Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sorry, but more on C******

(Thanks to my friend John K. for the asterisks idea.)

By now you've probably heard of Coulter's latest stunt: her comment in an interview with John Hawkins of RightWingNews.com that Vietnam veteran and Iraq war critic John Murtha was "the reason soldiers invented 'fragging.'" Coulter is true to obscene form. Meanwhile, Hawkins is quoted by Editor & Publisher as commenting:

Although, I wouldn't have phrased that like Ann did, I would say in her defense that in that quote she didn't say that she wanted to kill Murtha, she'd didn't say that she thought he should be killed, and she didn't say that she thought Murtha should have been fragged. Is that hair splitting?

Why, I'm glad you asked, John. It is. Would you say the same thing about a left-wing enfant terrible? Of course not.

Meanwhile, E & P says that Coulter's shock-jock tactics haven't cost her any subscribers to her syndicated column. O tempora, o mores.

Meanwhile, read this interesting column by WorldNetDaily's Ileana Mercer, who strongly challenges Coulter on conservative grounds.

Ann Coulter, I imagine, considers herself an individualist, not a collectivist. Which is why her views on grief perplex. About certain September 11 widows Coulter has written the following: "These self-obsessed women seem genuinely unaware that 9-11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them." (Emphasis added.)

Nations don't grieve; individuals who incur loss do. The nation, following September 11, can legitimately lay claim to the confusion that comes with a loss of a previous sense of security and to the sorrow that accompanies the deaths of compatriots. However, only the immediate relatives of the victims were in fact bereaved. The nation might be shocked, reeling, but only the families of the dead were utterly devastated. With every day that dawns, they alone face the kind of pain the rest of us cannot fathom.

The line, "letting the community grieve and get on with the healing process," is standard in liberal locution (adopted, sadly, by many Crunchy Cons); it's straight out of Oprah's vernacular.

The idea that people not directly affected by a tragedy ought to perform the rites reserved for the bereaved conjures the image of a tribe in the paroxysmal throws of a grief ritual. It's inspired by the equally primitive specter of Oprah's televised group therapy sessions, in which every individual's pain is equally weighted.

In the abstract, September 11 was an attack on "our nation." In reality, some felt it more than others.

Mercer also draws an interesting contrast between the "Jersey Girls" and Michael Berg, the father of slain American Nick Berg, who she argues does deserve the opprobrium Coulter heaps on the anti-Bush 9/11 widows. Berg recently voiced regret about the death of the man who personally beheaded his son, the infamous terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

Finally, she ably deconstructs Coulter's pretensions as the woman who would be Mencken:

[O]n the "Lou Dobbs Tonight" show, Coulter anointed herself as the Right's H. L. Mencken. Coulter is certainly sui generis, but she's no Mencken.

First, while not-quite "Godless," Mencken held "that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind – that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking."

"In America," he contended, "[religion] is used as a club and a cloak by both politicians and moralists, all of them lusting for power and most of them palpable frauds."

More material, Mencken was a libertarian. He hated government with all his bolshy being and was deeply suspicious of power – all power, not only liberal power. To Mencken, all government was evil, and "all government must necessarily make war upon liberty." Therefore, the only good politician was "one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's goodbye to the Bill of Rights."

Mencken certainly would have had few kind words for dirigiste Dubya, the ultimate statist. Coulter, conversely, has shown Bush (who isn't even conservative) almost unquestioning loyalty, other than to protest his Harriet Miers indiscretion and, of late, his infarct over illegal immigration. Such singular devotion would have been alien to Mencken.

Nor would the very brilliant elitist have found this president's manifest, all-round ignorance endearing – Bush's penchant for logical and linguistic infelicities would have repulsed Mencken.

About foreign forays, Mencken stated acerbically that "the United States should mind its own business. If it is actually commissioned by God to put down totalitarianism, let it start in Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Santo Domingo and Mississippi." Mencken believed that "waging a war for a purely moral reason [was] as absurd as ravishing a woman for a purely moral reason." Not in a million years would he have endorsed Bush's Iraq misadventure.

Since he was not a party animal, but a man of principle, conformity to the clan would not have seen Mencken fall into contradiction as Coulter has: She rightly condemned Madeleine Albright's "pre-emptive attack" on Slobodan Milosevic, as having been "solely for purposes of regime change based on false information presented to the American people," but has adopted a different – decidedly double – standard regarding Bush's Iraq excursion.

To repeat: Coulter is sui generis, but Mencken she is not.

I'm not a fan of Mencken's isolationism, which I believe Mercer shares, and which would have likely left Hitler in power in Europe. Mencken had his share of faults, including an anti-Semitic streak (evident in quotations in an article that tries to absolve him of the charge). His sharp satire could be quite nasty. But as Mercer says, he was willing to speak the truth to all power regardless of party affilliation.

We could use a Mencken right now.


Revenant said...

What's more ridiculous is that she equated herself to Mark Twain, who is arguably the best novellist in American history (and certainly the most significant).

The fact that Mencken was an isolationist libertarian isn't really important, though. "I'm the right-wing Mencken" means "I'm what Mencken would be, were he right-wing".

Dean said...

Revenant: I largely agree with you, but a big part of Mercer's argument is that Mencken would not change his position depending on who is in power. As Mercer points out, Coulter has.

Cathy: Tangential to the original discussion:

I'm not a fan of Mencken's isolationism, which I believe Mercer shares, and which would have likely left Hitler in power in Europe.

No, I don't think so. Stalin, maybe, after about 1947 or 48 and millions more war dead, but after the battle of Stalingrad, Hitler's days were numbered, US or no US.

Revenant said...

a big part of Mercer's argument is that Mencken would not change his position depending on who is in power.

Well, true. But then again, nobody Mencken liked ever achieved power. Maybe he'd have changed his tune if somebody had. It is easy to put on a pretense of ideological purity when there's no danger of actually holding power (see also: House Republicans, circa 1980).

after the battle of Stalingrad, Hitler's days were numbered, US or no US.

Hm. It is questionable whether the Soviets would have won had the United States not been supplying them, and had the Germans not been forced to worry about the western front and the eventual American-backed invasion they knew would be coming. Even if the Soviets had prevailed without aid and forced the Germans to fall back, they would have lacked the logistical capacity to pursue the German army out of the USSR. Stalin would likely have had his hands full dealing with mass starvation and economic collapse.

This has a good list of what we supplied the Soviets with (bottom of page). If I may be permitted a degree of oversimplification, USSR marched into Germany wearing American clothes and boots, eating American food, riding in American trucks, and transporting their artillery on American trains pulled by American locomotives.

Hitler quite probably would have lost at Stalingrad, but the likely result would have been a German retreat to its pre-invasion borders in Poland, followed by a decades-long cold/hot war with the USSR.

Tom said...

"MICHAEL BERG: Well, my reaction is I'm sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that. (Watch Berg compare Zarqawi to President Bush -- 1:44)

I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge, and revenge is something that I do not follow, that I do want ask for, that I do not wish for against anybody. And it can't end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence."

Sounds rather Christ-like of him. No wonder conservatives want to crucify him.

Cathy Young said...

Excellent point re WWII, rev.

Speaking of which: Tom, I wonder what you would say of people who would apply the "no violence to combat violence" to Hitler?

And no, I'm not saying that Saddam is Hitler or Zarqawi is Hitler. I'm saying that the underlying logic of pacifism, if consistently applied, is dangerous and rotten to the core.

I don't have time to look up the Orwell quote right now, but he had a good line about how the dirty little secret of the pacifist is that he depends on others' use of violence for his protection and survival.


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