Friday, August 24, 2007

Welcome back to Whose War Is It Anyway?

. . . where everything's made up and the facts don't matter.

Responding to President Bush's latest rewrite of history, Mahablog has an incisive post on how the right prefers mythology to facts anyway. Someone after my own heart, Maha draws from sources as varied as Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, and Star Trek: The Next Generation to paint a picture of a group who speaks in archetypes rather than information. Or, as Greenwald put it last week:
Love war? You are Churchill, a noble warrior. Oppose war? You’re Chamberlain, a vile appeaser. And everyone else is Hitler. That, more or less, composes the full scope of “thought” among this strain on the right.
Maha elaborates:
In the rightie mind, any attempt to avoid war is “appeasement.” In his new book A Tragic Legacy, Glenn Greenwald writes (p. 177) that when Ronald Reagan signed the INF treaty with the Soviet Union in 1988, rightie editorialists everywhere evoked Neville Chamberlain and accused Reagan of “appeasement.” Earlier, in 1984, Newt Gingrich scorned Reagan’s rapprochement with Gorbachev as “the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolph Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich.”

Got that? All “enemies” are Hitler (whatever you think of Gorbachev, he’s hardly Hitler). So much as meeting with “enemies” is Chamberlain and Hitler at Munich. So how do we deal with nations whose interests don’t harmonize with ours? Rightie mythos leaves us with no option but war.
Those who after WWII swore, "Never again" have been pretty slack, I guess. Gorbachev was Hitler. Bin Laden is Hitler. Saddam was Hitler. Kim Jong-il is Hitler. Ahmadinejad is Hitler. Even Markos Moulitsas is Hitler. Throw in Dick Shawn and you've got a casting call for Springtime for Hitler.

There is some reason to the right's reflex for reference, I grant you. There's an economy to speaking in archetypes. I prefer using images from popular film. For a columnist, it's cheap shorthand that allows you to cram more message into limited column inches. It has its place. For a White House in which message discipline is the one thing at which it excels, speaking in commercials comes naturally, but it's no substitute for effective governance. Katrina proved that graphically and tragically.

Democracy works best when the electorate can make informed decisions. Rhetoric -- especially from our leaders -- designed more for conveying impressions than information doesn't serve citizens or democracy well. Salesmanship is no substitute for leadership.

Read the whole post over at Mahablog to get the significance of:
“Sam Waterson and John Malkovich in Phnom Penh! FDR at Yalta!”

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