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Friday, February 25, 2005

New look, same topic

Hi, folks!  it’s the new Iron Grey Winter version of this blog, replacing the chirpy, sunny, lighthearted summer-in-Paris version of this blog.  And in keeping with the season, it’s time to respond to David Horowitz’s response to Wednesday’s post.  Here we go!

David writes: 

Michael Bérubé has written a blog response to my comments in Frontpage about our picture grid which has got leftists like him climbing walls.  It’s not much of a response since it merely repeats the same squeal about putting radical Islamicists in the same database (and therefore on the same picture grid) as Michael Moore, Ward Churchill and Barbra Streisand.  But of course Moore and Churchill are on the record as supporters of the Zarqawi “resisters” referred to by them as “patriots” and “revolutionaries” and deserved avengers of “root causes"– and of course so are a very large number of leftists.

Well, that explains why Roger Ebert and Barack Obama on are that page!  Who can forget Ebert’s incendiary review of 28 Days Later, the one that began, “All power to the patriotic revolutionaries of the Iraqi Maquis!  May al-Sadr and his resistance sweep through the imperialist occupation forces like the biological agent in this film sweeps through the decadent British Isles!” Of course, calling for the withdrawal of US troops isn’t quite the same thing as supporting Zarqawi; on the contrary, a very large number of leftists complained bitterly that the incompetent Bush/Cheney crew let Zarqawi get away in the course of “planning” their botched war in Iraq.  Do you remember that, folks?  I remember it.

Of course there are leftists who are not supporters of the radical Islamicists, but so what? As I pointed out, Stalin put an ice pick in Trotsky’s head for calling for a revolution against Stalin’s police state. Does that mean one shouldn’t put them in a database on Communism and post their pictures on the same Communist grid?

It’s a fair cop.  The analogy to Sean Penn and the Ayatollah Khomeini pretty much speaks for itself.  Though it was unclear just who had the ice pick.  No, wait, that was Basic Instinct.

The striking thing about Bérubé’s response is his unwillingness to join the intellectual argument.

Damn, this humble blog doesn’t know anything about intellectual argumentin’!  You’ve all come to the wrong place for that kind of thing.  But then, I didn’t realize there was an intellectual argument here.  I thought Horowitz was complaining, last time around, that people like me had “seized on a quirk in the format, an entirely innocent feature of the site”– yes, I do believe those were the exact words– 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 he tells me that there was an intellectual argument at work after all, and that there apparently are organizational links or common agendas or coinciding agendas between these individuals.  Color me confused!

But actually, folks, I think we all know I did join the intellectual argument.  I read David’s response to the critics of his website, and I found it, er, disingenuous.  Apparently he did too, because he’s abandoned that “entirely innocent format quirk” nonsense, and has gotten down to the serious shit-slinging.  Like this:

I have written an entire book called Unholy Alliance:  Radical Islam and American Left which describes the common agendas of the left and analyzes at length the writings of his friend Todd Gitlin who I describe 1) as a leftist who has attacked the Chomsky left (which shares the affinity of Churchill and Moore for our enemies) and 2) yet someone who regards America in terms pretty similar to those of Hamas, Churchill, Chomsky and Moore. Not a single leftist has bothered to engage the views in this book, so why should I expect Bérubé to engage the arguments of my explanation for the inclusiveness of the database.

When someone says that Todd Gitlin “regards America in terms pretty similar to those of Hamas, Churchill, Chomsky and Moore” (and what is it with the Moore obsession, anyway?), no, I don’t take him seriously.  Sorry about that!  I don’t “engage” with people who plaster the subways with wheat-paste posters explaining in six-point print how the Trilateral Commission killed Bruce Lee, and I don’t engage “arguments” like this, either.  That’s how it goes in the real world of intellectual argumentin’.

But of course Bérubé and Gitlin and academics like them inhabit a monolithic academic universe where they don’t have to answer their critics because they’ve effectively purged them from the faculties of the universities they so gracelessly dominate.

Quite true!  I never answer my critics.  But it’s good to see that David’s been reading this blog for a while now.  It was hard work– hard, hard work– purging the English department of its legions of tweedy, meerschaum-chomping Irving Babbitt fans, and then wiping out all the Horowitz moles infesting our graduate program.  But every reign of terror has its good side, too!  Even if we’re a bit graceless about it now and then.

Which brings me to the second and third themes of Bérubé’s blog– I fibbed about my invitation to Hamilton and about my Academic Bill of Rights.  My appearance on O’Reilly did present me with a problem. I had called Maurice Isserman a leftwing academic I knew at Hamilton and asked him to invite me to speak on campus which he graciously did. O’Reilly was asking me a question the gravamen of which is can I get faculty invitations to speak on campuses. I have spoken on somewhere between 250 and 300 college campuses in the last 15 years. The invitation from Isserman is the only faculty invitation I have ever received and I initiated it, forcing Maurice into the position of refusing me or saying yes. He could have refused me but he didn’t, so in writing about it I tried to be gracious to him. On O’Reilly I didn’t have time to explain all this and so I glossed over it because it was truer to say that I had to be invited by students (and the second time I went that was exactly the case) than to say the faculty there-- the Kirkland project in particular, which is what we were talking about-- would invite me.

Oh, please.  O’Reilly said,”but it is to Hamilton’s credit that you were invited to speak there, correct?” Exactly how much time do you need to say, “why, yes”? 

Enough of this silly stuff, folks– yes, even I have my limits when it comes to silly stuff!  The real issue is this.  Some years ago, I referred to David Horowitz as a former member of the “far left.” By this I meant that he stayed with the Panthers for years after every sane leftist in America realized that they’d degenerated into a handful of paramilitary thugs, and now he goes around blaming the rest of the sixties left for his own hideous political judgment.  This made him mad, understandably enough, and he insisted to me that he was never a member of the far left, by which he meant groups like the Weathermen.  Fine, so be it.  Let’s grant David the distinction, and let’s call him a former member of the “almost far left” instead of the “far left.” And yet his database– like so much of his work after the attacks of September 11– is designed not merely to blur the distinction between the far left and the far far far left, but between the far left and goddamn Barack Obama, Barbra Streisand, and Bill Moyers.  “It should be obvious,” David writes, “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 Zarqawi, even though we are sure that she deplores some of his methods.” So there it is– anyone with negative views of the Bush Administration, anyone who opposed this war, is in cahoots with Zarqawi. You don’t see what’s wrong with that, well, that’s your business, but don’t complain when sane leftists respond to this nonsense with squeals of outrage– or, here on this blog, howls of laughter (read the comments again, David!  they’re really very funny.  Ishtar of the Internets– damn, I wish I’d said that).  Don’t complain when we don’t engage “arguments” that are patently ridiculous.  And don’t complain– on your way from the Ohio state legislature to Fox News to the Colorado state legislature, eking out an existence on the very margins of American society– that you aren’t getting more speaking invitations from the very people you insult and slander.

Posted by Michael on 02/25 at 10:04 AM
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