Posts Tagged ‘National Review’

Ed Whelan Proves He’s a Hitman

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I suppose the logic works out well enough; one anonymous blogger accuses you of being a “legal hitman,” another cites it approvingly, and you respond by uncovering the second’s identity and publishing it, after calling them a “coward” and an “idiot.” And you don’t even pretend to engage the criticism. Especially when, as best anyone can tell, the only thing that makes publius “irresponsible” is that her had the gall to criticize Ed Whelan.

I don’t really have much of an opinion on outing myself. I think it can be appropriate at times, inappropriate at others. I put my name on my writing, because I think that if I want to enter the conversation, then I owe it to others to own my work. On the other hand, I think the idea that a pseudonym gives you more leeway to attack people unfairly doesn’t really hold much water. There are plenty of anonymous bloggers, publius being one of them, who writes substantively, even in criticism, as well as plenty of people who put their name on their bullshit who nevertheless publish stupid or non-factual garbage every day. My problem with anonymity is that it makes it hard to evaluate a person’s credibility, especially to the extent that they’re leaning on expertise. I like Anonymous Liberal quite a bit, and his writing seems to lend credence to his claims of expertise, but then, I’m not a lawyer, so I could be getting fooled. But none of that really excuses outing someone after they’ve informed you that they have personal and professional reasons for being anonymous, and when you haven’t engaged their criticisms, and obviously have no intention to. Whelan is pretty obviosly just trying to fuck with publius’s life, and that’s just low, no matter what you think of anonymity.

A.L. more or less hits it on the head; Whelan’s problem is that he’s just too smart for this schtick. Whelan has clerked for the Supreme Court, so he’s obviously a smart guy who cares about the issues he’s writing about. And it’s hard to play the hatchet man, pandering to a less intelligent audience and knowingly misrepresenting the matter, when you’re a smart person who cares about the issue(s). A big part of the reason I got out of campaign politics altogether was precisely this reason; the more you start to care about the depths of the policy matters at hand, the more soul sucking it is to boil them down to easy to understand soundbytes and deliberate misrepresentations of the other guy’s misstatements. But the difference between that and what Whelan is doing is that, in campaigns, people generally understand that there’s a certain amount of hackishness involved, and you can always use that as an excuse later without it being held against you in too many quarters. Whelan, on the other hand, is writing for a magazine that purports to be the intellectual center of the conservative movement. It’s got to be depressing to realize that so many observers are aware of what you’re doing, and to know that you’re never going to be respected in your field because of it.

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Nope, No Racism

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

This really says it all doesn’t it?

Now obviously I’m not the first person to write about this, so I’m hardly the first to notice that National Review made the odd decision to caricature Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark with a caricature of Asian stereotypes, but in a way, I think that’s sort of the least interesting, or telling anyway, aspect of the story so far. Yeah, it’s kind of funny that no one at the editorial meeting apparently knows their stereotypes, but then, this post from Rich Lowry does sort of tell us that they knew what they were doing, so the most obvious conclusion to draw from that is that National Review is simply looking to bait attention from this, and they’re perfectly happy to use racist imagery to do that Hell, it seems that may even be the point. Seeing conservatives toe the racist line isn’t anything new, nor is it new to see them whine about being called on it when they do step over said line, but this is pretty brazen even by those standards. Lowry goes on to call critics “humorless” because, you know, all those liberals just don’t get teh funneh inherent in making fun of racial minorities based on other group stereotypes. They’re worse than feminists and rape jokes! And then along comes Jonah, because there’s never been anyone worse at making connections in human history, to tell us that “real” racially offensive imagery is a black magazine using well known references to selling out people like you to get ahead. I mean, it’s just like how they all walk around calling each other “nigger” but get pissed off when Jonah calls them a nigger. Why won’t they just get with the program of the well known human tradition that if one person can say it to another? What’s that you say? Context? Personal relationships? Shared experiences? What the hell is that?

Ultimately the game here is pretty simple; you do something that you know will get people to call you a racist, because it is racist, and you use that to stoke the resentiment of the aspects of your white-male coalition that haven’t quite come to grips with this racial/gender equality stuff yet, or are convinced that white males are the new oppressed minority, or whatever the hell the talking point is today. You tell them this is proof that white guys can’t even tell a joke anymore (even though this obviously isn’t a joke), that you can’t criticize a minority without being called a racist (even though you’re not being called out for criticism, but for using racial caricatures), and of course the ever present “I know you are but what am I” retorts Jonah traffics in. Because ultimately, the only thing that matters is pissing off liberals. But I don’t think it pisses anyone off anymore, it’s just embarrassing to watch. Like a 6 year old throwing a tantrum in a grocery store; you feel terrible for staring, but damnitt, you just can’t help yourself.

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Nope, No Racists Here

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

You rarely get the sort of candor Jonah exhibits here:

For starters, I think the ideal Republican candidate just might be Hispanic — and tough on immigration. The way our politics work, you need some kind of authenticity, some kind of membership, to go after sacred cows. Not just in the Nixon to China or Sista Souljah sense, but in the sense that only members of a “special group” can challenge the orthodoxies of the self-appointed (left-wing) leadership of that group. Blacks can challenge racial quotas in ways whites can’t. Women can attack feminism in ways men can’t. Jews can criticize Israel, Catholics can challenge the Church, gays can question gay marriage, and so on. Yes, they’ll still be attacked for their heresy. But the chief weapon — charges of bigotry — is severely blunted when “one of your own” leads the assault. I don’t like it, but it is what it is.

So, with that in mind, I think an Hispanic Ward Connerly could do wonders for the GOP. For starters, he could set the immigration debate right in a way that fixes much of the GOP’s so-called branding problem. He — or she, though my sense is it would need to be a he — could make it clear that legal immigration is good (though in need of reform) and that illegal immigration undermines not only continued legal immigration, but assimilation. More important, he could allow the GOP to reclaim at least some of the extremely good and noble narrative of immigration as a story of individualism, entrepreneurialism, and patriotic assimilation rather than group victimization. An Hispanic businessman could shake things up in all sorts of ways. He could send the signal that the GOP is still the party of opportunity and self-reliance. He would help with the deteriorating Catholic vote, with the Western states, and even some Eastern urban areas.

But most of all, an Hispanic candidate would help win back Republican moderates. Remember how important Colin Powell and the diversity pageant at the 2000 GOP convention were. It was never the intent to win over huge numbers of black voters. Rather, it was to send the message to soccer moms and the like that it wasn’t “racist” to vote for the GOP. An Hispanic candidate could have the same effect. The trick, however, is for the Hispanic to be a conservative who sells conservatism to Hispanics and others, not a Hispanic who tries to convince conservatives that La Raza is basically right and that Republicans need to get over their alleged racism.

There’s actually two unseemly aspects of modern conservatism here. The first, obviously, is the way tribal conservatives view everyone else through comically caricatured veneers of identity politics. Much like non-conservative females are reduced to caricatures of feminists, and African-American voters are assumed to care only about affirmative action (and welfare, don’t forget the welfare), in imagining conservative “outreach” to hispanics, apparently the only thing Jonah thinks conservatives need to work on is convincing hispanic voters that Republicans are right about…illegal immigration. And something about La Raza. And assimilation. But really, who could ever guess conservatives have a hard time attracting support from minorities?

The second, and more disturbing/amusing, is the modern conservative’s penchant for self-delusion, as evidenced by the way Jonah analogizes his envisioned candidate as a “Hispanic Ward Connerly.” Because Ward Connerly is a model of Republican outreach to minorities? Ward Connerly has made a name for himself in some circles by opposing affirmative action, but not as an appeal to black people, as an appeal to white males. Moreover, the last time I checked, the GOP hadn’t really made any measurable gains with black voters in the past 40 years so, regardless of his intended audience, it certainly seems strange to try to credit Connerly for something that hasn’t happened.

And, of course, there’s the paens to the “alleged” nature of Republican racism. It would certainly be wrong to say that all Republicans, or conservatives, are racists, and it would even be over-simplifying a bit to say that conservatism is founded on vaguely racist conceits (although not by much, at least in the contemporary sense), you would think someone writing under the masthead of a publication whose official position was that ending segregation was worse than segregation itself, who’s writing on the same group blog as someone who wrote a book entitled The New Case Against Immigration, Both Legal and Illegal, and which boasts almuni who go on to write columns explaining why the opinions of black people don’t really count might have a better sense of why some people perceive the conservative movement of being, at the least, a little too tolerant of racism and racists.

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Goldberg and Miller Get Their Wires Crossed: Are These Movies Conservative Or Fascist?

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

by Tommy Brown

When I came across an article by the National Review‘s John Miller listing the twenty-five greatest conservative movies,  I got a pretty good laugh out of it. Movies such as Team America: World Police, Groundhog Day and The Dark Knight made the list, with reasons ranging from “they make fun of Hollywood actors” to “it’s a metaphor for Bush and the War on Terror.” Pretty amusing stuff.

Now, before this, his coworker Jonah Goldberg wrote in his seminal wingnut tome Liberal Fascism that many Hollywood movies are fascist in theme or tone. These movies included Dead Poet’s Society, The Matrix and Fight Club. But the really really entertaining part is that a few of the movies on Miller’s conservative movie list made it onto Goldberg’s fascist movie list as well.

My favorite? Forrest Gump. Miller writes:

Forrest Gump (1994): It won an Oscar for best picture — beating Pulp Fiction, a movie that’s far more expressive of Hollywood’s worldview. Tom Hanks plays the title character, an amiable dunce who is far too smart to embrace the lethal values of the 1960s. The love of his life, wonderfully played by Robin Wright Penn, chooses a different path; she becomes a drug-addled hippie, with disastrous results. Forrest’s IQ may be room temperature, but he serves as an unexpected font of wisdom. Put ’em on a Whitman’s Sampler, but Mama Gump’s famous words about life’s being like a box of chocolates ring true.

But in Liberal Fascism, Goldberg takes Mr. Hanks and Co. to task for their film:

Of course, sometimes it is not a psychosexual breakthrough that redeems the white man but a physical abnormality or injury usually resulting in the suppression of his ability to reason. In Forrest Gump a retarded white man is the only reliably moral force during the chaos of the 1960s and the 1970s

It gets better. Miller’s article lauds the films 300 and Braveheart, perennial favorites among conservatives and people who just like to see heads get chopped off:

300 (2007): During the Bush years, Hollywood neglected the heroism of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — but it did release this action film about martial honor, unflinching courage, and the oft-ignored truth that freedom isn’t free. Beneath a layer of egregious non-history — including goblin-like creatures that belong in a fantasy epic — is a stylized story about the ancient battle of Thermopylae and the Spartan defense of the West’s fledgling institutions. It contrasts a small band of Spartans, motivated by their convictions and a commitment to the law, with a Persian horde that is driven forward by whips. In the words recorded by the real-life Herodotus: “Law is their master, which they fear more than your men[, Xerxes,] fear you.”

Braveheart (1995): Forget the travesty this soaring action film makes of the historical record. Braveheart raised its hero, medieval Scottish warrior William Wallace, to the level of myth and won five Oscars, including best director for Mel Gibson, who played Wallace as he led a spirited revolt against English tyranny. Braveheart taught that freedom is not just worth dying for, but also worth killing for, in defense of hearth and homeland. Six years later, amid the ruins of the Twin Towers, Gibson’s message resonated with a generation of American youth who signed up to fight terrorists, instead of inviting them to join a “constructive dialogue.” Liberals have never forgiven Gibson since.

Of course, once again Mr. Goldberg takes the opposite stance, and throws in The Last Samurai for good measure. Quoth Jonah:

Consider such popular films as Braveheart, The Last Samurai and 300. Many conservatives loved them because they depicted resistance to tyranny and celebrated “freedom.” But the “liberty” of these films was not individual liberty per se so much as the freedom of the tribe to behave according to its own relativistic values. The clans of the Scottish Highlands were hardly constitutional republics. Tom Cruise portrays the proto-fascist culture of the Meiji-era samurai as morally superior to that of the decadent West, echoing the German fascination with the Orient. And the Spartans of 300 are a eugenic (and vaguely homoerotic) warrior caste that would have had Hitler applauding in the aisle, despite valiant efforts to Americanize them.

Who to believe, who to believe. You just can’t make this stuff up.

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