Friday, December 17, 2004

GAMESMANSHIP. I rarely treat the sad case of Mickey Kaus -- just as I find college football more interesting than the NFL, I prefer my bullshit pseudoliberalism delivered by passionate amateurs rather than by pros like Kaus -- but his recent "Trouble with Beinart Part III" is a very instructive piece of work, though of course not in the way he intends.

I was surprised to learn that Kaus had so much as a Trouble I, let alone a Trouble II, with Beinart, whose recent we-Democrats-suck POV seems right up Kaus' alley: advocating a mildly socially progressive party that also wants to invade and occupy Middle Eastern countries.

But Kaus demurs on gay marriage, and on grounds so bizarre that he attempts to distance himself from them even as he asserts them: gay marriage will turn off the very Arabs we're trying to win to our side. He applauds an unnamed correspondent who states, "Gay marriage is probably about as threatening -- not to say insulting -- to the core values of Muslims as any of Communism's tenets was to the core values of Americans during the Cold War," then claims he's not prepared to "abandon gay marriage to cater to Islamic fundamentalist sensibilities," blowing it off with a lame joke. So what does he believe? This is as close as we get to an explanation:
I don't see why we can't have a Democratic party that openly a) refrains from force-feeding gay marriage to the public b) has room in it for patriotic Iraq War skeptics and c) as a consequence of a) and b) is better positioned to wage an effective military and ideological battle against Islamic terrorism.
Why would one need a Democratic Party at all, then? Perhaps just for the intramural sport.

I really don't understand why these guys don't just say "fuck it" and announce themselves Republican. This is not an attempt on my part to impose orthodoxy -- like I have that power! Look at me! I'm wearing a cardboard belt! -- but an expression of weariness at all the muddy thinking by which these guys attempt to preserve for themselves an illusion (or marketing strategy) of independence. If you wear your pro-war, pro-Social-Security-reform, pro-big-deficit, anti-gay-marriage rue with a difference, it's still rue. The fact that you dislike clear-cutting doesn't mean anything at all, frankly, if you're working to increase the power of guys who would drill, strip-mine, and clear-cut every National Park on the map if they thought they could get away with it.

One of the best encapsulations I have ever seen of this mindset appears in a comment (12/16 7:35 am) made by one "EssEm" on Totten's site. EssEm is responding to Totten's denunciation of that guy in Alabama who wants to bury bad books ("There are several reasons I’m not a Republican, but the biggest one..."). Totten's source for the story is the Guardian, which strikes some of his fans as a worthier target of rage, since they say bad things about Americans.

In mid-fray, EssEm laments:
Just read the [Guardian] piece, and aside from oh-no-not-this-crap-again revulsion at the paleo-thuggish viewpoint of Mr. Allen, what strikes me is that it was and is the authoritarian impulse that lurks at the heart of progressives, of the Secular Left, that made an ex-liberal of me.
Lunatics talk about the destruction of books in the name of the people, and the enlightened yet tell war stories about how some Spartacist turned them off to liberalism. Sigh. If you huddled these guys into an internment camp, I expect they would be okay with it, so long as they were spared the company of Michael Moore.

UPDATE. Michael Totten responds that he's not a liberal (glad we cleared that up), and advises that I acquire some "nuance."

12 hours later, he quotes Orwell on the unpatriotic Left, and sends us for further enlightenment to another guy who has devised "a test to distinguish the honest left from the pod-people, Chomskyites, and Moore-istas." This test does not involve, as one might reasonably expect, tossing a liberal into a pond to see if he floats, but "Politely ask[ing] him or her to talk for three minutes non-stop about what's great about America." In case you aren't fully aware of what this test is meant to reveal, it is compared to the WWII Marine gambit of getting suspected Japanese agents to try and pronounce the letter "r."

And if you think you can pass, be aware that the author is onto tricks we might employ ("I notice a tendency of left to claim patriotism by identifying it with a love of the people of the United States"). No doubt there are other telltale signs of unpatriotism which he is too clever to let slip in mixed company.

Some nuance.

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