Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Sport of Us vs. Them

For the Republicans, that's all any of this sad, sorry game we call "the politics of national security" is.  "Us" vs. "Them."

It is only when you attempt to discuss national security and terrorism in the frames of reasoned debate that you get into trouble dealing with a Republican apologist.  And when you finally understand that, that's when your heads will stop exploding, and you'll start to see this so-called "reasoning" for the brutal, simplistic and utterly banal filth that it is.

I refer here specifically to Michelle Malkin's outrageous post claiming that three suspected Christian terrorists should be granted due process of law, non-secret evidence, and proper treatment under the Geneva Conventions--even though she has been applauding the same abuses of justice when practiced by the Bush Administration.

Proud progressive voices like Glenn Greenwald claim that such statements are "beyond satire" and that "irony is dead".  Intelligent progressives throughout the blogosphere are demanding that Michelle Malkin be called on her hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, folks, there is no hypocrisy.  You only think there is because you've been taking their arguments at face value.  Like everything else with the GOP, their strength is in brute, basic emotional appeals for which reason and logic are irrelevant.  They themselves don't even care.

Michelle Malkin (and her friends like Hannity and O'Reilly and Glenn Beck) couldn't care less about Terrorism.  Or the Geneva Conventions.  Or the Constitution.  Or the Balance of Powers.  Or whether invading Iraq was a mistake.  Or Bin Laden.

All they know is one, simple thing: It's US vs. THEM.  And any justification--any argument du jour will do.

And who is "Us"?  The "West".  "Christendom."  "The European Race."  "God-fearing folk."

Who is "Them?"  Today, it's pretty much anyone with brown or olive skin, anyone who speaks "Mexican", anyone who worships Allah, or both.


"You're either with us or you're against us."  -- George W. Bush

"You're either with me, or you are my enemy."  -- Dark Anakin/Darth Vader, Star Wars Ep. III

When the Hannitys and the O'Reillys of the world accuse liberals of being "terrorist-sympathizers" or "terrorist appeasers", we wonder how they can say such things with a straight face.  They Know, we say to ourselves, that we hate Bin Laden and al-Qaeda as much they do.  We just also happen to favor justice and process of law, we say.

Unfortunately, that's one thought process too many.

To them, this "Clash of Civilizations" is a combat arena sport, and a fight to the death.  In this sport, there are two teams: US and THEM.  

And who is on these teams?

Them = Al-Qaeda = Saddam Hussein = Mohammed Six-Pack = Lebanese children = Kareem Abdul-Jabar = the Sikh with the Turban on his head.  Same team--different jerseys.

And us?  Us = America = George Bush = Jesus = Christians = White folk = Mom, Baseball, and Apple Pie = F-16 bombs with your name on them.  Praise Jesus and pass the ammunition--same team, different jerseys.

There's no "I" in "Team", and these teams better stuck up for all their teammates, or sit on the bench.  Lead, follow or get out of the way.  And don't ever--EVER--contradict the coach, George W. Bush.


But it gets worse.

In this context, Justice, the Rule of Law, and the Geneva Conventions--hell, even rational argument itself--are REFEREES.  In this grand sport, there ARE no referees; and if they DO exist, they exist to be LOBBIED.

There is no objectivity.  Only the attempt to get the ref to call the play for YOUR team, and not THEIR team.

Thus, in this grand Us vs. Them Super Bowl telethon, those who lobby the Geneva Conventions ref on behalf of team "THEM" inherently belongs to Team "Them."  Those who lobby the Geneva Conventions on behalf of Team "Us" belong to Team "Us."

It's really that simple.


That we would attempt to accuse Michelle Malkin of hypocrisy shows a fundamental failure on our part to understand the proper context of this debate.

When a professional basketball player fouls his opponent and screams that the ref that what he did wasn't a foul, before coming down the court and getting fouled in the exact same way and screaming that it WAS a foul, we don't accuse the basketball player of hypocrisy.  We simply say that he was standing up for his team.

And that's all the GOP is doing.  Standing up for the team.  Justice, liberty, issues, and reason be damned.  It's all for the TEAM.

And we liberals had better get with the program and stop trying to play referee--or worse--petition the ref for the enemy.  Because if we don't get with the program, we'll spend the rest of our political lives "on the bench".  Which is one short step for the Final Solution of kicking us "off the team."

Team "Us."  Toward the annihilation of Team "Them."  Forever.


Blogger Active Citizen 2006 said...

Tell me something I haven't already figured out about the Radical Right Wing!

9:27 PM  
Blogger Professor Begriff said...

But one of the core values of liberalism has to be a commitment to the rules of rational, open discourse. And commitment to these rules means enforcement of them. Enforcing the rule of consistency (non-hypocrisy) on Malkin as best we can just is living the values of liberalism. If we give this up, we're lost.

That said, I agree that Malkin herself is actually being consistent from a certain point of view (that is, she consistently upholds what you call the "us vs. them" point of view).

But since the "us" in "us vs. them" is supposed to include open, rational discourse, the rule of law, and the fair conduct of trials, she is stuck in a contradiction. She cannot (as she wants to) both identify "us" with these values of fairness and rationality, and maintain her denials of due process to "them." And this is really what Greenwald means to point out: that you cannot be Malkin and be consistent, at all, no matter what you say.

So he's not just catching her in a rhetorical contradiction -- he's catching her in a contradiction in precisely the "us vs. them" mentality you correctly identify.

12:32 AM  
Blogger thereisnospoon said...


You are absolutely correct. The is really about "reason" versus irrationality.

That's why Al Gore's forthcoming book "The Death of Reason" is so pertinent.

All I wanted to point out was that we're thinking about this as a debate, rather than a sporting match.

We'll understand where they're coming from when we understand that that's how they think of it.

3:47 PM  

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