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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill

8.16.2005

Traitorpalooza II: Eclectic Bugaboo

The LWM will not let go.

Fortunately, there's lots of bloggy goodness out there to lend a bit of much-needed perspective.

Jonah Goldberg tears apart the Left's tissue-paper arguments:

Nobody ever questioned her right to say anything.

And as for representing an authentic perspective: Who cares if it's authentic if it's wrong?

Confusion on this point seems to be a form of paranoia which pops-up on both sides of the ideological spectrum, but it's particularly acute on the left. After 9/11 we heard from all over the place that free speech was under assault because the usual idiots were getting criticized for their usual idiocy. Again, I hate to be such a pain in the butt to Cynthia McKinney, but as I've noted before, it is the quickest route to her brain. When, after 9/11, McKinney behaved like, well, McKinney she was roundly criticized and rightly so. She immediately asserted that her "right to speak" had been questioned. No such thing occurred.

The great irony is that the people who resort to such "arguments" (they're really just insults) are the ones questioning free-speech rights, because they are suggesting the criticism was inappropriate and, in some vague and stupid way, unconstitutional. Right? That is the upshot of what they're saying. I mean, if you immediately assert that someone has the right to say something as a way to rebut criticism, aren't you implying that such criticism violated their rights — which is, by definition, unconstitutional.

The paranoia enters into it when you consider the nature of the accusation. If you immediately assume that criticism from the political Right is tantamount to questioning someone's constitutional right to speak in the first place, what you are really saying (Pace Dan Savage) is that if you scratch a conservative you'll find a Storm Trooper just under the surface. We knuckle draggers may say we're just offering criticism, but what we really mean is that anyone we disagree with has no right to say so. That so many on the Left seem to believe this, says a lot about the intellectual and psychological state of Lefties while saying nothing of interest about conservatives. I don't think it's always a matter of projection — assuming your enemy sees things the same you do — but I do think this knee-jerkery illuminates in a small way the bad faith of the Left. Not only does the "I have the right to speak" tantrum dodge the merits of specific criticisms, it starts from the assumption that as a matter of first principles left-wing protest should never be questioned.

Indeed, that's the reason the Left has rallied so fiercely behind Cindy Sheehan. Wedded to a form of identity-politics logic which says some "authentic" voices cannot be questioned and inauthentic voices need not be listened to, these hardcore left-wing activists love Cindy Sheehan because they think she's above reproach. They immediately resort to the argument "How dare you question a woman who lost her child!" Sheehan's loss is obviously a terrible one. But the death of her son does not make her anymore qualified to rant about Israel and oil tycoons controlling American foreign policy than it would be if her son was alive. But her backers do not care, indeed they don't think anyone has the right to even point this out.


As we've seen, the right to speak your mind doesn't extend to questioning whether there is a superior explanation for life's diversity than evolution. Nor musing that Mecca might be lovely in a nice thick coating of radioactive ash. Nor asking mothers heading into abortion clinics if they've considered adoption (or notified their parents). Nor praying anywhere an atheist with an attitude might be contaminated with That Olde Tyme Religion.

Of course, who am I to question a grieving mother?

Especially one who spews hate like Hitler's lawn sprinkler.

Wonder if she could work up any venom for bin Laden or al Zarqawi or Saddam Hussein, all of whom who had one heckuva lot more to do with her son's death than Dubya did. Or the Jews, for that matter.

George Neumayr wonders why the LWM gets all worked up over this:

Owing in large part to the microscopic powers of the Internet and talk radio, the mainstream media now realize that they can only get away with using axe-grinding victims to advance their agenda for so long. As news of the victims' dangerously ill-conceived views becomes well-known through the alternative media, mainstream reporters, if only out of self-consciousness, stop using these victims as proxies for their biases.

The media know that grief doesn't confer upon a person instant lucidity and authority, though they act as if it does, provided the grief inspires a political position they favor. Had Sarah Brady, say, responded to her husband's gun injury by joining the staff of the NRA, the media wouldn't have paid the slightest bit of attention to her except maybe for purposes of mockery. Obviously the media aren't interested in assuaging Sheehan's grief -- were a bigger story to break they would desert her in a second, as they even did to their persecuted colleague Judith Miller after Bush announced John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee.

What the media are interested in is Sheehan's politics, and the window of that interest will close for good once the public learns of her ambitiously radical views -- that Bush should be impeached as a war criminal, that America is an abomination not worth defending against terrorists, and so forth. In the end, the media will probably have added to her grief once they take away from her the new life of celebrity activism they have encouraged her to pursue in the absence of the life of her son.

Sheehan doesn't speak for war widows and grieving moms any more than the Jersey Girls spoke for all relatives of 9-11 victims. And like them, Sheehan hasn't crafted her case very carefully or modestly. Just as the Jersey Girls acted as though their grief somehow made them experts on rearranging the CIA and entitled them to harangue Condi Rice, so Sheehan is making outrageous demands upon the military's commander in chief -- demands only possible in a democracy in which a fatuous media can get its leaders, who are supposed to be thinking about the common good, entangled in all sorts of absurd and superficial controversies.

What the Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz said about the 9/11 windows is worth recalling in light of the Sheehan spectacle. One of them, Kristen Breitwester, had submitted an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal. Rabinowitz advised against running it, saying that it was "total and complete nonsense -- not to mention repetitive nonsense -- nonsense from people given endless media access to repeat the very same stupid charges, suspicions, and the rest....this is just an opportunity for these absurd products of the zeitgeist -- women clearly in the grip of the delusion that they know something, have some policy, and wisdom not given to the rest of us to know -- to grab the spotlight."

Ultimately, the media tuned them out, especially, as liberals complained, after they endorsed John Kerry and their overt liberal partisanship made it impossible for the media to treat them as sainted experts.

Sheehan is one of these absurd products of the zeitgeist that Rabinowitz describes -- a zeitgeist that gravitates to grief for commercial and ideological, not human, reasons. Sheehan, too, may find herself, as Breitwester did, standing forlornly beneath a placard announcing her grief and loss, hoping that some reporter will stop and give her the jolt of celebrity that substitutes in a twisted culture for the comfort of real compassion.


The President, of course, showed Sheehan real compassion already. He met with her, as he has met with a host of other families of fallen soldiers, shared their sorrow, and expressed the gratitude of the nation for their sacrifice. He has done this, quietly, since he was first elected. Sheehan and her Lefty amen choir demonize him regardless, no, because of his compassion. They'll use whatever weapon is handy to wound him, and his sense of duty to those under his command and his earnest empathy for those who have lost loved ones in this war represent the most auspicious methods for torturing him. He bears it with a dignity Sheehan and her crowd do not possess nor comprehend.

If Bush sent his twins to fish for roadside bombs in Iraq, and both were blown to smithereens in the process, does anyone believe that the Left would yield to his newfound moral authority, the wisdom of the bereaved? No, we all know what they would do---shrug, and start claiming he was a monster for sending his children to their deaths, and that the Bush family owed thousands more to even the scales of blood, and that Laura ought to head on over, too, and bring the Cheney clan with her. That is who these people are.

Christopher Hitchens comes to bury this ghoul, not praise her, and we'll let him have the last word on the matter:

What dreary sentimental nonsense this all is, and how much space has been wasted on it. Most irritating is the snide idea that the president is "on vacation" and thus idly ignoring his suffering subjects, when the truth is that the members of the media—not known for their immunity to the charm of Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod in the month of August—are themselves lazing away the season with a soft-centered nonstory that practically, as we like to say in the trade, "writes itself." Anyway, Sheehan now says that if need be she will "follow" the president "to Washington," so I don't think the holiday sneer has much life left in it.

There are, in fact, some principles involved here. Any citizen has the right to petition the president for redress of grievance, or for that matter to insult him to his face. But the potential number of such people is very large, and you don't have the right to cut in line by having so much free time that you can set up camp near his drive. Then there is the question of civilian control over the military, which is an authority that one could indeed say should be absolute. The military and its relatives have no extra claim on the chief executive's ear. Indeed, it might be said that they have less claim than the rest of us, since they have voluntarily sworn an oath to obey and carry out orders. Most presidents in time of war have made an exception in the case of the bereaved—Lincoln's letter to the mother of two dead Union soldiers (at the time, it was thought that she had lost five sons) is a famous instance—but the job there is one of comfort and reassurance, and this has already been discharged in the Sheehan case. If that stricken mother had been given an audience and had risen up to say that Lincoln had broken his past election pledges and sought a wider and more violent war with the Confederacy, his aides would have been quite right to show her the door and to tell her that she was out of order.

Finally, I think one must deny to anyone the right to ventriloquize the dead. Casey Sheehan joined up as a responsible adult volunteer. Are we so sure that he would have wanted to see his mother acquiring "a knack for P.R." and announcing that he was killed in a war for a Jewish cabal? (a claim that has brought David Duke flying to Ms. Sheehan's side.) This is just as objectionable, on logical as well as moral grounds, as the old pro-war argument that the dead "must not have died in vain." I distrust anyone who claims to speak for the fallen, and I distrust even more the hysterical noncombatants who exploit the grief of those who have to bury them.

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