10/22/2003 01:40:00 PM|W|P|PJ|W|P|Notes on Easterbrook:
1. There seem to be three basic camps here: those that think that a vile anti-Semite has been exposed for the fraud he is, those that think that a basically decent guy said a nasty thing but ESPN overreacted by firing him, and those that think that what we have here is another hapless victim of the PC stormtroopers.
2. It pains me to say this, because it's been my experience that any talk of "oppressive political correctness" is usually a strong signal that some major league not-thinking is coming up, but I find myself sympathizing with those who simply don't see what the problem was. I'm willing to concede that there may be some subtle shadings I'm missing here, but the thrust of Easterbrook's controversial argument seems to be that Jewish film executives should feel a special obligation not to profit from depictions of violence because of events in recent (and contemporary) Jewish history, a statement which would be considered blandly uplifting and morally upright were it located in a Joe Lieberman stump speech.
3. Of course, the piece in question does include the sentence: "Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?" And that sure looks bad when divorced from the context, but the sentence in question is part of a larger argument in which he accuses Christian film executives of doing the same thing.
4. Consider this hypothetical set of observations:
Many green marbles are round.
Many blue marbles are round.
Based on these observations, it seems self-evident to me that I'm on firmer ground concluding that there is a correlation between being a marble and roundness than I am concluding that there is something about blue things that makes them especially likely to be round. In fact, if someone were to imply that my observations were driving at the latter conclusion, I would say that they were out of their minds.
Now substitute "Christian" for "green," "Jewish" for "blue," "film executives" for "marbles" and "contemptible greedheads" for "round" in the above hypotheticals and conclusions, and you see my point.
5. So why the jumpiness? Well, under the best of circumstances, connection of Jewishness with greediness tends to lead to somewhat unfortunate cultural associations, and a Jewish reader (or anyone else concerned about anti-Semitism) is well within their rights to raise an eyebrow about the fact that religion came up in the first place, especially given those unfortunate associations. If someone were to write in a blog that "like many white people, many black people are ignorant spear-chuckers," a reader would not be insane to question the motives for the statement and ask why race was brought up at all, even if it logically parses to not be bigoted at all.
6. That having been said, there's a big difference between poor thinking (or poor choice of words) and active bigotry. I'm sympathetic to someone who is caught in a shit-storm over a racist-sounding comment--and to my lights, Gregg Easterbrook is only slightly more blameworthy than the fellow who was suspended from a government job in DC for using the word "niggardly," which is to say an iota above not at all.
7. Contrast, say, an administration official who calls Islam idolatry in the midst of the occupation of an Islamic country--an operation in which actual people are dying on a daily basis due to a population that's already just a little riled up. Where's the real threat?|W|P|106672960081789288|W|P||W|P|10/13/2003 01:05:00 AM|W|P|PJ|W|P|Problems with "support our troops":
1. "Support our troops" when used exclusively by supporters of administration policy (which it basically is) is a rhetorical club used to beat opponents of the war. Support our troops/support our president carries with it the implicit assumption that not supporting current administration policy is equivalent to hatred of those carrying out that policy on the ground.
I will be the first to admit that there's a time and a place for military conflict. But there needs to be an honest assessment of whether that conflict is a good idea, both before it happens and while it's happening, and associating opposition to the war with something which most Americans find reprehensible is a way of dodging the responsibility of contributing to that assessment.
2. "Support our troops" ties into the American version of the stab-in-the-back myth. After WWI, it was common for German right-wingers to claim that the only reason they had lost the war was because those meddling civilians had stabbed the military in the back by signing a peace treaty and overthrowing the monarchy.
The American stab in the back myth is pretty similar--the notion that we could have won in Vietnam if only the politicians had let the military do their job and if only the civilians hadn't protested so darn much. The archetype of this line of thinking is the image of a hippie spitting on a vet back from a tour in Vietnam, an image which is now more or less ingrained in our national conciousness, despite the fact that this image is almost pure urban legend, one which detracts from our ability to honestly evaluate the Vietnam War's place in our history, and one which absolves a lot of people of the blame they richly deserve for the hash that was made of the lives of many Vietnam vets.
3. There's no draft anymore. People who have signed up for the military have explicity and voluntarily agreed to kill people when the government tells them to. This is a different sort of moral choice than that which was made by many Vietnam vets, who went to war because they were drafted and would have been thrown in jail if they handn't. I'm not saying that all of the blame for anything bad which happened or will happen in Iraq should be placed on the common grunt, but that common grunt had the opportunity to not participate and chose to do so, so I don't think he's blameless, either.
4. It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: some of the same people who are equating a lack of support for the administration with a lack of support for Our Boys In The Gulf certainly have short memories of their public statements during times of armed conflict when the president had a (D) after his name.
5. I rather think I was doing a nice job of supporting the troops by not wanting them to go someplace where they'd be shot at.