September 02, 2004

Hold Me, Mommy, I'm Scared

Lately I've picked up, in the course of my blog-reading, a pretty nonsensical, faintly vulgar, and probably blasphemous little expression that the boyfriend has been begging me to delete from my vocabulary. I'm terrible like that: A phrase will often lodge itself in some part of my brain that finds it fun to say, even if the rest of me thinks it's a damned stupid and/or offensive thing to say; then I go through a phase where I can't stop saying it for awhile.

Thanks to Andrea Harris, I've just had occasion to utter it again. I couldn't help it. It fairly exploded from my mouth and I'm certain it came direct from the brain stem.

See, it seems the only thing we have to fear--we who cherish freedom of expression, right?--is Zell Miller making a speech at the Republican convention. Somewhere in his notes I suspect Welch has a list:

Top Ten Things Less Scary Than Zell Miller

10. Cockroaches. Cockroaches in your ears.
9. Impalement.
8. Hook on car door handle after late-night back seat makeout session in deserted park.
7. A Nightmare on Elm Street.
6. Demonic possession.
5. The Gulag Archipelago.
4. Zombies.
3. Jenna and Barbara.
2. Global thermonuclear war.

. . . and the number one thing less scary than Zell Miller . . .


So forgive my extremely limited vocabulary while I revert to an old castoff vulgar expression I was once in love with but I mean, what the fucking fuck? Look, it clears my head to say it, all right. And the more I re-read the post and the comments the more I'm convinced it deserves no better response anyway.

(Aside: When I quoted Ken Layne's recent lament that weblogs have become "lame copies of the shrill, humorless and worthless American Monopoly Daily Op-Ed Column Left / Column Right pages," I had no idea he meant his own blog. Where do you even start with this? "Jeb calls it for his brother?" I'm becoming increasingly convinced that Jeb Bush could have hung himself--preferably after shouting, "Recusal? Recusal's fer sissies!" or something similarly horrifying to the Oh-my-Gawd-did-he-just-say-something-redneck? crowd--the moment the Florida problem became apparent, and some folks would still chant the mantra that Jeb gave his brother the presidency . . . as what, a housewarming gift? Again, what the fucking fuck? If you want to talk about how Katherine Harris, as a chief participant in W's Florida campaign, should have recused herself immediately, okay, fine, I'm with you on that. I can see the reasoning. But that's not nearly as fun to say as "Looks like Jeb done give th' presidency to his brother," I guess.)

Welch begins with some preemptive ass-covering, noting that he's tired and, besides, if he really went on about everything that freaks him about Zell Miller, it'd be a feature-length article. (Have I ever told you how much I love whining journalists? Remind me to tell you sometime. They are very near and dear to my humble lil' heart. Him works so hard, him does.) Welch's principal objections:

So, let's start off with an easy one:

President Roosevelt, in his speech that summer [of 1940], told America "all private plans, all private lives, have been in a sense repealed by an overriding public danger."

Can you see how this sentiment, intended as a useful comparison to our current times, might give a libertarian-leaning fellow some pause?

Indeed I can--indeed, I think even a schmuck like FDR could, which I think is why the sentence contains the caveat "in a sense." As in, don't take it literally? Yeah, but what do I know from reading comprehension. Moving right along:

I want the government to take important steps protecting us from terrorism, even going to war if absolutely necessary, but I won't have my private plans, let alone all private lives overridden in that cause's name.
Do not you dare fuck with Matt Welch's private plans, government, you hear me? Matt Welch's private plans are very important. Matt Welch's private plans are way more important than your petty concerns about "terrorists" trying to "kill people," or "whatever."

I know my private life is pretty all-fired important. Yours probably is too. Thus we should all keep sticking it to The Man and not let him, I don't know, make us take our shoes off in airport security lines or whatever it is The Man likes to do to keep oppressing We The People . . . I'm not exactly clear on that part on account of not feeling particularly oppressed lately. Anyway:

When the government "ovverrides" us in the name of war, then the terrorists truly have etc.
The terrorists should also truly surrender control of Welch's "v" key.
Also, I might add, this is neither required nor remotely effective, and the fact that the party of limited government (snicker) finds such twaddle appealing -- and has in fact used similar justifications for any number foolish power-grabs, from expanding government secrecy to placing detainees in legal limbo, is both scary and topical.
So we've got a Democrat quoting another Democrat, and that leads to the inescapable conclusion that Republicans are the chief party of government power-grabs. No amount of insomnia can explain this paragraph.

More Welch-quoting-Zell, now:

there is no better example of someone repealing their "private plans" than this good man [Wendell Wilkie; Republican nominee in 1940]. He gave Roosevelt the critical support he needed for a peacetime draft.

First of all, there have been plenty of greater sacrifices made in history than a presidential candidate agreeing with the incumbent about some issue. Pat Tillman strikes me as having sacrificed a good deal more -- for instance, his multi-million-dollar football career, and his life -- than losing a political campaign he was likely to lose anyway (though, for old hacks like Miller, it's not surprising that losing an election is somehow worse than death).

Okay: "No better example" is an unfortunate choice of words if the point of Miller's speech was to rank and quantify sacrifices made in times of war.

If, however--now stay with me here--if the point of Miller's speech was rather to remind people how, in days gone by, partisanship could be temporarily laid aside in favor of demonstrating a little unity in the face of a common threat . . . you see how that works? It's called demonstrating verbal comprehension at an adult level, versus nitpicking modifying phrases like "no better example." This is better known colloquially as "getting the point."

Well, we soldier on, with apologies for using scary, militaristic words like "soldier," of course. Grab your binky if you're feeling terrified:

More importantly, this is a friendly contemporary reference to a war draft, which is an idea I hope never regains one inch of traction in this country. If, as the Republicans have been saying all week, the WoT is just like WWII and the Cold War, why, after all, shouldn't we be applying the same policies? I'll answer: Because I don't want the government forcing its citizens to kill strangers, period. Again, this is also a lousy way to win wars.
"Lousy" is right. I mean heh-indeed-exactly.

But you know, I'm not sure I'm in favor of bringing back the draft either--nor (again) is that the point. The point is that people used to cross that partisan divide and now they don't much anymore (and oh yes, we can point fingers at the Republican side of the aisle for this problem too, but again: Not the point. Hey, did you notice it was called the Republican convention?) and Zell wishes they would. Okay? That's the point. If you want to read the resurrection of the draft into that you go right on ahead but then, you know something?--It's no wonder you can't sleep.

Which reminds me: One of the reasons I periodically have to quit reading the news and the weblogs and anything remotely political, really, is there's so much projection going on, by both sides, and it drives me crazy. Though they're underrepresented on the blogroll (that thing's grown way too big for my tastes; could some of you maybe take up other, nonwriting hobbies?), I do read a fair number of left-leaning blogs, and I don't mean Michael Totten.

One of the ideas I come across all the time on that side--and in the mainstream media--is that Republicans speak the language of fear. Republicans want you to vote for Bush out of fear, they're trying to make you afraid, they're trying to terrorize you . . . .

. . . I mean, can you see, then, how some lefties jump from this framing-everything-in-the-context-of-fear idea straight to "Bush is the real terrorist?" It's not that great a leap, really. The it'd-be-funny-if-it-weren't-so-damn-sad part is, no one I know on the right is terrified, and I don't use terms like "all" or "no one" lightly. I literally do not know one single (pick yer adjective) conservative, Republican, or hell, I don't even know any left-leaning hawks who are terrified. Let's dig up the old Lileks quote on this one:

The words TERROR ALERT: HIGH on the TV crawl annoy me, because Iím not terrorized. Iím wary and pissed off, but Iím not terrorized.
Exactly. If Bush is playing the fear card, it isn't working very well. Thus my conclusion that when some on the left speak of Bush creating a climate of fear in the U.S., they're really articulating a warped projection of their own fears of a Bushitler police state.

But maybe that quote isn't relevant. After all, it's from long ago, from back in the days when Welch wasn't seeing nightmare visions of the man his buddy Layne called "that nigger-hating piece of crap"* under every bed, around every corner, through every window OH MUMMY MUMMY MAKE THE BAD MANS GO AWAAAAAY . . . .

Where were we? Right. Welch on Miller's assertion that "our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrat's manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief":

More importantly, his embarrassing hyperbolizing of what the other mainstream presidential candidate has done -- has he really torn apart this nation? -- has the consequence and direct intended effect of shutting down criticism of the Commander in Chief. Again, not something to be welcomed, and again, something that is directly deleterious to the War on Terror.
Here's the deal: I don't think Kerry's torn apart the nation. He'd have to have much bigger hands for one, hardy-har-har. But look, I try to spend time, occasionally, in reality-land, where I sometimes stumble across all kinds of ugly that I can't ignore, like:
The Portland, Ore., chapter of posted the news of Tillman's death accompanied by this headline: "Dumb Jock Killed in Afghanistan." Some who posted comments suggested alternate titles for the piece, like "Privileged Millionaire, Blinded by Nationalist Mythology, Pisses Away the Good Life," "Cottled Sports Star Allows Nationalism to Foster Jingoistic Irresponsibility Resulting in His Death," and "Capitalist Chooses to Kill Innocents Instead of Cashing Check."

. . .

In 2002, the left-leaning Ford Foundation gave Indymedia $50,000. The Tides Foundation has donated $376,000 to Indymedia, according to Two of the biggest donors to the Tides Foundation? George Soros, who has given over $15 million to Democratic causes during this election cycle, and Teresa Heinz Kerry. Ralph Nader is one of Indymedia's biggest supporters; his group, Public Citizen, is listed as on as an "ally."

Indymedia is no small-potatoes venture. Aside from its Web sites based in 50 major American markets, it also has Web sites located in five chapters in Africa, 13 in Canada, 39 in Europe, 15 in Latin America, eight in Asia, and nine in Oceania.

The Indymedia list of allies is impressive as well. It lists groups like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Adbusters, ZNet, the Institute for Public Accuracy, and Corporate Watch.

I know what you're gonna say: "Indymedia isn't the mainstream media!" Well, for a group that isn't "the mainstream media," they certainly do have their share of mainstream supporters with fat bank accounts. I mean, the Ford Foundation?

An argument of some duration that was never really resolved erupted once between myself and a family member. I said Democrat criticisms of the war would gain more traction with me if they'd tone down the hateful rhetoric; he said bitching about the hateful rhetoric was merely a Republican tactic used to stifle debate, to shut down all criticism of the war. The hate, he said, was a change of subject.

I could not ultimately convince him that I was not consciously employing a tactic. I could not ultimately convince another human being that actually as a matter of fucking fact if something I read gives me an ulcer, I'm less likely to read it. I mean it was like the concept of "it's not what you say, it's how you say it" just up and died. It was like marketing never made it to this galaxy.

The hate is not a change of subject to people like me. The hate is what cost the left its credibility way back when, back when most members of the mainstream media gave their full support and encouragement to the war in Afghanistan . . . .

You guys don't get it, do you? You blew it then. I was tired of the hand-wringing and the what-iffing and the Chicken-Littling and the jumping at things that go bump in the night three years ago. And what has the response been since then? What has been the response to people largely ignoring this excessively-fearful behavior?--Turn the hate up louder until those ignorant war-crazed creatures have to listen. Turn the hate up to 11.

I'm not saying Welch is hateful. I'm saying when Miller talks about Democrats "tearing apart" the nation, he's talking about the Soros and the Sontags and the Boyds and all the other loyal little pieces of the Democratic propaganda machine who never waste neither a dime nor a minute savaging All Things Bush/Cheney. And if sometimes a few dead soldiers and terror widows get in the way, why, they're just collateral damage.

That was the point.

Look, I'm almost done. Swear. But I can't miss this, Welch's response to Miller's assertion that "it has been said so truthfully that it is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech:"

This, my friends, is militaristic bullshit, and if any of you applauded these lines, you ought to be embarrassed.
Yeah, how dare anyone applaud someone giving his life for his country. Tres tacky.
It is the Constitution that gave us freedom of speech and assembly,
No, actually that was the Creator, and I'm sorry if I've just upset any no-God people in the house but really, you gotta take that one up with the Founding Fathers, not me, because that was their idea. The Constitution merely attempted to restrict government from infringing on those unalienable rights, and do I even need to mention that this is something one should grasp before being hired by Reason?
not our great servicemen and women,
If you put words like "great" in front of "servicemen" then it balances out your observation that they're not nearly as cool as "reporters, poets, agitators and protesters." Welch learned that in Fairness 101.
and any politician who doesn't understand that -- while looking back fondly on the military draft, attributing peaceful revolutions to American military buildups, and murmuring with approval at "overriding ... all our private lives" -- should be voted out of office with gusto, and forced to do late-night cable shows with Arianna Huffington.
I'm pretty sure Miller understands the importance of the Constitution as a document restricting the power and reach of government. I'm pretty sure he gets that. What I'm not sure Welch gets is that it's difficult to exercise freedom of speech at gunpoint, or aboard a plane bound for the North Tower, or at the point of an Exacto blade; which is why the abililty of the military to point guns back at the people who first pointed guns at us does much more to secure and protect those rights than walking around Manhattan with a "God Hates Bush" sign does.
So, this is why I found it frightening. The phony and monstrous world of militaristic government expansion that Miller conjures up is one I would refuse to live in, though thankfully it won't come to that, and the fact that national politicians who currently run the free world find it persuasive makes me shudder with revulsion.
"The phony and monstrous world of militaristic government expansion" is one Welch has conjured up, not Miller. You've only to read the transcript to see that.

Unless you're very tired, very fearful, and very prone to projection.

UPDATE: I'm cheered to see Reason's RNC blog becoming more reasonable by the minute--hahahahaha! I looked long and hard for the "occasionally funny" commentary promised in the lead, but in the end I was merely reminded that drunk people are never as funny to sober people as they are to each other; I had to content myself with laughing at them. But it felt crummy, like laughing at the guy who vomited in your friend's car that one night.

*Seriously. He said this. Because, you know, there's nothing that says "True Renegade (TM)" more than a white man busting out the n-word.

Posted by Ilyka at September 2, 2004 08:03 PM in hell is other people

Welch forgets, or more likely never learned, that personal isn't the same as important.

Posted by: aelfheld at September 3, 2004 02:31 AM

Wow. Just Wow.

That was the finest, most spot on fisking I've read in ages.

Posted by: Jim at September 3, 2004 03:33 AM

Nicely done. Matt Welch is one reason I don't read Reason anymore, the overriding reason being that no one there knows what reason is anymore.

Did I just use one word four times in one sentence? My Creative Writing 101 teacher would be so disappointed.

Posted by: Mr. Bowen at September 3, 2004 05:22 AM

Remind me never to tick you off!

Posted by: Ith at September 3, 2004 05:58 AM

I think their projection of fear is intentional, i.e., they don't really believe anything this extreme. It's they who are trying to create the climate of fear because they're so intent on getting power. It's ludicrous: it's like they're saying "Be afraid because Bush is trying to make you afraid".

And what has the response been since then? What has been the response to people largely ignoring this excessively-fearful behavior?--Turn the hate up louder until those ignorant war-crazed creatures have to listen. Turn the hate up to 11.

Posted by: Jim C. at September 3, 2004 06:10 AM

I don't have a binky! :(

Tim Blair was not kind to Matt. Nor to Ken Layne, who has truly gone off the deep end.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at September 3, 2004 10:06 AM

Marvelously well done. I'm going to save this and link it on Monday because I get more traffic then and I want as many people as possible to read it.

For three years I've been practically screaming that Democrats just need to come forward with ideas and proposals so they could be talked about. About how respectful dissent is a great thing and we need ideas and visions and competing notions. And instead just listened to do anything they possibly could to tear the President to shreds while we're in the middle of a goddamned war.

Watching them just rip everything regardless of what it was, even if one thing contradicted the other--it really does seem like an internalized fear is all they're about, and that's what REALLY bothers me. Because when you ask them what would not make them afraid, what we could change to make them happier, they have no specific proposal except to tear into the people in charge again.

I've tried it. Just flat out: "The President will do whatever you ask. Anything. What can he do to make you happy?"

"Get another job."

No answer. They don't want anything, they just want to get him. They're just afraid.

I wrote to Ken Layne and mentioned that I called him a bigot over Zell Miller. I do not do that lightly; as a rule I do not call out other bloggers, and when I do I inform them so they'll know and have a chance to defend themselves. Layne's entire response: "Ha! Ha!" That was it. Oookay.

What does it say that so many people are just so incoherent? Is it really that Bush & Co. are that evil? Or is it that they're incoherent because they don't know what they stand for but feel they have to lash out at something?

Posted by: Dean Esmay at September 3, 2004 11:11 AM

"I've tried it. Just flat out: 'The President will do whatever you ask. Anything. What can he do to make you happy?'"

Really? My problems with Bush aren't just over the war, although I disagree with that too. But even ignoring the war, or pretending that I agree with him on that, I can come up with a list of things he could do that would make me happy:

*Don't appoint federal judges that are vehemently anti-choice. We should do what we can to make abortions rare, but what I do with my body or anything inside it is still not the government's business.

*Stop the government supporting religious institutions. This includes his faith based initiatives, school vouchers, school prayer, god on money and in the pledge, etc.

*Fully support gay rights/gay marriage. I still haven't heard any decent argument as to why gay people marrying hurts anybody else in any way.

And I could go on and on. If he would do just one of those things, I'd have a much more favorable opinion of him. I probably still wouldn't vote for him, but I'd like him more.

And just for the record, I sort of liked Zell's speech. I didn't agree with most of what he said, but I do think he's a good speaker.

Posted by: kathy at September 3, 2004 03:58 PM

I still find it amusing, in an ironic fashion, that the pro-abortionists complain about government interference with their bodily integrity when they are the ones who invited the governmental interest in the first place.

As for government support of religious providers of social services, what exactly is the problem with them competing with secular providers of the same services? Religious organisations have an overall better track record than their secular counterparts, and are much less prone to pouring money down rat holes. The biggest problem that I can see is the weakening of the core religious mission.

As for gay marriage, why should President Bush lend his support to a politically motivated redefinition of an age-old institution. There are those of us who support equal enjoyment of civil liberties by all citizens, who nonetheless object to rearranging the culture to satisfy the childish whims of a few.

The Left is a classic example of the folly of paying Danegeld - once you pay the gold, you never get rid of the Dane. If President Bush acquiesced in any of the above demands, he would continue to be derided and at the same time would meet even more outrageous demands. He is better served, as is the country, by rejecting such nonsense.

Posted by: aelfheld at September 3, 2004 05:21 PM

You. Rock.

There are very few people who can blog logically while in a white heat of rage. You are one of them.

Next time you do this I'll hold your coat.

Posted by: Dr. Alice at September 3, 2004 07:39 PM

Pixy - I never knew Ken Layne was so batshit crazy. He still writes well, though, and at least I'm not among the suckas who helped fund his dream of playing rock star for a couple years.

Dean - thanks; I don't deserve it considering how seldom this is updated anymore. As for this question, "What does it say that so many people are just so incoherent?"--damn, man, why don't we just resurrect the great debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, because I have no fucking idea. In fact I've quit asking that; now I just want to know how it ended up in the great genetic lottery that I'm related to so many of them.

Kathy - some of your happies would make me happy too, particularly the choice/gay marriage stuff. I consider the religious right an albatross the Republicans need to quit dragging around, which often makes me unpopular with social conservatives such as--oh, hey, Aelfheld! How you doin'? But Kathy, that you'd at least answer the question ("What do you want the President to do?") takes you out of the category of the completely insane automatically. It's the people who answer, "Drop dead" who worry me.

Dr. Alice - this was not a white-hot rage; I save that for the members of your profession who insist on putting the eye exam under the heading, "ENT: " For the last frigging time, the E in "ENT" stands for ear!

Posted by: ilyka at September 3, 2004 09:23 PM

Well, uh... years ago (decades actually), ENT docs also did eyes. Ophthalmology only became a separate specialty later. Perhaps these guys are throwbacks?

(I know, they just stupid.)

Posted by: Dr. Alice at September 3, 2004 10:04 PM

Thank you. :) Glad to know that I can add one more person to the list of those who don't think I'm a total nutjob.

Posted by: Kathy at September 5, 2004 07:40 PM


Hang on a second while I stand on my chair and applaud. That was one fine rant, that was! I just skimmed it; I'm gonna go back and read it more carefully.

On the subject of who hates whom: I got into some very interesting political arguments this weekend, at a private party I went to. Everyone was reasonable, nobody got personal, no voices got raised, and people restricted themselves to questioning (or defending) Bush's policies, not the man himself.

It was a breath of fresh air, let me tell you, and I took the occasion to say so, more than once!

How did such an outbreak of sanity occur? I dunno. But this might be worth pointing out -- the majority of people at the party (myself not included) were neither Democrats nor Republicans, but Libertarians. As such, maybe they were more inclined to sit in the middle and listen to arguments on both sides.

Regardless of the reason, I think I'll go to their next event and try it again. (I may need another dose of sanity by then!!)

Daniel in Medford

Posted by: Daniel in Medford at September 6, 2004 08:32 PM