None the Wiser
Friday, February 28, 2003
Blogging promises to be very light in the next few days. I have two tests next week, one of which is going to be a joke and the other of which is going to require some serious red-eye effort.
Fret not, loyal None the Wiser partisans [crickets chirping...], we will be up to full blogging speed soon enough. For right now, check out this freak. Oh, and don't forget this guy.
Thursday, February 27, 2003
"True wit is nature to advantage dressed:
What oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed."
--My favorite rhyme by Alexander Pope, a man who could definitely write poetry better than you.
Yes, I know I said this wasn't going to be a warblog, and it still isn't, but this is illuminating stuff.
It turns out that yet another survivor of fascist tyranny is in favor of war in Iraq, this one being Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor who in 1960 wrote a chilling memoir called Night. From the report:
"If Europe were to apply as much pressure on Saddam Hussein as (it) does on the United States and Britain, I think we could prevent war," he said.
There is a passage from the Christian Bible, somewhere in the 14th Chapter of John, that is popular these days: "By their fruits shall ye know them." I think what this timeless chunk of wisdom is really getting at goes beyond the self-evident notion that you can spot evil men by their evil works. There's a lot in the company one keeps as well, and the importance of this concept as a guide to human conduct has been more or less universally understood by the great religious and philosophical systems of the ages.
So what does this have to do with Wiesel? Well, it seems that the great democrats of our time--like Havel and Solzhenitsyn--were men who personally lived under the heel of tyranny. These are men of perspective, of a keen and personal understanding of the stakes involved, where questions of what is do battle with the normative political questions of what ought to be. For all their bluster, the intellectual classes of the West provided precious few insights in this direction during the Cold War, so transfixed were they with the subtle intricacies of "discourse."
Meanwhile there were those, like Wiesel, who had actually lived what to the pacifist is a mere abstraction, a problem of political language that could be favorably unpacked by way of "conceptual tools," tools which really just come down to redefining your terms in a never-ending search for ideological purity. It was, I believe, an attempt to do for human society what Galileo did for the natural world--to come up with a mathematically pure, exact, perfect linguistic representation or ideal, and thereby exercise previously unthought-of power in the seemingly imprecise world of human experience.
For men like Wiesel, "evil" and "oppression" and "conflict" and "nation" are not ideas that need redefinition in order to be dealt with. They are lived realities, phenomena with consequences. Yes, theirs was a struggle of the mind, but Liberty, like all values, was real to them only to the extent that they could demand it, insist upon it, struggle for it, and ultimately live it. Wiesel had seen first hand the grotesque absurdity of a world where people matter less than the purity of an ideal.
These are the people whose support for war is the most compelling. Iraqi exiles, Holocaust survivors, former "guests" of the Soviet bloc--these are people whose moral voice issues not from an intellectually debilitating hatred of some sitting American president, or some fantastical longing for that elusive promise of the 20th Century, a unanimous society of nations working in selfless concert.
These are people who will not be distracted from the actual blood and sands of the earth, who will not be seduced by clever contortions of the mind, who will never seek answers to the world's problems by way of a new subject-object paradigm. These men look to real strength, real moral force, the ancient wisdom that informs us of our obligation to crush all that which is evil, so that which is good may flourish.
These are men whose company I would like to keep. When I examine the ranks of those who have lined up against them, I am comforted. I do not settle the uncertainties of my own mind by headcount, or consensus. But when my decision is made, and I look about me and I see the most shining representatives of the truly noble oppressed, rather than the fashionably discontented, I become more sure that I have reasoned in solid conscience. When I look across the aisle, and I see murderers, socialists, totalitarians, dictators, anti-semites, suicide bombers, and all their various apologists in government and in the academy--then I am relieved indeed at the company I have chosen to keep.
And I am reminded of something odd I saw just the other day. I was walking down the hall of the faculty wing of the IU-Indianapolis history department, and one office caught my eye in particular. Peering inside, I saw a huge tricolor poster of Che Guevara, a man who routinely murdered children in cold blood--I mentioned the image in an earlier post--and on the door to this office were two words printed in big, bold black letters: NO WAR.
At first I was perturbed, but now I'm grateful for the hint. I think I understand it much more clearly now.
Wiesel, thanks for that.
Another of those "Palestine in a nutshell" articles, this time in Duke's online Chronicle. Bravo, Dr. Ambati. (Thanks to LGF for the link.)
By the way, anyone interested in getting a thoroughly readable, first-hand account of the war in Bosnia should get this, Sudetic's Blood and Vengence. It's a truly riveting bit of war reporting that is human in its sympathy while being responsible and dignified in its objectivity. The UN, as is usual, fares badly in the telling. (A little working knowledge of Balkan history is helpful, but not necessary.)
Biljana Plavsic, the so-called "Serb Empress" and one of Slobodan Milosevic's key political overseers during the latest Bosnian War in the former Yugoslavia, has been sentenced to eleven years in prison by a war crimes tribunal at the Hague.
Now, this woman is 72 years old, but as the AP report indicates she has been credited for 245 days of time served. From the reactions among various officials in Europe, this sentence is apparently considered very harsh. From the report:
Plavsic, who was second only to wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, closed her eyes to murder, torture and plunder, the court said.
May recounted that Bosnians were "mistreated, raped, tortured and killed" in a campaign of ethnic cleansing that was embraced and promoted by Plavsic.
"No sentence which the trial chamber passes can fully reflect the horror of what occurred or the terrible impact on thousands of victims," May said.
Except maybe eleven years in prison, which is more than enough. Let's be clear about this: Plavsic presided over the most extensive campaign of ethnic cleansing, rape, torture, and forced deportation seen in Europe since the Nazi Holocaust, circa 1944. She has further refused to testify against Milosevic during his ongoing trial. In exchange for dropping the charge of genocide, prosecutors convinced her to plead guilty. Her kid gloves treatment is due, according to the AP, to the fact that she voluntarily surrendered and played some role or other in peace negotiations in 1995. Remind me, what the fuck came out of those negotiations that actually halted the violence, or even begins to atone for the misery inflicted on the Bosnian Muslims?
But there's more:
In changing her plea, Plavsic conceded she was responsible for the crimes listed in the indictment, including "forced transfer or deportation, unlawful detention and killing, cruel and inhumane treatment and inhumane conditions in detention facilities, destruction of cultural and sacred objects, plunder, wanton destruction, forced labor and use of human shields."
That's just what she has actually admitted to, after her plea bargain. Then there's this typical bit of hollow self-flagellation:
But in a statement read out during the trial by her lawyer, Plavsic "fully and unconditionally" expressed remorse and hoped it would "offer some consolation to the innocent victims - Muslim, Croat and Serb."
Well, it's just great that your remorse is all "unconditional" and everything, but how about this: If you want those victims--hundreds of thousands of them--to be truly comforted, you can shut the fuck up and allow them the peace of their faith, unburdened by the moral and religious impetus placed upon them by your apology. Really, I'm not sure your magnanimity is going to be appreciated, but maybe I'm in an unreasonable tizzy about the, you know, rape camps and stuff. But that's just me.
And this is the real kicker:
"This [sentence] is nothing compared to what misery I have seen in my life. This is the end of a road which I started a long time ago," she said before returning to The Hague.
Oh, I'm really sorry to hear about that. Give me a moment just to grab my little violin, you heartless, bloodthirsty wench. Replace "seen" with "inflicted" and we might be approaching something in the vicinity of an honest sentiment. And of course, no report on the former Yugoslavia is complete without some unintended indictment of the total incompetence that made all of this horror drag on unnecessarily for years:
At a sentence hearing in December, [Clinton Secretary of State Madeline] Albright said she had found the Plavsic's policies of Serb superiority "repugnant." But she changed her mind about the Bosnian leader after their first one-on-one meeting in 1997.
Well, isn't that special? Albright got her blind, unthinking prejudice towards genocidal mass murderers all straightened out by a little bit of face-to-face girl talk back in 1997, and now she feels Plavsic's pain. Honestly, it's a wonder we survived the 1990's without getting assaulted repeatedly by terrorists, blackmailed into worthless "security" arrangements with Stalinist madmen, discredited by constant diplomatic half-steps toward insane multilateral agreements that were doomed to be rejected in the long run...hey, wait just a damned minute...
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Mean Mr. Mustard has an exceptionally righteous fisking of Dowd's latest load of assnuggets--er--column. Long story short, she's running down the Bush administration for getting chummy with former Soviet bloc country Bulgaria.
What's disgusting, aside from the characteristically snide elitism of her work here, is that a devout leftist like Dowd would suddenly grow a conscience over the crimes of communism when it suits that all-important purpose of bashing the Bush administration. What I can't help but noticing is the way leftists in America are in an absolute panic over the prospect that the United States might officially break its "most favored" diplomatic treatment of the home of Rousseau and socialism.
Leftists have a peculiar, but not surprising, affinity for France--its revolutionary history and character, its penchant for massacring the socially incorrect, its posture of discontent, its aggressive promotion of radical philosophers, all juxtaposed with a genuine sense of absolute moral authority. There is something quintessentially--well, liberal about the place. It's the spiritual capital of Massachusetts, in a way.
Now I know that this amatuer psychoanalysis is a Dowd-like exercise in its own way, so let me just sum up quickly here by saying that I've known a lot of young leftists in my time and nearly all of the really serious ones have considered proficiency in French to be a prime requisite for intellectual and cultural sophistication. Not that many of them were actually reading Sartre in the original, but liberalism is all about illusions anyway.
Some of my more leftist friends thought I was crazy when I decided to start studying Eastern European history and culture, instead of focusing on central Europe (I.e., France or Germany). Now I'm looking like a genius, baby.
Can we say "NATO cultural attache," boys and girls? Sweet...
So last night I had the extreme misfortune of watching Bill O'Reilley sitting in the same room as a female porn star. He was taking her to task for, well, being a freaking porn star, and beyond that for endorsing Pony shoes.
Personally, I don't care if she does endorse Pony, it's a shitty shoe and I'm not buying them anyway. Furthermore, if they've resorted to hiring porn queens to do their promotions, then they're in need of a cheap gimmick and may be breathing their last anyway. What really got to me was the ridiculous content of the interview itself, or more precisely, the pathetic self-delusion on display on the part of this porn starlet, one Ms. Jessica Something-or-Other.
It occurred to me as I listened to her rationalize her choices in life that few people seem to know less about the actual significance of their, uh, "craft" than do porn stars. The statement that caught my attention was that "What I do is extremely empowering. Women have been suppressed for so long," and so forth. We've heard all that nonsense before, of course. But let me clear something up for all of you for whom this is still a point of confusion:
Allowing yourself to be physically probed in every single orifice by hundreds of strange men, on camera, for the masturbatory benefit of legions of lonely strangers is not empowering. Let me repeat that: there is nothing empowering about being pounded by several men at a time and lathered in bodily discharges too intimate to refer to in front of children. Feminists are divided on the issue, but I think it's pretty straightforward. The fact that Jessica Whats-her-Face has sworn--sworn--to "quit" as soon as she has children says something. When pressed why she would do this, when her contention is that there is nothing wrong with what she's doing to start with, she could only say that she thought it important to "turn over a new leaf" when you start a family--that it wasn't a "family" kind of occupation. Funny, architects don't have that problem.
Which brings me to my next point of contention. She is a believer in the (currently fashionable) idea that there is no such thing as a slut. Well, maybe that's true, and maybe it isn't. But if she thinks that by her being one, that the whole concept of sluttines is going to evaporate from the human consciousness, she's a moron.
Now, I know this is an incendiary topic. Women are, um, "liberated" in a manner of speaking. The idea is that no one is to judge them for their sexual mores, or lack thereof. OK. I'm no saint, I didn't marry one, and I'm not interested in banning porn either. But let's get something straight: there will never come a day when porn queens, prostitutes, and strippers are regarded in the same way that lawyers, teachers, or even janitors are. Grounds Keeper Willy will always get more respect than Jessica Who's-It from average people. Is that fair? I think so.
Rape is a horrible crime, precisely because what has been taken from the victim--namely, their physical dignity, their body, their person--is more valuable to them than nearly anything, and some would say moreso than anything at all. Someone who sells, or gives away, that very thing that forms the boundary who they are, that constitutes their bodily representation in the empirical world we share in common, cannot be said to appreciate their own worth. And the bottom line is that people recognize this, and they make judgments based upon it. So it has been and so it shall be.
And a person with more piercings in their face than toes on their feet will never be president. Is that fair? Debate amongst yourselves, but what is certain is that to expect differently is folly. (God, I really do sound like a raging conservative today. I guess I see why people make that mistake...)
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Oh, and another thing about al-Arian, a follow-up. At the post-arrest press-conference the other day Ashcroft made it a point to bring up the fact that the PATRIOT act was the single biggest factor in enabling this prosecution to go forward--that in essence, the wealth of surveillance information that was obtained by the intelligence services could not be brought to bear on al-Arian's case, and could be effective "shared" with the FBI. I wouldn't go as far as to suggest that this entire affair was set up as a piece of pro-PATRIOT propaganda. They've got a lot more on this guy than they ever had on OJ. However, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is something of a test case, and one that will be paraded before the average citizen at every opportunity. Actually, I would be very surprised to learn that, since I'm no legal expert and can't really speak intelligently on the legal pros and cons of PATRIOT. I'm just reminded of something I heard Christopher Hitchens say in an interview once.
After he wrote No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, he was accused of being a D.C. "insider" by one of Clinton's many avid supporters (I don't remember by whom exactly). At this he was indignant. He drew himself up, narrowed his bleary eyes as best as one can after a liter of vodka and said, and I'll never forget it, "Washington doesn't have an inside! It's exactly what it appears to be; it's as hollow as a drum." I think of that each and every time I watch one of these meticulously orchestrated but pathetically transparent press conferences on the tube (which is less often than at any point since I was a child). The beauty of America, and what so many people don't appreciate, is that we can actually point this out--and that alone separates us from those third world hellholes whose technical designation, I believe, is "that stretch of socio-political depravity roughly from the Moroccan coast to the westernmost extremities of India, with whom we are currently at odds."
I would entitle this post something like "Bloodthirsty Terrorists at USF Out to Kill Us All," but I'm sure Frontpage has that covered.
I've just finished reading the Justice Department's indictment of one Sami al-Arian, the USF professor who is accused of having "links" to terror groups. I have to admit, I haven't followed this case very closely. To the extent that I have paid attention to it at all, it's been with regard to the academic freedom issues taken up by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and others. (Note that you won't see many conservatives mentioning that. They will, however, bring up Arian's support among such screechingly leftist groups as MESA. FIRE is thought to be one of their own, as Stanley Kurtz's fawning reviews seem to indicate. I think this little incident either disproves allegations that FIRE is a cleverly camouflaged right-wing advocacy group, or it's an embarassing episode for Thor Halvorssen and company. Halvorssen's instincts are good enough that I'm inclined to believe the former.)
Now, I remember when Al-Arian was on Bill O'Reilley, and while he didn't answer Bill's rat-a-tat flurry of vague accusations very well (I think at the time all I knew was that he had hobnobbed with some shady Palestinian "activists"), I was also a little skeptical about the strength of the case against him. So I let it go. There's no paucity of flaming leftist hammerheads in the academy, and I figured the worst that could be said about USF was that they were coddling radical Muslims in their ranks without providing some intra-departmental balance. Ho hum. Then I actually read the charges against him, and the evidence that the DOJ claims that it has, and well...
Evidently, what we have here is a case wherein a ruthless Palestinian terror master (I think Ledeen's term is appropriate here) used his cover as a university professor to organize, fund, maintain, and promote the Palestinian Islamic Jihad of North America, of which he was the chieftain. At various "conferences" he recruited bodies and pocketbooks for the furtherance of a decade-long campaign of mass murder in Israel and the West Bank/Gaza strip, which incidentally continues to this day. He did this using taxpayer money, university facilities and equipment, and all under the cover of leftist scholarship/advocacy.
All I can say--wait--one of the many things I can say about this insanity is that if you haven't read the DOJ info, you need to go do it now. It's a long document, but worth the effort. If even one tenth of this evidence holds up (or proves permissible), Al-Arian is in very deep shit, and USF is going to have a hell of a lot of explaining to do. In 121 pages, the indictment sketches out the fruits of approximately ten years of intelligence services' surveillance--phone taps, facsimile intercepts, etc., etc. One of my personal favorite bits, to be found in paragraphs 115 and 116, page 46, is as follows: "On or about November 11, 1994, a co-conspirator associated with the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] murdered three people and wounded approximately eleven in a suicide bombing in the vicinity of Netzarim Junction, Gaza Strip...Sami Amin alArian wrote a note to be sent via facsimile which announced his pride in the recent attack by the PIJ. He asked that God bless the efforts of the PIJ and accept their 'martyrs', and urged PIJ members to be cautious and alert."
The truly shocking thing about this is the fact that USF administrators were totally oblivious, or indifferent, to the fact that there was a professor on their payroll making regular appearances at ghoulish rallies and conferences calling for the death of Israel; that he had invited known international terrorists to speak at conferences organized by himself; that he had, in writing, described Jews as the descendants of monkeys and pigs, and called for their eradication; that he had co-authored the charter to PIJ, and had established several extremely radical pro-Palestine organizations that went under such benevolent titles as the "World and Islam Studies Enterprise;" that he basically set up and operated a massive terrorist propaganda/finance Leviathan. What's worse, al-Arian had done all this while winning the active approval and admiration of his radical colleagues, in Florida and elsewhere, and that no one had thought he really meant what he said; they bought his pathetic weasel words, just like academic administrators will always do for a "scholar" whose stock in trade happens to be hatred of the benevolent system that pays for his very existence.
Anyone who follows the tragic farce that is the state of higher education in America will tell you that this is all par for the course. Not to say that there is a terrorist mastermind under every desk at your local public university, mind you. I don't want to try to out-Horowitz Horowitz. There is no doubt, however, that this is indicative of a systemic problem in the academy--namely, that insanely radical ideologues are so eagerly welcomed (and aggressively promoted) by the modern university, that an al-Arian barely inspires a second glance. After all, when pensive little romanticized portraits of mass murderers like Che Guevara adorn the doors and walls of your resident Latin American History specialist, who's going to notice, much less raise an objection, when your local Middle East scholar also happens to invite real, live killers onto campus for a little Death-to-the-Zionist-entity-Amen-session? If anything, it will earn him credibility.
Now, I happen to be a rabid advocate of academic freedom, and I could be fairly described as a First Amendment fundamentalist. The issue, however, is this: What is the likelihood that USF would invite Netanyahu to their campus? What is the likelihood they would invite Robert Conquest? There's nothing new here, really, but when a prominent, and controversial, member of your faculty has been very credibly fingered as the head of the PIJ in North America, you simply can't convince me that somebody isn't asleep at the switch.
Monday, February 24, 2003
OK, so I've got a blog now. Just a few things ought to be cleared up here.
Firstly, this is not a warblog. Exactly why anyone would want to get into that business, while Stephen DenBeste is still writing his obscenely lengthy, brilliant posts on the subject, is totally beyond me. Lets leave it at this: I favor war with Iraq, support Bush's war on terror (to the extent that I understand its ultimate designs), and greedily devour as much anti-idiotarian prose as I can find. But the overarching theme of this blog does not promise to be the Battle of Baghdad. Rather, it is, at least at this phase, all about ideas, be they social, cultural, political, or scholarly; the only qualification is, they will be mine.
That overarching theme is, in a word, me. My thoughts, my interests, and so on. I considered the blog title "Vanity Press," since that's what the blogosphere amounts to. I know that sounds uncharitable, but before anybody complains (assuming anyone will ever read this), remember I'm referring to my own blog as well. I earnestly believe that the weblog is an expression of vanity, and that the blogosphere is, by and large, populated by people who love to hear the sound of their own voices rambling away inside their overactive little brains. The maddening desire for a captive audience is, I think, what drives us. We are the people who are always thinking about what we are going to say next while other people are talking. Maybe I'm wrong. But I don't think so. In fact, I never think I'm wrong, which isn't the same as thinking I'm never wrong. (Got that?)
The other overarching theme of None the Wiser, besides the author, is implied by the title. I am nicknamed The Sage, since my first name is in fact Sage and I make a habit of surrounding myself with people who can't beat me in an argument. My intellectual idol, however, is Socrates, whose renowned source of wisdom was that he knew nothing. Well, if I am wise at all it is because I'm a fucking idiot and I know it. There are a very few things about which I am not open to correction, including the following:
-Media Bias (it's real)
-Socialism (it's poison)
-Campus Orthodoxy (don't...get...me...started...)
-Western Civilization (it was great once)
In short, most of my opinions are transitory and subject to immediate revision. Some will gather from this short list that I am a conservative. I'm not so sure about that, but my reaction can best be summed up in the following words by Otto von Bismarck, addressing the Prussian House of Representatives in January of 1863:
"I am indifferent to the labels 'revolutionary' or 'conservative,' as I am indifferent to all phrases."
I will enter a post about our political locution some time very soon, since it is obvious that "liberal" no longer means what we once thought it did. Sometimes I have been usefully classified as a libertarian, but that's a bit like being called a feminist; it doesn't actually tell you very much. A great lot of confusion issues from this simple problem of names, and since I am devoted to truth (a word which I try never to qualify with scare quotes), I believe we cannot discuss anything fruitfully until we agree upon our terms (see also: abortion controversy).
So why read my blog? Because if you are reading this right now, you are just like me and you have nothing better to do (either that or you have lots of things to do that might be better than this, but you are also like me in that you are too lazy to do them). Seriously, right now there just isn't much of a reason to read None the Wiser, but in the days that follow I'll be sure to post some thoughts that might qualify as justification for wasting away in front of your computer like a pathetic automaton--wait, I take that back. Please, stay. Read.