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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Networking

Hi again, Horowitz fans!  This fierce and shallow blog is sorry it’s taken so long (in blog days) to get back to David’s one-short-step-from-rabid attack on me last week, but I perversely decided to finish rewriting three chapters of Liberal Arts instead, and just last night I sent it off to my editor.  Finally!  There is much rejoicing in this house.  But, David, it’s not like I haven’t been thinking about you, dear– in fact, if you like, you can consider Liberal Arts a 90,000-word reply directed to you, and to you alone.

All right, then.  If you’re ready, so am I.  Welcome to the Renard News Channel, David Horowitz!  Let’s see what you have to say for yourself today.

Professor Michael Berube is one of many fierce and shallow critics of our new database—DiscoverTheNetwork, which is a comprehensive guide to the political left. In a recent attack on our site (on March 2) he reveals once again the intellectual laziness of the left when it comes to engaging opponents in, well, intellectual argument. On the other hand, tenured radicals like Berube have lifetime jobs and captive audiences, so what is their incentive not to be lazy?

That’s kind of mean, David, and entre nous, mean people are one of my biggest turn-offs.  Really, you have to get over your bitterness and resentment of academe.  It’s not healthy!  People who have their very own, right-wing-foundation-subsidized media empires, base salaries over $300,000, and $5000 speaking fees really shouldn’t complain so much about the working conditions of teachers.  Besides, everyone knows I am not lazy.  And you, especially, should know better: after all, I’ve now read more of your recent work than anyone who doesn’t work for you.  Here I am doing all the hard work of picking apart your latest, most appalling attempt to smear liberals and progressives, and you call me “mindless.” Where is the gratitude?  Where is the love? 

Seriously, David, it’s not a pretty sight to see your essay chug along, and to watch the wheels come off one by one.  First there’s the bizarre and quite foolish claim that “Berube and other leftists guffawed over the presence of Barbra Streisand and Katie Couric in the base, as though no one could take these women seriously (imagine if conservatives had tried that).” David, my man, you have to remember that the Internets are an amazing thing: you’re not just talking to your captive audience over there at FrontPage.  Your claim that I objected to the presence of Couric and Streisand in your database on the grounds that “no one could take these women seriously” can also be read by sane people on other sites, like this one; likewise, that high-pitched, pre-adolescent whine, “imagine if conservatives had tried that,” can be heard around the world.  You need to get a grip!  People are watching!

Then there’s the line, “Since Berube and his friends can’t be bothered to supply an argument, I will do it for them.” David, David.  How soon we forget! It was only a month ago that this humble and almost infinitely patient blog pointed out that you’d opened your defense of the “network” by insisting that your critics had “seized on a quirk in the format, an entirely innocent feature of the site” and that “the mere listing of these figures in the database was not intended to suggest that there are organizational links or common agendas or coinciding agendas between these individuals.” Now, go and read the rest of my post from February 25– I’ll wait right here– and you’ll find that there is indeed an argument there.  I’ll even compose another version of it here, in response to the most incendiary charge you’ve lobbed my way:

radicals like Berube can’t be bothered to actually read or respond rationally to anything that ruffles their progressive feathers, let alone be concerned about the fact that their entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook. (Doubters can consult the archives of The Nation, The Progressive and any number of leftwing sites on the web to confirm the negative posture of progressives towards the war on terror and their sympathetic back-bending for terrorists.) Naturally, not a single leftwing journal or blogger, for that matter, so much as noticed Unholy Alliance, or addressed its arguments, despite the fact that there is no better known critic of the left than myself and Unholy Alliance makes the same claims that now incite them. It is only because I have now constructed a website with pictures reflecting the same conclusions that they have been roused from their torpors.

At this point, it looks like things are getting really ugly, so we’ll turn away from David for a while and address ourselves to our readers and viewers at home.

Two things strike me about this paragraph.  First, as I’ve noted before, this hermeneutically conservative blog does not psychoanalyze people at great distances; we believe that only Charles Krauthammer has that power.  But all the same, I’ve got to say that the final two sentences of this passage are a little . . . hmm, grandiose?  Readers, I turn this one over to you: what’s with this complaint that we’re not paying enough attention to the best-known critic of the left?

Second, if there are any lawyers reading this back-bending blog, can you tell me more about the claim that my “entire political focus since 9/11 has been in getting our terrorist enemies off the hook”?  Exactly how close is this to libel?  I’m just curious.

Now, let’s get serious here, once more with feeling. “Discover the Network” is an attempt to delegitimate and slander everyone to the left of Joe Lieberman, an attempt to construe all criticism of the Bush Administration– even that of George Clooney– as tantamount to treason.  David himself says as much:  “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.” By that standard, anyone with negative views of the Bush administration or the war in Iraq is an ally of Zarqawi.  This mode of argumentation– construing liberal dissenters as supporters of terrorists– is not merely unreasonable; it is, I submit, altogether inappropriate for people living in republics and democracies.

It’s one thing to associate Brian Becker, Ramsey Clark, or Lynne Stewart with political Islamists; these people truly have gone around the bend, and are making what amounts to a red-brown alliance between the far far left and the far far right of Islamism.  It’s quite another thing– an indefensible thing, at least by the standards of decent people– to suggest, as this database does, that there is a “network” linking people like Katie Couric to Mohammed Atta, Zacarias Moussaoui to Roger Ebert.  So this “network” deliberately and systematically confuses the distinction between people who criticize Lynne Stewart and Ramsey Clark and people who support them, and this fact alone renders the very idea of a “network” incoherent. 

To associate me (or Roger Ebert or Ted Kennedy or Ruth Bader Ginsburg) with such fringe far-leftists is to partake of precisely the same “logic” as that of the fringe far-left itself:  for Becker and Clark, the enemy of their enemy is their friend, and they welcome figures like Milosevic or al-Sadr, because anyone who opposes the U.S. must be all right with them.  In so doing, they forfeit their moral authority to oppose totalitarianism, torture, and terrorism throughout the world.  (And I invite everyone on the Right to join me in opposing all three!  Anyone?) Likewise, in “Discover the Network,” anyone who does not support George Bush and the war in Iraq is part of a “network” that extends to al-Qaeda.  It’s the same fundamentalist logic, and it entails the same forfeiture of moral authority.

Not that David Horowitz had much moral authority to begin with.  For while he’s going on about how Barack Obama is linked to Osama bin Laden, and “leftist professors like Michael Berube” are “linked by one or two degrees of separation to long-standing radicals like Lynne Stewart– and thus no more than three degrees– to terrorists like Omar Abdul Rachman and his Islamic Group,” David ignores (or is simply ignorant of) the fact that progressives like me have been absolutely consistent in condemning human rights abuses on both the right and the left, whether committed by Pinochet or Milosevic, contras or Castro.  Meanwhile, David hasn’t exactly been working with the same moral scale.  When it comes to dictatorships, David has what we might call, with apologies to Jeane Kirkpatrick, double standards.  As Horowitz wrote in 1998:

Looking back now, we can see that Pinochet was good for Chile.

Pinochet’s dictatorship does not compromise any conservative expectations in the way that Castro’s dictatorship compromises the visions of the left.

Whew!  Talk about three degrees of separation.  And now this guy, Friend of Augusto, is calling on people like Tom Brokaw to repudiate their “network” connections to Fidel Castro?

However, just as the last wheel spins off Horowitz’s shabby vehicle, I find one small grain of truth in his critique of me.  David writes:

What people like Berube don’t seem to understand is that politics is, in the end, a serious business.  When Berube and his friends opposed America’s Cold War with the Communist enemy, the consequences of their actions were dire indeed. In Cambodia and South Vietnam, Berube and his fellow leftists– including John Kerry and Ted Kennedy– are accountable for making it possible for the Communists to slaughter two-and-a-half million innocent people after U.S. aid was cut at their insistence.

He’s got me there, folks.  Not many people know this, but when I was ten years old, I took some time away from playing hockey at the New York Rangers’ summer camp in New Hyde Park, Long Island in order to call for a “bloodbath in the rice paddies” of Southeast Asia.  It was a youthful indiscretion, and I am sorry for it.

Actually, as I wrote to David three years ago, the antiwar left has been pretty clearly vindicated on the subject of Vietnam:  that war was not, after all, critical to 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.

There were, of course, millions upon millions of patriotic Americans who opposed Soviet Communism but did not believe that the Vietnam War was just or necessary.  Horowitz has no right to smear them, either.  For as long as he maintains his own unholy alliances, David Horowitz simply has no moral authority to speak of the slaughter of innocents– in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in Chile, in Guatemala, in South Africa, anywhere.  And his equation of domestic dissent with treason is, quite literally, un-American. That’s the case that liberals, progressives, and leftists need to make about this so-called “network.”

Posted by Michael on 03/22 at 02:19 PM
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