Tuesday, February 08, 2005

I've Very Angry

Why am I angry, you ask? I'll tell you why.

Because I didn't get to write this:

I am saying I do not understand why CNN or NPR would hire someone to talk about Iraq policy who has not read a book on the subject under discussion. Actually, of course, it would be desirable that he had read more than one book. Books are nice. They are rectangular and soft and have information in them. They can even be consumed on airplanes. Goldberg should try one.


An argument that judgment matters but knowledge does not is profoundly anti-intellectual. It implies that we do not need ever to learn anything in order make mature decisions. We can just proceed off some simple ideological template and apply it to everything. This sort of thinking is part of what is wrong with this country. We wouldn't call a man in to fix our plumbing who knew nothing about plumbing, but we call pundits to address millions of people on subjects about which they know nothing of substance.


But Goldberg is just a dime a dozen pundit. Cranky rich people hire sharp-tongued and relatively uninformed young people all the time and put them on the mass media to badmouth the poor, spread bigotry, exalt mindless militarism, promote anti-intellectualism, and ensure generally that rightwing views come to predominate even among people who are harmed by such policies. One of their jobs is to marginalize progressives by smearing them as unreliable.

But that is not all. I'm also angry I didn't get to write this:

And now I have to see I didn't get to write this either:

And, of course, the true irony is that all this breast beating and calls for dismissal and censorship comes on the heels of years of braying about political correctness in academia squelching free speech and dissenting points of view. It seems like only yesterday that I was reading conservative intellectuals like Walter Williams saying universities are "the equivalent of the Nazi brownshirt thought-control movement" and Paul Hollander calling it "the most widespread form of institutionalized intolerance in American higher education." (I won't even mention that champion of intellectual diversity David Horowitz.) Well now, it would appear that "political correctness vs academic freedom" comes in all flavors.

And it's always a-ok for mainstream, influential intellectuals like Frank "cakewalk" Gaffney to say things like "The U.N. is a hateful and anti-Semitic mobocracy" or Michael Ledeen to publicly float a theory that 9/11 was the result of a "Franco-German strategy ...based on using Arab and Islamic extremism and terrorism as the weapon of choice, and the United Nations as the straitjacket for blocking a decisive response from the United States." These inflammatory statements at a time of great global unease are not repudiated by anyone. Indeed, such dangerous rabble rousing is completely accepted and in some cases endorsed by the Republican establishment. No one questinos whether such statements might endanger American security or its stated foreign policy. Indeed, one is left to ponder whether it might actually be American foreign policy, considering the fact that those who write these screeds are welcome in the White House.

And that brings us to the crucial difference between Ward Churchill's politically incorrect ravings and Gaffney, Ledeen and Williams' politically incorrect ravings --- the latter are powerful, well known intellectuals in the conservative movement who are on the inside of government policymaking at the highest reaches. Churchill on the other hand is a nobody.

Liberals have nothing to apologise for. Indeed, intellectual honesty requires that we do not. These conservative critics' facts are wrong and their analysis is self-serving. They have concocted a "mental model" that is designed to marginalize and intimidate those who speak out against them. I'm not talking about obscure college professors with eccentric views. I'm talking about average Americans with mainstream views that don't hew exactly to the Republican party line who are now viewed with suspicion as UnAmerican by association with this leftist chimera that sides with terrorists.

So, I think you will agree with me that I have a lot to be angry about. I didn't get to write these great pieces. But thanks to Juan Cole, James Wolcott, and Digby, we can all read them. Thank you gentlemen for your courage and wit in articulating that which I am unable to express.

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