Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Those goddamn Frenchies . . . oh wait, suddenly we love the French


This week's New Yorker cover -- "Solidarité," by Ana Juan

by Ken

I've refrained from comment on the horrors in Paris, because really what is there to say? The realities of the situation are at once clear and deeply twisted, at once a challenge to conscience and a summons to abject hopelessness. But one thing you can count on is that the American Right, which can always be counted on not just to get it wrong, but to get it wrong from every imaginable angle, will get it violently wrong, displaying perhaps unprecedented depths of ignorance, imbecility, dishonesty, vileness, degradation, and savagery. Take the case of Texas Rep. Randy Weber, who in his now-famous tweet put himself in the position of urging, as washingtonpost.com's Alexandra Petri put it, "Oh, President Obama, why can't you be more like Hitler?"

The congressman has apologized, of course, but it's hard to think what a suitable apology might be for screeched ignorance of such violence, even with the obvious explanation that the screecher is screeching without benefit of a working brain. Note that I say "explanation," not "excuse."

I was especially grateful to Dana Milbank for his ripe appreciation, in his Washington Post column today, of the irony of the American Right's sudden-found solidarity with the French.
A decade ago, Republicans in Congress were renaming French fries “freedom fries” and French toast “freedom toast” because of that country’s refusal to support the Iraq war. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld belittled the “old Europe” French, President George W. Bush mocked an American reporter for speaking French to the French president, and conservative critics called the French “weasels,” “appeasers” and worse. John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, was ridiculed by the Bush administration for being “too French” and looking French, and his fluency in French was a liability in the campaign.

And now, that very same Monsieur Kerry, the secretary of state, and his boss, President Obama, are being condemned by conservatives for . . . not being nice enough to the French.

Quelle horreur!
And Dana goes on to note with special astonishment the fatuousness, as well as historical obliviousness, of charging Secretary Kerry with insufficient sympathy for the French.


Contrary to the delusive imagining of GWB-era Pentagon buttwipe Dov Zakheim, who spoke of "what may have been the most important demonstration for decency since the fall of the Berlin Wall," beyond the feel-good symbolism of the even, it has no practical significance. All those leaders can get together and wag their fingers at the terrorists, but that won't lessen either (a) the underlying grievances of the peoples among whom terrorism has arisen or (b) our general powerlessness to protect ourselves from the terrorists even as the would-be bullying in fact strengthens them.

Even as the French nation makes its brave show of standing up for freedom of expression, the result will be the opposite, in part because the French legal system's stakehas never been in protecting free speech but in limiting it, making sure that any exercise of it that's subject to challenge falls into the extremely limited categories of speech that are protected under law. And meanwhile, not only in France but most everywhere else, the defense of freedom of expression will be carried out mostly by clamping down on it.

Of course you could argue that this suits the right-wing thugs just fine, since clamping down on freedom of expression has always been high on their list of priorities. Oh sure, the American Right over the last decade or so has come to fall back repeatedly on free speech as its bulwark, but of course they're no less opposed to free speech, to all freedom of expression really, than they ever were. The whole point about the freedom of expression is that it's meant to cover the people you don't agree with. The Righties have no interest in the freedom of expression of people they don't agree with. All they care about is their right to lie, smear, and brutalize with every resource at their disposal. If all else fails, they seem to say, we'll Second Amendment you into oblivion.

Which brings us to the latest outbreak of right-wing psychosis. With their brains, as usual, set to Absolulte Zero IQ mode, they have -- surprise -- arrived at a state of affairs where the villain of this dramedy is (who else?) President Obama, and maybe Secretary of State Kerry.

Yes, the U.S. should have had some sort of representation in Paris. But as Dana Milbank puts it, this falls "in the category of faux pas," not diplomatic crisis.
Sending the president across the ocean on 36 hours’ notice to an open-air rally of hundreds of thousands of people was never a possibility, for security and logistical reasons. But Vice President Biden could have gone; instead, the closest he got to Paris was dining at the French restaurant Le Diplomate in Washington on the eve of the attack. At least Attorney General Eric Holder, already in Paris, might have dropped by. Officials I spoke to said it was a simple screw-up: They didn’t understand how significant the event would be, with leaders of some 40 countries in attendance.
To imagine that the demonstration, beyond its very low-level feel-good quality, is of any practical importance is to show an absolutely total lack of understanding of absolutely any of the issues involved, from the simplest to the most complex.

The fact remains that the people who believe in free speech will now be looking over their shoulders, even as they can't be protected from violence, while the people who don't believe in free speech have the pleasure of attacking it and circumscribing it -- in the name of protecting it! This is so preposterous that it ought to be funny. It just happens not to be.

This is actually not much different, if you think about it, from the way the paradox of the right-wing call for brutal repression of terrorism, which has the effect -- so obvious that even the brain-deadest right-winger should be able to see it -- of creating broader, deeper, and more tenacous support for the grievances that underlie it. Even as George W. Bush was blundering his way through Iraq, wasn't it blindingly obvious that the long-term effect (and I don't mean all that long-term) would be to create more terrorists with deeper and wider support? But this turns out to suit the interest of the right-wing blowhards, because it ensures them of a permanent subject for blowing hard on.

So we have people (and I use the term in its broadest, most genetically fundamentalist sense) like Rafael "Ted from Alberta" blithering about it with an even more example of his invariable cretinousness and viciousness. Is there any possible explanation for him not being safely confined in a maximum-security mental facility, for both his own and the world at large's benefit?

In other words, it's business as usual.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home