Monday, March 04, 2002
Even more intriguing, Fox's spokesperson says that a third celebrity-boxing pairing has yet to be announced. So here are my suggestions for potential pairings:
Marie-Reine la Gougne vs. Jamie Sale
Monica Lewinsky vs. Linda Tripp
Glenn Reynolds vs. Stephen Green [hyper-posting grudge match]
Andrew Sullivan vs. Paul Krugman (I understand that for $50K Krugman will do anything)
James Lileks vs. Matthew Engels
What are your suggestions?
[UPDATE: This Celebrity Blogging Boxing Match idea seems to have struck a chord. Damian Penny has posted a selection of his own proposed Celebrity Blogger Bouts. I can't help but notice that most of his blogger bouts pair one reasonably young combatant (i.e., under 40 yrs old) against a senior citizen. This guy is pretty bloodthirsty! (Must be all that hockey.)
In the meantime, some people have emailed in with other suggestions:
--Hugh Stark "would pay big money" to see Natalija Radic vs. Josh Marshall.
--Joel G. suggests the following: Glenn Reynolds vs. Michael Bellesiles
And here are my own two additions:
Jim Treacher vs. Elizabeth Wurtzel
Colin Powell and Dick Rumsfeld vs. Hubert Vedrine and Chris Patten, in which I envision Rumsfeld landing sixteen right jabs straight onto Patten's jaw, while Vedrine complains that Rumsfeld's technique is "too simplistic."]
Any other nominations?
A week ago I was stunned when a European friend asked me what I thought of a declaration by 60 American intellectuals that was published in all the major French, German, Italian and other continental papers but which did not appear in the US at all, except on the Internet where few people took notice of it. This declaration took the form of a pompous sermon about the American war against evil and terrorism being "just" and in keeping with American values, as defined by these self-appointed interpreters of our country.
As opposed to Said, Chomsky, and their buddies, who apparently were elected to their positions?
Here are some excerpts from what Said calls a “pompous sermon”:
“We recognize that at times our nation has acted with arrogance and ignorance toward other societies. At times our nation has pursued misguided and unjust policies. Too often we as a nation have failed to live up to our ideals. We cannot urge other societies to abide by moral principles without simultaneously admitting our own society's failure at times to abide by those same principles.…
“For many people, including many Americans and a number of signatories to this letter, some values sometimes seen in America are unattractive and harmful. Consumerism as a way of life. The notion of freedom as no rules. The notion of the individual as self-made and utterly sovereign, owing little to others or to society. The weakening of marriage and family life. Plus an enormous entertainment and communications apparatus that relentlessly glorifies such ideas and beams them, whether they are welcome or not, into nearly every corner of the globe.
“One major task facing us as Americans, important prior to September 11, is facing honestly these unattractive aspects of our society and doing all we can to change them for the better. We pledge ourselves to this effort.”
Paid for and sponsored by something called the Institute for American Values, whose main (and financially well- endowed) aim is to propagate ideas in favour of families, "fathering" and "mothering," and God, the declaration was signed by Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama, Daniel Patrick Moynihan among many others, but basically written by a conservative feminist academic, Jean Bethke Elshtain.
And, for Said, the fact that she is a conservative pretty much discredits this whole project from the start. Incidentally, here are two examples of Elshtain’s conservatism in action: “At the University of Massachusetts, where she taught from 1973 to 1987, Elshtain drew fire for including male authors on the reading list, for allowing men in her Feminism classes, and for teaching an array of different feminist positions…. Elshtain's views gained national attention in 1979 when her cover story for The Nation criticized feminists for what she saw as their antipathy to child rearing, heterosexuality, and the family in general.
Its main arguments about a "just" war were inspired by Professor Michael Walzer, a supposed socialist who is allied with the pro-Israel lobby in this country, and whose role is to justify everything Israel does by recourse to vaguely leftist principles. In signing this declaration, Walzer has given up all pretension to leftism and, like Sharon, allies himself with an interpretation (and a questionable one at that) of America as a righteous warrior against terror and evil, the more to make it appear that Israel and the US are similar countries with similar aims.
From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “The just war theory also has a long history. [T]he most systematic exposition is given by Saint Thomas Aquinas." This article then traces just war theory through the centuries, up to Walzer and five other contemprary thinkers.
I guess Thomas Aquinas must be part of the pro-Israel lobby too.
Whatever the case, the publication of "What are American Values?" augurs a new and degraded era in the production of intellectual discourse. For when the intellectuals of the most powerful country in the history of the world align themselves so flagrantly with that power, pressing that power's case instead of urging restraint, reflection, genuine communication and understanding, we are back to the bad old days of the intellectual war against communism, which we now know brought far too many compromises, collaborations and fabrications on the part of intellectuals and artists who should have played an altogether different role.
And so we get to Said’s fundamental argument. Intellectuals who disagree with U.S. government policy are “true” intellectuals. Those who support U.S. policy on any given issue are, by definition, degrading intellectual discourse. For Said, intellectualism is permanent opposition; there can never be a case where the U.S. takes an action that can be defended. Must be nice to live in a country that rewards this sort of thing with a sinecure at a prestigious university.
For the record, here is more of the “pompous sermon” to which Said refers:
“At the same time, other American values - what we view as our founding ideals, and those that most define our way of life - are quite different from these, and they are much more attractive, not only to Americans, but to people everywhere in the world. Let us briefly mention four of them.
“The first is the conviction that all persons possess innate human dignity as a birthright, and that consequently each person must always be treated as an end rather than used as a means. The founders of the United States, drawing upon the natural law tradition as well as upon the fundamental religious claim that all persons are created in the image of God, affirmed as "self-evident" the idea that all persons possess equal dignity.
Second, and following closely from the first, is the conviction that universal moral truths (what our nation's founders called "laws of Nature and of Nature's God") exist and are accessible to all people. Some of the most eloquent expressions of our reliance upon these truths are found in our Declaration of Independence, George Washington's Farewell Address, Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter from the Birmingham Jail.
“The third is the conviction that, because our individual and collective access to truth is imperfect, most disagreements about values call for civility, openness to other views, and reasonable argument in pursuit of truth.
“The fourth is freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. These intrinsically connected freedoms are widely recognized, in our own country and elsewhere, as a reflection of basic human dignity and as a precondition for other individual freedoms.
“To us, what is most striking about these values is that they apply to all persons without distinction, and cannot be used to exclude anyone from recognition and respect based on the particularities of race, language, memory, or religion. That's why anyone, in principle, can become an American. And in fact, anyone does. People from everywhere in the world come to our country with what a statue in New York's harbor calls a yearning to breathe free, and soon enough, they are Americans. Historically, no other nation has forged its core identity - its constitution and other founding documents, as well as its basic self-understanding - so directly and explicitly on the basis of universal human values. To us, no other fact about this country is more important.
“Looking at our own society, we acknowledge again the all too frequent gaps between our ideals and our conduct. But as Americans in a time of war and global crisis, we are also suggesting that the best of what we too casually call "American values" do not belong only to America, but are in fact the shared inheritance of humankind, and therefore a possible basis of hope for a world community based on peace and justice.”
THE conditions in which prisoners are being held brutally and illegally in an American concentration camp on Cuba go to the heart of the "war on terrorism", and mark the Blair government for its betrayal of the basic rights of British citizens to the interests of a foreign power.
I think we have a new Marc Herold-style self-identifying attribute! Just as anyone still citing the widely-discredited Herold casualty figures immediately identifies himself as an anti-American ideologue, so too for those who cite Guantanamo Bay conditions as “brutal.” But, then again, Pilger identifies himself via the Herold-o-Meter a few paragraphs down, so there isn’t much new information here.
Shafiq Rasul, from Tipton, near Birmingham, is one of five Britons being held without charge and in contravention of every international convention at Camp X-Ray.
A man well over 6ft in height, with a thin frame and a normal weight of less than 11st, he has lost 3st and is described by his brother as "seriously emaciated". His family believes they glimpsed him on television, on February 21, shackled to a stretcher.
So apparently Rasul remained a hale and hearty 11 stone while hanging out in Afghanistan, and lost weight during his brutal captivity in Cuba. I would suggest an alternate scenario, in which Rasul became "emaciated" while skulking about in the Afghan caves (fleeing like a frightened sheep and hiding in a hole in the ground can do that to you). Which scenario would Occam’s razor favor? By the way, here’s the menu at Guantanamo Bay.
Acting for the family of Shafiq Rasul is Gareth Peirce, the solicitor and fighter against miscarriages of justice who was portrayed in the film In The Name Of The Father.
A film that was quite moving, but that also took great liberty with the facts to create a more damning picture of British police. As noted in passing here, "The explosively antiBritish film...In the Name of the Father caused many people to think harder about Britain's conduct in their fight against the IRA. Did the film grossly mangle British and Irish history? 'I don't give a damn!' exclaimed Emma Thompson, who played a supporting role to Daniel Day Lewis in the film." Apparently, Pilger doesn't give a damn about such niceties in his current writing either.
The original purpose of Camp X-Ray was as a piece of grotesque theatre for the ever-manipulated American public.
My God, what sheep we are! Nothing like those sophisticated European readers of the Guardian and the Daily Mirror.
The price of this American disaster for the people of Afghanistan was, according to a recent study at the University of New Hampshire, at least 5,000 civilian lives.
Yes, the Herold-o-meter works again!
And so this is where I can stop reading. But you can guess the rest: The new Afghan government is no better than the old; massive starvation is about to occur; the U.S. didn't catch anybody important; Americans didn't even have the decency to come in with ground troops that might be killed. I had no idea that we had been defeated so badly!
Of course, Pilger has been writing this same article over and over for the last six months. A few facts change in the first 2-3 paragraphs, but then he can pretty much cut and paste from one column to the next. In economics, we call this "economies of scale," and it enables the writer who is too lazy to challenge his prior thinking -- or too ideologically entrenched to ever change his tune -- to meet his word quota as painlessly as possible. Or it enables the writer who is 100% correct, right from the beginning, to reiterate his point. Which explanation would Occam's razor favor?