“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, March 03, 2007

I love to jerk off, but I don't love all jerk offs

“But if the personalities weren’t ridiculous by themselves, one wouldn’t be able to make up good stories.” – Rameau

Frankly, LI doesn’t like Atrios’ wanker of the day award, because it associates one of God’s greatest gifts – wanking – exclusively with the warmonger and the feeb. I guess it is the last gasp of the great onanism fear that swept over Europe and the States in the 18th century. But it has had one good effect at least – it is obviously driving Time Magazine’s Joe Klein crazy. Today, he published a You can trust a Communist to be Communist post on his blog, and it is a useful map of the parameters of U.S. reporting. Anything that seems to indicate that a reporter will be called a “left wing extremist” is excluded. Since Klein is an insider to these circles, I think we can trust his accuracy. Here are the rules, the things that are tabu for your average thumb up his ass D.C. scribe:

A left-wing extremist exhibits many, but not necessarily all, of the following attributes:

--believes the United States is a fundamentally negative force in the world.
--believes that American imperialism is the primary cause of Islamic radicalism.
--believes that the decision to go to war in Iraq was not an individual case of monumental stupidity, but a consequence of America’s fundamental imperialistic nature.
--tends to blame America for the failures of others—i.e. the failure of our NATO allies to fulfill their responsibilities in Afghanistan.
--doesn’t believe that capitalism, carefully regulated and progressively taxed, is the best liberal idea in human history.
--believes American society is fundamentally unfair (as opposed to having unfair aspects that need improvement).
--believes that eternal problems like crime and poverty are the primarily the fault of society.
--believes that America isn’t really a democracy.
--believes that corporations are fundamentally evil.
--believes in a corporate conspiracy that controls the world.
--is intolerant of good ideas when they come from conservative sources.
--dismissively mocks people of faith, especially those who are opposed to abortion and gay marriage.
--regularly uses harsh, vulgar, intolerant language to attack moderates or conservatives.”


While Joe Klein richly deserves Atrios’ scorn – if he is a wanker, he is the kind of masturbator who gives that glorious supplement a bad name – he’s done a service by spelling out the rules that run through the head of the press corps. One by one, the fear that one will show, for instance, that a corporation is acting evilly, or the fear of showing that fundamental democratic rights are violated by the governing class in the U.S., stifles the baby news story in its cradle. The item that particularly amused me was “believes that American imperialism is the primary cause of Islamic radicalism.” Let’s see. The U.S. financed the Islamic radical fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s; the U.S. encouraged Saudi Arabia, from 1956 onward, to use its position as a fundamentalist Islamic state to fight Nasser and communism; the U.S. gave a green light, after the Iranian revolution, to the Saudi program of pouring millions into Wahabi controlled mosques, placed from Morocco to Indonesia, from Germany to Turkey; the U.S. went so far, in the 1980s, as to give the man who directed the first bombing of the WTC in 1993, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, a CIA signed visa into the U.S. His air fare and travel arrangements were practically comp’ed by the CIA in the 80s, which he spent flying around on behalf of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This is Robert Friedman’s article for that communist magazine, the New Yorker – which Klein, innocent of those vile red schemes, actually worked for himself! – published in 1995:

Here’s a snippet:

The Alkifah Refugee Centre, in addition to providing a hangout for the disaffected, distributed pamphlets and videotapes on the rebel war in Afghanistan. On any given day, a visitor to the centre might take martial-arts classes, or sign up for an automatic-weapons training course taught by instructors from the National Rifle Association. The club even had its own T-shirts: A MUSLIM TO A MUSLIM IS A BRICK WALL. But the highlight for the centre’s regulars were the inspirational jihad lecture series, featuring CIA-sponsored speakers.

”One week on Atlantic Avenue, it might be a CIA-trained Afghan rebel travelling on a CIA-issued visa; the next, it might be a clean-cut Arabic-speaking Green Beret, who would lecture about the importance of being part of the mujaheddin, or ‘warriors of the Lord.’ The more popular lectures were held upstairs in the roomier Al-Farooq Mosque; such was the case in 1990 when Sheikh Abdel Rahman, travelling on a CIA-supported visa, came to town. The blind Egyptian cleric, with his ferocious rhetoric and impassioned preaching, filled angry, discontented Arab immigrants with a fervour for jihad – holy war. This was exactly what the CIA wanted: to stir up support for the Muslim rebels and topple the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan.

The sheikh, however, had a somewhat broader agenda.

A former investigative counsel for the Senate Foreign Relatiosn Committee, now a private attorney in Washington, Jack Blum speaks bitterly but fatalistically. ‘After every covert war there is an unintended disposal problem,’ he says, as if he were talking about unexpected land mines and not potential Islamic terrorists living in Brooklyn. ‘We steered and encouraged these people. Then we dropped them. Now we’ve got a disposal problem. When you motivate people to fight for a cause – jihad – the problem is, how do you shut them off?’”


This, of course, is noway near as satisfying as Paul Berman's little book, that blames it all on the Nazis. Those nazis. Intellectual history as wanking - oh, wanking, so many crimes have been committed in your name!

And, according to Sy Hersch, the latest Bush folly is to … start the Saudis up again.
How does this work out as a parameter? when looking at the news, one has to have a sense of what isn’t being reported as opposed to what is. For instance, the reports about Iran’s supposed supplying of weapons to the Shi’a militias have taken up, I’d estimate, oh one hundred times more story space than the story of the Saudi and Gulf Sunni financing of the Sunni insurgents. Now – it isn’t that I don’t expect that the Saudis would operate like that, in their own self defense. That financing just happens to have contributed to a hundred times more deaths of American soldiers than the Iranians have. But… just as a hijacking that was manned mostly by Saudis and financed by a Saudi millionaire in close contact with Pakistan’s secret service operates as an excuse to invade Iraq, so, too, the dance around the obvious is a way of trying to lead us into a war with Iran. The truth, of course, is that the U.S. just isn’t powerful enough to take on the Saudis. Who wants them to? I don’t. I simply want the U.S. to recognize its real strength in the Middle East is weak at best, and operate accordingly. But to get back to the theme – sometimes, newspapers do stumble over reality. They do their best, at these moments, to move on. One of the funnier examples of this, recently, was a NYT story about the evil Iranians, supplying those evil Shi’ite militia those American killin’ weapons. Here’s an excerpt from this James Glanz piece, Feb. 27th:

In a dusty field near the Baghdad airport on Monday, the American military laid out a display of hundreds of components for assembling deadly roadside bombs, its latest effort to embarrass the country it contends is supplying the material to armed Shiite groups here: Iran.
Officers of the First Cavalry Division whose unit seized the components said they had been found in a palm grove just north of the Iraqi capital two days earlier, after a tip from a local resident. An explosives expert said the components were made to be assembled into the deadly canisters called explosively formed penetrators, or E.F.P.'s, which explode and hurl out a high-speed blob of copper designed to cut through tough American armor.
''I've lost good friends to these E.F.P.'s,'' said Capt. Clayton Combs, whose unit turned up the cache of weapons. ''And the fact that we found these before they got to the side of the road is just a huge win for us.''
The cache included what Maj. Marty Weber, a master explosives ordnance technician, said was C-4 explosive, a white substance, in clear plastic bags with red labels that he said contained serial numbers and other information that clearly marked it as Iranian.
But while the find gave experts much more information on the makings of the E.F.P.'s, which the American military has repeatedly argued must originate in Iran, the cache also included items that appeared to cloud the issue.

Among the confusing elements were cardboard boxes of the gray plastic PVC tubes used to make the canisters. The boxes appeared to contain shipments of tubes directly from factories in the Middle East, none of them in Iran. One box said in English that the tubes inside had been made in the United Arab Emirates and another said, in Arabic, ''plastic made in Haditha,'' a restive Sunni town on the Euphrates River in Iraq.
The box marked U.A.E. provided a phone number for the manufacturer there. A call to that number late Monday encountered only an answering machine that said, ''Leave your number and we will call you back.''


Right ho. Why is it that the NYT isn’t going to call back? Joe Klein gave us the answer. I think I could pretty much predict the ratio of stories about reality - who supplies the money to buy the goods for the insurgents - as opposed to the Administration's soft soap story about Iran. I would guess one to fifty. I'll check this with Factiva some time. It is nice to have a propaganda criterion.

And people say wanking has never lead to anything good.

7 comments:

Scruggs said...

Roger, you saw his picture I assume, and read his follow ups? There's a classic example of an enraged bull goose squirrel defending his nut cache.

roger said...

The comments section is pretty funny, man!

I think Joe Klein is a very odd guy. After all, he took the blogging job when he didn't have to - he's a rich fuck, he can do what he wants. But he wanted to blog. Yet he seems, a, to hate bloggers, and b, to hate his readers. These are keys to massive failure in the blogging biz. If you are a vegetarian, don't become a butcher is my advice. This whole contretemps reminds me of the hoo ha around Primary Colors, when he kept on insisting he didn't write it after the fun in the game had staled. This pissed off journalists and turned a fun prank into a p.r. disaster for Klein.

It is one thing to write against left wing extremists, which one defines as those mean people who keep calling you a wanker - this is the McCarthyism of the sand box - but to do so little to cement reader loyalty as to continually bash your readers at the same time is just silly. One of the commenters said that Klein was building up to a meltdown, a la Lee Siegel - not that he will go into sockpuppetry, but that he will do something to make even more of a fool of himsefl - and I think that is right.

Now, frankly, I myself wouldn't know what to do if I had a hundred comments calling me a douche bag, I admit. That would disturb me - but I also have a feeling I would defuse that anger before it built up like that, because, because, well, I was brought up to have some Southern Baptist manners, god damn it! This is really my own downfall as a blogger - I too readily defuse conflict.

So, how long do you think Klein will last as a blogger?

Jon said...

I think he's done as a blogger already.

He does write posts (or a column, if you will) and people respond, but it's more like some sick dunk-the-columnist baseball throwing contest than it is blogging.

But like was said above, it is really useful for him to probably unwittingly uncover the downright uninformed and simplistic perspective (the rebar for ideology reinforcement and propaganda ?) that is shared by the tenured journalists.

patrick said...

It's interesting to find that there is now an attitude developed that it one might not know that blogging is by now the coolest of the cool. No one would ever know it, and tenured columnists have simplistic perspective as well, no telling about most long-term non-fiction writers, probably out of touch too. Blogs are for other bloggers, they used to say in the old days (2 years ago). Of course, that is still the case, but blogging is still the coolest of the cool, and bloggers don't want to write for magazines and don't. It has nothing to do with the medium, add all the blogs together and you get truth. Blogs are worse than jury duty and broken up love affairs, which at least exist in a non-blog way. The only time I like bloggers is when they quit referring to the blogs, and even in person they can't always do this, they've become the blog. I always like a blogger on the telephone better, and it even improves the quality of the blog.

So one man's washed-up blog career is another's tenured high salary, with blackballing by those without money who now are talking in terms of promising blog careers gone down the drain, with nothing but bank accounts to keep them company. It's sad, all this proving about how Zizek was right about all the virtual things being the real world, and how he's just the physical representative in the desert of the real to bring all the non-connected into the circle of light: Zizek is Jesus Christ, in fact, the blogger who goes out among the heathen in the wilderness and informs them that they had better get with it, because money doesn't count any more. Neither does any goddam thing matter except the blog. Zizek would like to be a regular blogger, and just type from the comfort of his home, but his is a more complicated mission, for which he has been called, and that's why he sometimes agrees to give lectures in person and accept regular checks instead of e-gold cd's for it, because that is the way the illumined yogis used to behave when they'd go among the unwashed mortals and eat a little ghee and that lentil type thing. Oh yes, bloggers all the way, down to the goalpost and the Baptists can't stop you, they are all there too.

As usual, my motives are pretty transparent...or are they, since I don't know what I'd get. Jerking off canhot be paltry if it is to have a good name.

roger said...

You are right about the blogger being the blog. But isn't this what happens when some slightly new form emerges - like, say, Balzac finally being unable to distinguish between his real life and the life of the characters in his novels? Novels, as he and Scott were writing them, being new forms. Although with blogs, it is sort of an inverted impersonality - instead of the writer being like God, everywhere and nowhere, the writer is at the mercy of the thing he has put in motion - I am at the mercy of LI, Duncan Black at the mercy of Atrios, etc. After all, extra-blog life becomes a series of diminishing returns - am I, for instance, going to have a multiply referenced interesting conversation with you to compare to our many ping ponging comments?

I used to pride myself on being a good converser. I wanted to talk like Wilde and Coleridge combined. But nowadays, I might not really talk with somebody for days. Is this a bad thing?

I don't think Joe Klein, however, recognizes what blogs are - he reminds me of those early sixties movies, which would show the teacher or the parents smilingly moving out onto the high school floor into the crowd of brillcreamed boys and nymphettes that parts before them, and doing the twist as a sort of post-Oedipal closure. I think Klein is the very image of oblivious.

patrick j. mullins said...

I am surprised you got right to the point I was interested in.

'After all, extra-blog life becomes a series of diminishing returns -'

It does? You know that? Nobody has promoted this idea more than Zizek, who has a taste for nice sinecures in the extra-blog world that depend on cyber-addicts proliferating like crazy. Both Baudrillard and Virilio have covered the same territory, with a lot more integrity and honesty, and I am working toward this myself. Zizek wants to promote the virtual as the place 'where the action is' while seeming to deplore it, but capitalizing on it.

' am I, for instance, going to have a multiply referenced interesting conversation with you to compare to our many ping ponging comments?'

You could, as you answer below. This is according to how much you believe the blog is revolutionary in some intellectual way that you can participate in in an especially effective way. You may well be, once in a while I say something sort of 'intervention-like' when blog-talk gets too purely absorbed in itself. 'Why blog?' has been finished, but bloggers still get stuck in frenzies that can harden permanently. Maybe that's good, that's also why I've never made a blog of my own, and never cared if I was scorned for that, because the smart ones were capable of seeing through all that, and remembered that extra-blog life was what blogs were also supposed to be talking about too, otherwise they should only be developing blog-form. Slightly related are dissatisfied bloggers who think they have transcended blogs, but they have not: They have financed old forms in which to pour blogs so they appear to be something else, when they are merely reified blogs. This is normal and has to do with exposures at certain ages, etc.

'I used to pride myself on being a good converser. I wanted to talk like Wilde and Coleridge combined.'

You probably could be, the opportunity may or may not be there, the choice may be some while back that you really think you can get your best things done blogging, even though, of course, I know you do other writing. I know that I'm that good a converser, and that also there are tons of things you know that I don't. People's chemistry is different, i.e., I concede the necessity of cyberspace, but that does not mean that it in and of itself does not cause me major depression.

' But nowadays, I might not really talk with somebody for days. Is this a bad thing?'

That's very good. No, I guess not, who am I to say what's good or not good for you. It would be intolerable for me, I don't even want to imagine it. You know something about this from having gotten absorbed, and apparently not unhappily, into the virtual environment in a way that I am not at all--because when a certain dosage is reached, an enormous sweatshop sensation occurs.

Anyway, you may well be right about Joe Klein, I know not enough to make an intelligent comment on him, and haven't the time to research him.

roger said...

You know, Patrick, this conversation reminds me of a novel I've been reading - Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. The rediscovered novel by the woman who left it with her daughters before she was deported to Auschwitz. Anyway, it begins with the collapse of the French line in 1940, and goes through four Parisian households who all, suddenly, have to evacuate - not because they are ordered to, but out of the sheer fear that gripped the populace. One of them is a writer of popular novels - one of those half artsy, half popular novelists in the Anatole France vein that France used to produce, pretty reliably. That he has to disturb his routine, into which he has been hermetically sealed, obviously leads to a huge crisis. His mistress, his butler, the chauffeur - his whole professional life has been a conspiracy by the hired help to keep him from real life, and now real life is blowing up cars around him, and tossing him with riff raff into food lines. There's a marvelous description of the crowd in the countryside, streaming out from the city, looking up at the planes overhead: "Then a strange dark shape would glide across the star covered sky, everyone would look up and the laughter would stop. It wasn't exactly what you'd call fear, rather a strange sadness - a sadness that had nothing human about it any more, for it lacked both courage and hope. This was how animals waited to die. It was the way fish caught in a net watch the shadow of the fisherman moving back and forth above them."

In a sense, I feel the collapse of many of the things that used to make up my life and sense of location in the last six years are like that - under the shadow of the fisherman. My response has been to find a hiding place. This is the hiding place.