The clear implication here—and you don’t have to be a literature Ph.D. to see it—is that a child with Down syndrome will never have the intellectual capacity to understand the Beatles’ oeuvre, or even to understand that some songs preceded others, were written by different band members, and so forth.
Well, this is long, long overdue, but I owe Jamie one enormous apology: I couldn’t have been more wrong. Over the past ten years Jamie has become so fascinated with the Beatles that he’s memorized almost the entire songbook. He still has trouble identifying late Harrisonian ephemera like “The Inner Light,” “Old Brown Shoe,” and “Only a Northern Song” (all of which suck, anyway), and he’s not crazy about Abbey Road (with good reason). But in every other respect, his knowledge of Beatles music verges on the preternatural.
It started a couple of years ago, when he was fascinated with “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and “Come Together” (he still gets a kick out of “juju eyeball”), whereupon I explained to him that John had written those songs and that John liked to play games with words. Well, Jamie was so thrilled with this news that he demanded to know what else John had written. So I went back over the corpus, so to speak, and found to my surprise that John had written almost three-quarters of the originals on the Beatles’ first four records. (My tally is twenty-five Lennons, ten McCartneys—though I’m counting “Hard Day’s Night” under John even though Paul wrote the middle eight. I attribute “I Wanna Be Your Man” to both of them. As for songs after 1964, I attribute “We Can Work It Out” to Paul even though John wrote the middle eight. If anyone knows which of them wrote “Tell Me What You See,” let me know—I’m inclined to Paul, because it sounds to me like a rewrite of “Things We Said Today,” but I’m not sure.) I revisited a mess of other things about John’s early work as well, like his fondness for melisma (as in the final verse of “Not a Second Time,” which gets positively silly in this respect) and his felicity with pop musical genres we ordinarily associate more with Paul (not only the remarkable “This Boy” and “Yes It Is,” but the relatively obscure “Ask Me Why,” which is way too complicated for its own good, but a hell of an effort nonetheless).
Before I knew it, Jamie had memorized “the Johns,” as he puts it, and proceeded to master the other three as well (for Ringo, we go by the songs he sang, not just the two he wrote). Then Jamie wanted to know who wrote “Bad Boy” or “Roll Over Beethoven” or “Anna.” Then he began to understand (as we made him presents of each CD) which records contained which songs. Then, as he began to ask which came first, I bought him one of my favorite extended pieces of rock criticism, Roy Carr and Tony Tyler’s The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. By now, Jamie had a sense of the year-by-year, record-by-record trajectory, and an astonishing memory for other things as well.
“Remember when the Beatles were in the Bahamas?” he asked one day.
“Uh,” I said, trying to think of Beatles’ world tours, “I don’t think they ever played in the Bahamas.”
“No, in Help!” he insisted, and proceeded to show me one of the pictures in yet another Beatles coffeetable book we’d gotten him. Yep, there were the Beatles in the Bahamas. Score one for Jamie. Now Jamie has a whole quiver of such questions. Remember when the Beatles had a pillow fight? Remember when John disappeared in the bathtub? Remember when Ringo was combing his hair?
So when he’s bored, or when we’re trying to kill time in long lines or on long trips, Jamie will now ask me to “do all Pauls,” or whomever, and I will proceed to pick random tunes from here, there, and everywhere. I’ll sing about two bars—“Close your eyes, and . . . ” and Jamie will immediately jump in and say “With the Beatles. 1963. Next!” And I’ll say, “let me think,” and he will mock me, and I’ll sing “Martha, my dear . . .” and he’ll say “White Beatles. 1968. Next!”—and this can go on, as you might imagine, for some time, until my own memory is exhausted. When we came back from Houston last month, and waited fifteen minutes by the baggage carousel, we got through about sixty or seventy of these, much to the amusement and/or annoyance of our fellow travelers, one of whom asked, “Did you already do ‘Norwegian Wood’?”
What makes this especially curious, to me, is that he’s not just cataloguing information and spewing it back; he’s got everything cross-referenced somehow, and he never fails to name songs I’ve forgotten. For example, by the time we’d gotten on the shuttle bus to Extremely Remote Parking at BWI, Jamie was chortling in the back seat at the fact that I’d forgotten “Rain,” “Any Time at All,” and even “Don’t Let Me Down” from the list of Johns. I never, never manage to remember the whole damn songlist, and I always forget different songs each time (though for some reason I have particular trouble with “Paperback Writer” and “Drive My Car” among the Pauls). And Jamie never fails to catch the omissions. It’s astonishing.
Equally astonishing is his ability to remember where we’d left off three or four days ago, and to pick up from there. “More Johns,” he said one day last summer as we were tooling around Paris; “If I fell in love with you . . .” I replied, only to be met with “we did that already. Next?”
But even more astonishing is his ability to associate specific words with specific songs. One night we were doing the words on his spelling list, and when he came to “through” he sang, “Through thick and thin she will always be my friend.” The word “you’re” was met with “you’re gonna lose that girl”; “picture” with “picture yourself in a boat on a river.” On certain days he has to use his spelling words in complete sentences, and we’ve told him that he can’t always just place them in Beatles songs, that he has to think up his own sentences. But if you’d asked me ten years ago whether I imagined that I would ever have to issue Jamie an injunction like that—stop quoting Beatles lyrics in your spelling-word sentences—I probably would have given you a very dirty look.
And so, Jamie, I admit it. Even when I was trying to represent you to the best of my ability ten years ago, I underestimated you. I was wrong, and I apologize. And through thick and thin, I will always be your friend.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Let’s get physical
So yesterday I finally got to see my doctor – for the first time in three years. You know how it goes: you call to make an appointment in September, and you get an appointment first thing February. And then, to make matters worse, it turned out that I had an MLA meeting that very day in February, and had to ask to reschedule. So I got pushed back to April 11. It’s a good thing I don’t live in one of those leftist countries where people have to wait in long lines because of all that socialized medicine! That would suck.
Not that I was really looking forward to this visit, mind you. It was supposed to be a routine thing, just a checkup from the guy who writes the prescriptions for my asthma medication. “It doesn’t make sense,” he said three years ago, “that you can play back-to-back hockey games one day and you’re not moving any air the next. We’ve got to get you stabilized.” So he wrote me three prescriptions, I started taking them every day, and I haven’t had a respiratory event since. (Thanks, doc!) But Janet, the Ph.D.-who-is-a-former-R.N., has been bugging me for these past three years to get a colonoscopy. “Not right now,” I said over the weekend, “I’m arguing with David Horowitz.”
“But wouldn’t you rather have a colonoscopy?” she asked.
“Hmm,” I hmmed. “Do you have a coin on you? OK. Heads.”
Now, some of you may remember that James Wolcott put up a finely crafted post about his colonoscopy last December, not only sharing with us the pleasures of the Demerol drip but setting the bar very, very high for all future colonoscopy blogging. So as I ran from one meeting to another yesterday afternoon, trying frantically to get some campus business done before my 3 pm doctor’s appointment, I was dreading the idea that I would have to ask my doctor to arrange a colonoscopy – and trying to figure out whether I wanted to compete against Wolcott for the coveted 2005 Koufax Award for Best Post about the Gastrointestinal Tract.
Here’s the good news: you will be spared any further mention of colonoscopies on this vastly-relieved blog until the year 2011. My doctor looked me over, noted that I’d lost twenty pounds since 2002, listened to my lungs, did a quick physical, and pronounced me in excellent health – fitter at 43 than I’d been at 40. “What was my resting heart rate?” I asked, worried that I’d arrived in such a rush that I put up some high numbers. “Sixty-two,” he replied. Boo-yeah. But what was up with the 155/95 blood pressure? “Well,” I explained, “I’ve been arguing with David Horowitz, you see, and I . . . .”
“Ah,” he replied. “You have to cut that out and cut that out now. Here,” he said, opening the cuff again, “stop thinking about that stuff and relax.” The result? 120 over 60. Cool. In fact, I was so pleased with my general health and well-being that I went home and ordered a pesto pizza with sausage for dinner. Mmmm – pesto pizza with sausage. And then this morning, Jamie had some for breakfast. Nature’s most complete food, you know, perfect any time of the day or night.
Coming tomorrow: I admit to having been wrong about something.
FrontPage post mortem
OK, so FrontPage says they made an honest mistake with my reply to David Horowitz. And you know what? Dennis Perrin is surely right when he says that I am (and I quote) “much too fucking generous to Horowitz,” but I’m going to take this one at face value (you all can determine that actual face value for yourselves) and get right on back to the rest of my life. For my account of the Mysterious Interlineated and Misread E-Mail, you can consult the second update of my previous post. Or, you can get right on back to the rest of your life. After reading this post, of course!
FrontPage does say, “We wish, of course, that he had contacted us before launching this attack to ascertain what had gone wrong.” Likewise, I wish they had made absolutely sure that I hadn’t replied to any of Horowitz’s many, many, many arguments before they charged me with “intellectual laziness” – and then went ahead and built the entire column around the premise that the entire Left is intellectually lazy because it dominates American culture so thoroughly:
Part of the explanation for this failure to express disagreement in the form of an intellectual argument, we suspect, has to do with the left’s undisputed domination over the institutions of the higher culture – the universities, the large metropolitan press, and the TV networks. This dominance has caused it to inhabit a cultural echo chamber where the only interlocutor it really has to speak to (and answer to) is itself. Consequently, it has grown intellectually lazy and reaches for the most convenient epithet before it ever thinks about an argument. It has substituted emotional reflexes for ideas for so long that it has become a kind of latter day version of the conservatism that Lionel Trilling described as a “mental irritability” rather than an intellectual reference.
I think we’ve demonstrated pretty clearly which foot this particular shoe belongs on, folks. So I’m going to take away an important lesson from this episode, and offer my future interlocutors on the right a few words of advice.
First, the lesson. I’m glad that FrontPage is going to reproduce the full text of my replies, but you know, I’m even more glad that I have this here blog. (Can you address a blog in the vocative case? O Blog, thanks for always being there for me. Your friend, Michael.) Over the years, I’ve dealt with my share of bizarre and/or malicious readings of my work, and I’ve learned to my dismay that asking people what’s up with their bizarre and/or malicious readings just doesn’t do the job, regardless of whether you ask politely, quizzically, or angrily. (The polite and quizzical letters get replies like, “yeah, I smeared you – what of it?” The angry letters get disingenuous replies like, “why are you so angry? All I did was lie about you in a right-wing rag. You should control your temper and not take these things so personally!”) Blogging about bizarre and/or malicious readings, by contrast, gets immediate results.
I think back to what my dear old mother used to tell me when I would run out to play with the other kids. “Michael,” she would say, “if you’re going outside, don’t forget to bring your blog.”
“Mom!” I would protest. “I don’t need a blog – nothing’s going to happen to me. Don’t be so overprotective alla time! And stop fixing my collar!”
“Michael, I’m not being overprotective. Someday you’ll look back on this day, and you’ll say, you know, my dear old mother was right – a boy needs a blog.”
“Sheesh, mom. As if. ‘Bye.”
And, of course, I would run out into the world without a blog. Well, she was right, and she was right about the day that I would say that she was right. Sorry, mom.
Second, some words of advice. No one should be surprised when I reply fiercely to the claim that I have advised my colleagues “to treat conservative students as they would students with learning disabilities or who exhibited aberrant behavior.” Or when I call someone out for suggesting that I would have aborted my second child had I known that he had Down syndrome (in the course of “reviewing” a book in which I explain how my wife and I made the decision to go ahead with the pregnancy regardless of whether the fetus had Down syndrome). Or that I get angry – really, really angry – after I spend far too much of my precious time patiently and carefully answering a string of Horowitzian non sequiturs and am met, in response, with the charge that I am emblematic of the intellectual laziness of the left.
I am a hockey player, people. I do not fail to respond to things like this. As a matter of policy, I advocate a strong personal defense. Why? Because it works. Here in the Nittany Hockey League, people generally know that if they want to take a two-handed slash to the back of someone’s legs, or maybe cross-check a fellow in the back, they should go after someone other than me. My penalty minutes this year, after thirty-nine games? Zero. Cheap shots taken? Zero. Why, you can practically put my name on the Lady Byng right now (besides, no one else is using it this year).
It is not true, by the way, that I turn with fury on “anyone who disagrees with me,” as one critic once put it. Plenty of people disagree with me, including me. But if you publish something about me that is both demonstrably false and potentially damaging, I will indeed respond, most likely in the manner of Doug Piranha. I have a blog and a search engine, and I am not afraid to use ‘em.
Now, it’s not as if you can’t say anything bad about me. After all, some bad things about me are true! For example, I often turn things in late. Evaluations, manuscripts, faculty reports, receipts, you name it, I turn it in late. (Though I did get my taxes done last week.) Also, I am viscerally impatient with very slow and/or manifestly incompetent drivers, particularly when they occupy the car immediately in front of mine and I am rushing to FedEx or the English department office to turn something in late. I never confront other drivers directly (goodness, I’m not a complete jerk), but I do mutter things like, “it’s the long thin pedal on the right,” or “first day driving? you might want to practice in the stadium parking lot a bit before getting on the road.” Needless to say, this annoys the front-seat passenger no end, leading her to say, “you know, you have to cut that out. It’s a Really Bad Habit.” Yes, you can even hear the capital letters when she says this.
OK, so those are the general ground rules for personal criticisms. Bérubé advocates treating conservative students as if they were disabled – no. Bérubé turns things in late – perfectly OK. Bérubé is a symbol of the intellectual laziness of the left – no. Bérubé is a bit of a crank who mutters under his breath at slow or incompetent drivers – entirely true.
I’ll be back later today with some of the rest of my life.
UPDATE: For those of you interested in more textual foibles on the right, check out this painstaking letter by Graham Larkin, replying to Horowitz’s claim that he had not written a document that went out over his name ("In fact, the text you cite is not an article but very obviously a direct mail solicitation and was written not by me by but by a direct mail firm I hired to raise money for my Center. I plead guilty to not paying more attending to my fund-raising mail.” Or to typos and extraneous prepositions.)
Monday, April 11, 2005
Why Horowitz Hates Professors
Over the weekend, a couple of friends wrote to ask what had happened to me. “Michael,” said one, “do you realize you’re featured on David Horowitz’s FrontPage website yet again – this time in a ‘debate’ with Horowitz on the topic, ‘Is the Left in Bed With Terrorists’? What made you debate the guy in the first place, and why did you let him set these bizarre when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife terms?
“And more important, why did you tank so badly in the final round?”
Another friend suggested that Horowitz had made me “testy” so that I came off like a punch-drunk fighter who’d had enough; yet another pointed out, in bewilderment, that Horowitz had gotten 3300 words in the debate and I’d gotten a mere 860. “What’s up, Michael?” he asked. “You’re not normally so . . . taciturn. Have you finally gotten tired of dealing with D. Ho. at last?”
D. Ho.! Dang, I wish I’d thought of that one. But what was this nonsense about “860 words”? That didn’t sound right. I took part in an email exchange with one of David’s personal assistants, Jamie Glazov, over the past couple of weeks, with the understanding that it would be published in FrontPage. Like my earlier exchange with FrontPage in 2003, this one was long and full of back-and-forths, and my part of it certainly went well over 860 words.
But when I went to the FrontPage site to check out the “debate,” I found that almost all my replies to David had been cut from the “conversation,” and that Glazov and Horowitz, after chopping all the stuff I’d written, slapped me upside the head for not replying to them:
FP: Prof. Berube, it was clear to you that, in this second round, you just had your final turn. We had ascertained that this would be your final opportunity to discuss each of the points that Mr. Horowitz would raise, and that Mr. Horowitz would then have a final reply. And yet, this is all you have to contibute [sic] to what was supposed to be an intellectual dialogue.
Mr. Horowitz, what is your take here on Prof. Berube’s contribution to our second and last round?
DH: This answer from Michael Berube is disappointing but not surprising. As I have already observed, the left has become so intellectually lazy from years of talking to itself (and “at” everyone else) that it has lost the ability to conduct an intellectual argument with its opponents.
Well, holy infant Jesus with a rattlesnake, folks – what a shabby little stunt. First they refuse to publish my responses, and then they chastise me for not responding to them? What is going on over there at FrontPage – are they smoking crack, or are they just giving up altogether? Did they think maybe I wouldn’t notice that fifteen paragraphs of mine had somehow disappeared from the text of the “debate”? And did they forget that I have my own website, where I can call them out on this stuff for the benefit of the savviest readers on the Internet? Or maybe they were hoping I wouldn’t keep my own copy of the exchange? I did, of course, and I’ll reproduce it below – so you all can see just how bad things have gotten with Horowitz & Co.
Now, of course, I know what you’re thinking – Michael, didn’t you see this coming? why did you expect that Horowitz and his minions would reproduce your every word? And the answer, straight from the man who brings you Mister Answer Man, is this: I had every reason to expect that they’d print my replies in full, because last time around, two years ago, that’s exactly what they did. They sent me emails, and I sent back interlineated replies. They didn’t edit that debate one little bit, and that one ran a great deal longer than this one – over 9000 words, in fact. (After all, it’s not like they have space limitations!) But this time, they simply decided to cheat, editing out almost everything I wrote back to them in the “second round,” and then, incredibly, declaring victory because I didn’t reply to them. Well, golly gee willakers, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen weaker or more incompetent “debaters” in my life.
The question isn’t why I trusted them to behave like honest people. (I’ve been suckerpunched before, but never by suckers so shameless as this.) The real question is why they had the intellectual confidence to run the full text of my replies the first time around, whereas now they’re reduced to these adolescent shenanigans. Is it because, in five consecutive clumpy posts on this humble blog, I have taken Horowitz apart step by step over the past two months, leaving him looking worse than foolish? Is this last “debate,” in fact, an abject admission that Horowitz does not have the intellectual wherewithal to conduct a real argument with me?
Ehhh, as Bugs Bunny would say, could be! But whatever the reason, we now know this: Horowitz isn’t just a far-right ideologue. He’s also a sorry old fraud. Here, for the benefit of you who will delight in learning just how sorry poor old David has gotten, is the record of everything FrontPage cut from our “debate” before accusing me of intellectual laziness. (My original reply was sent, according to my sleek, stylish Eudora 6.2, on 11:14 AM on April 3. Everything that follows is from that email to Jamie Glazov. Practically everything David wrote, in this email, was published in the final “exchange”—as well as his later emendations and elaborations, which I never saw. But my contributions were, ah, “disappeared.")
DH: How does the database “blur the distinctions between the mainstream left and the far far left” or “between the far left and liberals such as Barack Obama?” The database clearly identifies five categories of leftists: “Totalitarian Radicals,” “Anti-American Radicals,” “Leftists,” “Moderate Leftists” and “Affective Leftists.” How are the distinctions blurred if they are made? I notice that Michael doesn’t single out one statement that we have made about Barack Obama in our profile of him that is either false, inappropriate or misleading. In other words, we have actually made the distinctions he claims we haven’t.
MB: The database makes “distinctions,” yes. But it insists nonetheless that everyone listed in it is part of a “network.” Now, imagine that I compile a “network” that links Olympia Snowe to Timothy McVeigh, or Bruce Willis to Augusto Pinochet. Wouldn’t sane people see something wrong with that?
DH: What Michael and I seem to actually disagree about is whether Barack Obama is a “liberal” or a “leftist.” My question to him would be how can anyone who supports racial preferences and income redistribution be regarded as a “liberal.” But whatever conclusion one draws – whether Obama is a leftist, a moderate leftist or a liberal—surely no reasonable person can maintain that we have blurred distinctions when we have actually codified them.
MB: Here, David is straightforward about what’s at stake: he wants to move the rhetorical goalposts so far right that anyone who supports affirmative action and progressive taxation is labeled a “leftist.” All well and good: that’s David’s job, and I respect him for doing it so diligently. My job, then, is to push right back on those goalposts, and to insist that David’s “Network” is the work of a far-right ideologue. More than this, it’s the work of a far-right ideologue who desperately needs to disavow the intimate ideological connections between the Islamist far right and the American far right.
DH: Michael’s comment about Barbra Streisand and Zarqawi is unintelligible. To say that two people share some views – in this case opposition to American policy in Iraq – is not the same as saying that any critic of policy is an ally of Zarqawi.
MB: No, it is David’s comment about Barbra Streisand and Zarqawi that is unintelligible. (The comment was this: “It should be obvious that even the otherwise innocent Barbra Streisand shares negative views of the Bush Administration and its mission of liberating Iraq with anti-American jihadists like the aforementioned [Abu Musab] Zarqawi, even though we are sure that she deplores some of his methods.”) David’s remark clearly implies that if one opposes the war in Iraq, one necessarily endorses “some views” espoused by people who have no conceivable contact with any progressive/left American project whatsoever—like Zarqawi. On the contrary, part of our criticism of the war in Iraq is that the Bush Administration bungled an opportunity to launch a strike against Zarqawi because it was so obsessed with Saddam Hussein.
DH: As I have explained before (Why We Are In Iraq) not all criticism is the same. Calling Bush Hitler is one kind of criticism, calling him mistaken is quite another.
MB: Calling Bush Hitler is foolish.
DH: And there are many gradations in between. My comment was made to answer the specific question: why are these two people, Zarqawi and Streisand, in the same database? It is a question the left really has to answer rather than me. How can people who claim to be for women’s rights, gay rights, equality and freedom have taken sides in the war with the terrorists in Iraq and come down on the anti-American end? I have answered this question in a book, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, that not a single leftist has commented on.
MB: OK, then, consider this a comment. I’ve read that book, and I endorse women’s rights, gay rights, and egalitarian social justice in the following terms: I believe that all humans born have equal entitlement to shelter, sustenance, health care, education, political participation and representation, reciprocal recognition, and respect. So-called “leftists” who make exceptions to this principle when it comes to Cuba and Cambodia are not my allies. But right-wing ideologues who invoke this principle only in order to take cheap potshots at leftists are not even serious interlocutors. David, let me know when you’re willing to endorse my conception of the left. In the meantime, I think the right has to explain why it’s apologized for terror (in Oklahoma City) and torture (in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib) and virulent racism (in South Africa).
DH: I have argued that the left today is largely defined by its oppositions, first to the United States and then to Israel. I have even posted a lengthy analysis of the left’s history from 1945 to the present that was written by an academic leftist for the socialist magazine Dissent that comes to exactly the same conclusions. I would welcome in these pages a leftist response to these conclusions. So far I have not seen any.
The reason why the left’s behavior after 9/11 suggests that a watershed has been passed in the development of the left itself can be understood by referring to the left’s anti-war effort over America’s intervention in Vietnam some forty years ago.
In the Vietnam War the United States was supporting a dictatorship in South Vietnam on the grounds that the dictatorship was anti-Communist. “New Leftists” who believed by and large that Communism was a flawed attempt to create societies governed by the principles of equality and justice had an argument (whether one considers it plausible or not) for opposing the United States defense of the South Vietnamese regime. Perhaps (so they reasoned) a victory for the guerrilla forces of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam would mean the emergence of a society that honored the principles of equality and justice. This an was incentive to see that America was defeated. And this indeed is the delusional vision that motivated people like Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda other anti-war activists.
MB: Millions of Americans opposed that war not because they desired an NLF victory, but because they feared—in terms that the late George Kennan would surely understand—that the US war in Vietnam would lead us to become more, rather than less, like our enemies who were fighting proxy wars around the globe. And millions of Americans opposed that war on the pragmatic ground that it was not, in fact, critical to the outcome of the Cold War. As I’ve said to you before, David, in one respect the antiwar left has been pretty clearly vindicated on the subject of Vietnam: that war was not, after all, crucial for U.S. national security or to the fate of the free world. We could have walked away in 1954 or 1964 instead of 1975, and the Berlin Wall would still have come down in 1989, the Soviet Union would still have collapsed in 1991. And there would be 58,000 more Americans – and roughly a million more Vietnamese – around to watch it happen.
It is true that some New Leftists, in the “network” you once inhabited, were NLF supporters. Had I been 10 or 20 years older at the time, I would have criticized them.
DH: But in Iraq, America set out to overthrow a dictatorship not defend one. What could saving Saddam Hussein – which was the practical goal of the anti-war left – mean but more corpses shoveled into mass graves, more human beings stuffed into plastic shredders and more terror generally for the Iraqi people. In Iraq the United States overthrew a monster regime, and liberated women and Iraq’s minorities—and the left did everything in its power to prevent this.
MB: I am glad that Saddam has been captured. I wish that it could have happened in a way that did not so dramatically compromise the United States’ standing in world affairs—and this is not a trivial matter, because the US’ standing in world affairs will set the conditions for our ability to act effectively against al-Qaeda in the future. But has this war really liberated women in Iraq? David, you’d be wise to be more circumspect about this; you might wind up being disappointed by your new Shi’ite friends. And you might do well to read more deeply in the history of Iraq since 1920.
In the meantime, I salute all the American leftists who opposed Saddam throughout the 1980s, when Reagan and Rumsfeld were making their marriages of convenience in the face of the Iranian Revolution.
DH: Some leftists actively support what they call the Iraqi “resistance,” led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Others like Barbra Streisand and Michael Berube don’t like Zarqawi or Saddam but they seem to fear George Bush even more. More importantly they have put their political bodies on the line first to obstruct America’s war of liberation and save Saddam’s oppressive regime, and then to denigrate and undermine America’s post-war effort to consolidate its victory, an effort which if successful would allow Zarqawi to emerge as the ruling power in Iraq.
MB: This is beyond nonsense. As a supporter of the US-led overthrow of the Taliban and as a liberal-progressive opponent of al-Qaeda, I opposed the war in Iraq because I believed that it would not advance our goals of marginalizing and defeating Islamist extremism. And I argued that it was foolish for Bush to ignore Zarqawi in his drive to invade Iraq.
I believe that American military and intelligence resources should have been deployed to capture bin Laden and Zarqawi. David offers apologies for the policies that have left both of them free men—and then he impugns my patriotism. You’ll forgive me if I find this hard to believe.
DH: So it’s not really I and the DiscoverTheNetwork team who have to defend our decision to include Zarqawi and Streisand in the broad networks that link disparate elements of the left. Rather it’s leftists like Michael Berube who have to explain to us why they are engaging in a political course of action which if successful would strength the global Islamic jihad and its misogynist, homophobic and reactionary agendas.
MB: No, I’ve made it quite clear, time and time again, that I oppose violent, ultrareligious patriarchy at home and abroad. Let me know when you’re willing to disavow misogynist, homophobic and reactionary forces in the US.
[Then there’s a brief exchange in which I mention David’s Salon essay in defense of Pinochet; FrontPage kept that part of the debate intact. And then they ran David’s reply in full – it runs another six paragraphs after the one below – while cutting my three-paragraph response.]
DH: Well of course I specifically did not defend Pinochet in the article he refers to; in fact I specifically criticized Pinochet. What I did that upset Michael was to point out that Pinochet left his country prosperous and democratic (he voluntarily submitted to a referendum which he lost) and contrast this to the fact that Castro is the longest surviving dictator in the world and has made his country dramatically poorer than it was when he took power. For this Michael called me a Nazi (to be precise he said he couldn’t wait for my next article defending the Third Reich). Now that’s what I call blurring distinctions Michael, and I have to say it is pretty much a staple of the arguments of the left.
MB: OK, it’s time to draw some distinctions—at last! I did not call David a Nazi—though I’ve now heard from two sources that he’s made this claim on his tours through our nation’s college campuses. But I certainly did argue that all of David’s arguments in favor of Pinochet (whom, in all fairness, he did “criticize,” in the course of arguing that Pinochet had been good for Chile) could be made a fortiori for Hitler, who certainly improved the German economy and—unlike Pinochet—was actually elected to office.
But what David refuses to acknowledge here is that I have criticized Castro again and again—not only in the 1990s, but much more recently, when, at the outset of Gulf War II, Fidel imprisoned 80 dissenters and executed three people who’d tried to hijack a ferry to the US. The contrast really couldn’t be clearer: I criticize dictators on my left, and David offers half-hearted “criticisms” of a right-wing torturer who “left his country prosperous and democratic.”
I have no problem with the disavowal of extremists to my left; I encourage David to disavow extremists on the right. Break the links between your network and Pinochet’s—and the links between your network and Gary Bauer’s or Randall Terry’s. Anytime in the next few months would be fine.
– And that’s all, folks. A pretty substantial set of edits, if you ask me. Instead, all you’ll find at FrontPage is my summary remark,
The American right needs to dissociate itself from:
– the torture and murder of random Iraqis and Afghans
– its support of South African apartheid
– its support of violent, ultrareligious homophobic patriarchs in the US
– its support of violent, ultrareligious homophobic patriarchs abroad.
Until it does, I’m going to persist in thinking that its recent endorsements of “freedom” are hollow and meaningless.
Followed by Glazov’s line, “And yet, this is all you have to contibute [sic] to what was supposed to be an intellectual dialogue” and David Horowitz’s more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger remark about how he’s disappointed but not surprised by my failure to show up.
So what do you think, dear readers? Do you think David is going to disavow any of his friends in the far-right network anytime soon? I don’t, and here’s why: though he never tires of asking me to dissociate myself from leftists with whom I have no connection in the first place, David doesn’t disavow people on the far right. On the contrary, he hires them (remember, he gave Ann Coulter a job after she was fired from the National Review back in the fall of 2001 – yes, he’s even lower on the food chain than Jonah Goldberg) and, even more important, he answers to them. Remember, the day he says one bad word about the religious right in this country, or the day he demurs in the slightest about our very own domestic right-wing terrorists and their enablers, that’s the day his sugar daddies at the Bradley and Scaife foundations cut him off and toss him out of his “center.” That’s why he wouldn’t answer my challenges; indeed, that’s why he wouldn’t do so much as print them.
I think we’re finally getting to the real reason David hates professors so much. It has nothing to do with our salaries or our working hours: he hates our freedom. Horowitz knows perfectly well that I can criticize the Cockburns and Churchills to my left and the Beinarts and Elshtains to my right any old time I choose, and that at the end of the day I’ll still have a job – whereas he has to answer to all his many masters, fetching and rolling over whenever they blow that special wingnut whistle that only far-right lackeys can hear. It’s not a very dignified way to live, and surely it takes its toll on a person’s sense of self-respect.
With respect to the issue of self-respect, here’s the giveaway: think about how often Horowitz complains that the intellectual left doesn’t take him seriously, doesn’t read his books, and so on. What’s weird about this, you’ll probably have noticed by now, is that American left intellectuals are just about the only thinkers who pay any attention to Horowitz at all. Most of the country’s serious intellectual conservatives consider him either a useful rabble-rouser or a rank embarrassment, more akin to Michael Savage than to Michael Oakeshott. And with good reason.
So let that be my final word on David Horowitz. From now on, those of you who want to refer to him on this blog should simply use the terms “far-right lackey” or “sorry old fraud.” We’ll know who you mean.
UPDATE: In other news, Billmon has it right: hitting people with pies is really stupid. And he’s right about everything else, too.
UPDATED UPDATE: In comments, Alex has a very interesting piece of news:
I sent an email to frontpage and actually got a prompt reply! Here it is, verbatim from Jamie Glazov:
“there has been a mix-up and this will all be corrected very shortly. No worries, you will see Michael’s full answer and David’s response.”
So there you have it . . . that’s quite some mix-up though, to accidentally remove key paragraphs from your opponent’s responses. Damn computers.
And as I replied to Alex in comments, that’s quite some mix-up to lose all those paragraphs from my e-mail—and then predicate the entire exchange, as FrontPage did, on the claim that “the left has become so intellectually lazy from years of talking to itself (and ‘at’ everyone else) that it has lost the ability to conduct an intellectual argument with its opponents.”
If this is a mix-up, and an honest one, then of course I will withdraw the charge of fraud, and I certainly expect them to withdraw the charge of intellectual laziness. I have to say, though, that I don’t get it. Perhaps the fact that I interlineated my response to David threw them off? But that doesn’t make any sense, for four reasons: one, I’ve interlineated responses to their questions before. I do believe it is standard practice in long e-mail communications that attempt to simulate “dialogue,” after all. Two, they sent me a 3200-word e-mail and I returned to them a 4300-word email. In other words, I added about 1100 words to the exchange, and the return e-mail was quite obviously substantially longer as a result. I’ve gone over the text many times (oy), and I don’t see how someone could think that I’d replied with only a single, snippy, off-topic paragraph. Three, I had no other feasible way to respond to the scope and breadth of David’s remarks except by interlineating. Replying at the very end of all his remarks would have made hash of the exchange (and, in fact, I thought I was doing Mr. Glazov a favor by lining up the various arguments point by point and replying to each one). Four, a full eight days had elapsed between March 25, when Glazov sent me David’s remarks, and April 3, when I sent my reply. During that time, Glazov sent me two prompts (gracious ones), and I assured him I was working on the reply but would need a few days. It doesn’t make sense that I would wait a week in the course of this exchange and then reply to David’s many charges with a single paragraph.
At the same time, it doesn’t make sense that they would pull a stunt that would allow me such a slam-dunk response, either. As I said above, they printed everything written by all parties in the 2003 forum, and whatever else one can say about FrontPage (and there is plenty!), they do not have a history of legerdemain on this order.