A House Divided
Daniel Patrick Moynahan, the late Senator from New York is credited with this observation: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."
And yet, this weekend, we will see, finally, whether or not Americans operate from two discrete systems of facts.
You are aware, no doubt, that now a majority of Americans (according to the Harris Poll) believe that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9-11. And that a larger majority believe that "weapons of mass destruction" were found in Iraq.
Neither "fact" is true, and were only believed by a minority of Americans a mere year ago. So what's happened? How have solid facts given way to unsupported (and convenient to the ruling junta) opinions? Ten years ago I wrote this:
[NOTE: In the winter of 1994, I wrote the following, which appeared in the January 1995 issue of the Santa Fe SUN ...]
Civilization -- that is, those codes of public conduct (and private hypocrisy, for that matter) which we share with our forebears, England, Rome, Athenian Greece, etc. -- is under a merciless and unrelenting attack. and those attacking are armed with FAX machines, satellite uplinks, cable television, simultaneous radio syndication on "robot" AM and FM stations, 800 numbers, cellular phones, computerized mailing lists, and even the Internet and the WorldWideWeb.Of course, CBS News featured something akin to this plea on Tuesday, September 5, 2006, the first night of the fluff news with Katie Couric. Alas, the "plea for moderation" and "civil discourse" was more than a decade late. Tonight, the stage was handed over to Rush Limbaugh. And he said one thing that I agree with:
The barbarians are at the gate; the heretics' court is about to be called into session. To listen to talk radio is to listen to America, and what is out there isn't very nice.
What has happened to public debate? What has happened to "debate" proper? In the words of one cartoonist, the wife at her computer tells her raging husband, "When I want your opinion, I'll listen to Rush Limbaugh" ....
"When Good negotiates with Evil, Evil will always win."Which brings us to the Red and the Blue.
We have the bloggers over at redstate dot com writing of 9-11:
ABC 9/11 mini-series gets Democrats upset -- by telling the truthAs I note this, the following just played in my radio headphones:
Since the release of Fahrenheit 9/11, multiple acts of Democrat grandstanding during the 9/11 hearings, and the political spinnings of the "9/11 Widows", I've always had the sense that most people think that our last, best chance to thwart 9/11 was for the Bush Administration to react forcefully to it's own August 6, 2001 PDB. This idea obviously works well for the Democrats, because it deflects attention from the Clinton Administration's almost complete inaction during the years prior.
That may change in a few days.
The Democrats are apparently outraged by the content of the ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 -- scheduled to be aired as part of the fifth anniversary of 9/11. And for a simple reason: It may shatter the protective cocoon they've been living in -- in a way that right-wing bloggers never could -- by simply playing the story down the middle.
"This is a special edition of the Sean Hannity Show: "THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA."
The "battle"? With WHOM, Sean? With ME? With my American right to have an opinion? To hold that an illegal conquest is, in fact, illegal? That you can't wipe your ass with the Constitution? That concentration camps and secret prisons are Stalinist and not American? Is it ME you're at war with?
And is it, finally, the Red against the Blue?
Yeah, well Limbaugh must have been laughing his lard ass off. Having led the charge to remove Dan Rather over a questionable document (never proven a forgery) whose factual specifics were backed up by multiple sources, including the secretary to the military officer whose report was called into question, Limbaugh now sat in the CBS catbird seat, spewing his "facts" to millions of network viewers -- his reward, in a sense, for the putsch on the truth that he was head cheerleader for.
Listen to some more of what Rush Limbaugh said:
Unfortunately, some Americans are not interested in victory. And they want us to believe that their irresponsible behavior is Patriotic. Well, it's not.Where to begin? That there is NO SUCH THING as "Islamo-Fascism?" Fascism, as defined by the original Fascist, Mussolini is often defined by a quote that while often cited has never been successfully found: ""Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini"
When the critics are more interested in punishing this country over a few incidents at Abu Grahib and Guantanimo Bay than they are in defeating those who want to kill us; when they seek to destroy a foreign surveillance program which is designed to identify those who want to kill us and how they intend to do it; when they want to grant those who want to kill us U.S. constitutional rights (grammar sic), I don't call that patriotic.
Patriotism is rallying behind the country, regardless of party affiliation, to defeat Islamo-Fascism. Patriotism is supporting our troops on the battlefield, not undermining the mission and morale.
No: Here's a more precise version, straight from Benito's own pen (he was a journalist before turning to conquest):
The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organization of production is a function of national concern, the organizer of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.Doesn't sound much like Islam, does it? Or how about this:
State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. (pp. 135-136)
-- Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions
Fascism recognises the real needs which gave rise to socialism and trade-unionism, giving them due weight in the guild or corporative system in which diverent interests are coordinated and harmonised in the unity of the State. (p.15) (in other words, no unions).But here's the really fun quote, in case you were wondering what "Islamo-fascists" might be:
Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere. (p. 32) (Funny, so is Limbaugh).
The Fascist State lays claim to rule in the economic field no less than in others; it makes its action felt throughout the length and breadth of the country by means of its corporate, social, and educational institutions, and all the political, economic, and spiritual forces of the nation, organized in their respective associations, circulate within the State. (p. 41).
- Benito Mussolini, 1935, The Doctrine of Fascism
According to Colombia University Professor Robert O. Paxton,
"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."But that's not really the big deal. They're lying their asses off. What else is new? Who cares?
Well, you'll be pleased to know that one of Mussolini's Fascist slogans was: "Me ne frego," literally "I frig myself about it," closer, in meaning, to "I don't give a damn": the Italian Fascist motto. Best rendered, "I couldn't give a fuck."
And Rush does a good job of defining another Fascist motto: "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato, "Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State."
[both translations courtesy of Wikipedia]
But listen to what I wrote nearly twelve years ago:
And this is what one hears on talk radio: griping and sniggering. Talk radio is only the tip of the iceberg: Geraldo, t-shirts and a plethora of others come to mind.No: we have been choosing up sides for a long time now. We have the Red and we have the Blue. The irony that the "Red State" fanatics are the self-same fanatics, in many cases, who used to declare "Better Dead than Red" back in the commie-hating days goes unnoticed and unremarked.
But there is a terrible effect. We know, historically, that when you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. Sow anger and reap bloodshed. The case of Paul Hill is not a farfetched one.
Paul Hill shot and killed a doctor and a retired gentleman who'd agreed to accompany the doctor to protect him. The doctor was performing abortions. Paul Hill, one does not doubt, was never involved with the painful circumstance of an abortion, either personally or peripherally, but he killed them just the same, in the name of his 'God.'
John Brown engaged in the same tactics in "Bloody Kansas" in the late 1850s. The first battle of the Civil War took place at a little bit of forested campground on a prairie 15 miles south of Lawrence, Kansas, called Black Jack. Within ten years of that first bloodbath, initiated by John Brown and his boys, 26,000 died in a single afternoon of carnage at Antietam. Europeans could not believe the numbers (many more died of their wounds, added silently to the abattoir).
When "SuperSize Me" declared on CBS News on Tuesday that we needed civil discourse, I had to laugh. Here's what I wrote then:
A radical form of moderation is needed. Extremism in defense of moderation might seem contradictory, but it may also be an absolute necessity ... But in the meantime (and I do mean mean time), we have to stand up for some degree of civility. Perhaps, like Grandma used to say: "I respect your opinions, but if you continue to speak like that, I'm going to have to ask you to leave." Barbarism masquerading as civilized behavior is still barbarism, after all.Alas, I think that time has come and gone. No one was interested then, no one even gives a damn now -- "Me ne frego."
No: the 9-11 movie that ABC is putting on Sunday and Monday will cleave this nation right in two on the 'facts.' Clinton is given the blame (using cooked-up scenes made out of whole cloth) and Bush's infamous bungling of 9-11 (My Pet Goat) is neatly shunted to the side in favor of the Red set of Facts: Il Bushe is strong. Il Bushe protects us.
For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples which are rising, or rising again after a period of decadence, are always imperialist; and renunciation is a sign of decay and of death ... But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects of the practical working of the regime, the character of many forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which must be taken against those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement -- Mussolini, (with Giovanni Gentile): the 1932 Italian Encyclopedia definition of 'fascism.'The movie on ABC/Disney will be presented without commercial interruption to commemorate the fifth anniversary of 9-11. Sean Hannity will be doing a special show on Monday with the screenwriter on what (it now looks like) was edited (or, as the Righties seem to insist with their "facts" censored).
Step back into my wayback machine again:
The dogs of war do not return meekly to their kennels. When discourse and reason cease, violence cannot be far behind. That is history's lesson.Well, they turned out to be "Islamo-fascists," and, of course -- according to Rush -- you and I who oppose this insane round of pointless wars.
Today, when Paul Hill is discussed on "talk radio," the victim is invariably referred to as an "abortionist" by the literate, and "an abortion doctor" by the less so. The other victim is rarely mentioned at all. His death is not interesting ideologically.
Do you see how important it is that we frame our speech precisely? If we say it one way, there is no excuse. But, stated the way it now stands, it almost seems (if your views run that way) that Paul Hill might have a case for shooting two unarmed men in the back with a shotgun. (How noble!)
We of America hated the Russians for fifty years. Then, the Russians were gone: no more Communists left to hate. We have no one left to hate now, none to vent our self-righteousness, our "freedom" and "American Dream" on but ourselves.
But hatred is a very difficult habit to break, and hating (for over fifty years) becomes a kind of need. And, lately, one hears 'liberal' spoken in the same tones, with the same hateful inflections once reserved for pinkos, commies and subversives (whoever they finally turned out to be).
What ever happened to "Get Osama"? How come Il Bushe, after not mentioning Bin Laden for over TWO years, suddenly quotes him in four consecutive speeches neatly coinciding with the kickoff of the fall election campaign?
Why do I even ask these rhetorical questions?
You're smart. You've already got it figured out. You're probably way ahead of me.
But might I note: when the Civil War hit, the American (Northern) Baptist church took the Bible, and proved to the soldiers going to fight against slavery that God demanded it. The Southern Baptist church took the SELFSAME Bible and proved that God divinely sanctioned and approved of slavery and sent THEIR soldiers to fight for "states rights."
No: having succeeded in driving "facts" from CBS, the Red Staters now want their 9-11 rewrite on ABC to succeed. And NBC's Brian Williams brays that he listens to Rush at least once a week.
Not only are they entitled to their own opinions, they are entitled to their own facts: although we, who oppose them with every bit of moral fiber we can muster, are neither entitled to facts nor opinions.
This weekend we'll know. Are there two 9-11s? Are there two Americas, irreconcilably and irreversibly opposed? Must antipathy be our way of life, and civil war its inevitable consequence?
Must we, Red and Blue, finally come to blows?
Because, as Lincoln (whose party you Southern cracker, bigoted, know-nothings have hijacked) said: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
(If that is so, and just so's you know: When the war begins, and it's perfectly legal and even patriotic to shoot the bastards on the other side, I got dibs on Rush -- I called it first.)
Here is what I wrote then:
"The barbarians are not waiting politely for us to answer the doorbell. And it is not their homes that will burn."Here is what I write now:
Either stand up for liberal democracy now, or forever hold your peace (or, more likely, have a musket forced into your hands). If you were waiting for your moment: this is it. Or don't. But don't ever say that I didn't warn you.Oh, my long-ago little essay's title?
"The Rush-ians Are Coming, The Rush-ians Are Coming."Looks like they're here.