Letters to the Editors

Dear James:

I can't speak for Mickey Kaus and everyone, but most of us were joking with our treatment of Oliver Stone. And, dear, could you please stop pretending you are above us all, stepping in every now and then to referee the rabble? That whole mangling of names schtick ("Captain Crunch") and faux detachment from all of the blogs you read daily has gotten old. So what if you are a fashionable New York socialite writing for Vanity Fair who seems to be preternaturally concerned with the random online musings of middle America- you could just as easily be writing in your underwear in a loft in Hoboken after your double-shift waiting tables.

In other words, you don't NEED to be a condescending asshole to make your points, and it might be wise to remember that no one other than the 'bloggers' you mock are going to care enough to read your tripe. It sure as hell isn't going to show up in Vanity Fair, even if the "unabashed purpose" of the magazine "is to make icons out of idiots."



Mark Steyn

John Hawkins snagged another interview with Mark Steyn.

A Response to Rick

I told Rick I would write a response to this long post of his, so here goes.

First, let’s acknowledge where we agree. We are both Republicans, Steelers are the greatest sports franchise on the planet and my recent rants are a defection from recent party orthodoxy, but not the principles the party used to hold.

Now, on to the rest. Rick writes the following in response to my long post on Hugh claiming that the media is launching a cover-up for Newsweek:

First, I hardly think it myopic on anyones part to criticize the fact that the New York Times was reporting on charges of abuse that have been made and reported on in the past. Its all a matter of context. While Mr. Cole is correct in pointing out that the Times was quoting from the militarys own investigation of the abuse, what he fails to mention is that the story itself doesnt say that until about the 20th paragraph. Shouldnt that fact have been the lead? Why a 5000 word front page story on incidents that have been reported on in the past? Mr. Hewitt was pointing out that the context of this story was deliberately misleading. Hard to argue with that.

While Rick and I both note the Times piece is based on a military investigation, Hugh doesn’t broach that issue at all. All he does is conflate the now verifiably false Koran flushing claims with the legitimate, accurate, and documented torture. If he were criticizing the placement of that info, it would be one thing. He wasn’t though, and was instead creating a false equivalency between the two stories.

Rick continues on:

Next, Mr. Cole accuses Mr. Hewitt of propagating outright propaganda. Cole may disagree with the substance of Hewitts arguments but one would need to be a psychic to glean motives from Hewitts statements. In short, Cole ends up accusing Hewitt of exactly the same thing he himself is guilty.

The appropriate way for Mr. Hewitt to deflect claims of spreading propaganda would be for him to stop, well, spreading propaganda. Not by having others accuse me of spreading propaganda, because I am doing nothing of the sort. I will concede that Hugh’s intentions may have been pure- maybe he really does think that the media is hurting the overall war on terror (something I would disagree with), but all he was doing was engaging in press bashing because he didn’t like the stories and thought they were ‘old news.’

Rick goes on to the state that I am essentially ignoring reality when I defend the necessity of a free and open press:

This is a great exposition on the importance of freedom of the press. Its also hopelessly romantic and idealized baloney. In a perfect world, Mr. Coles statements would be applauded for their nobility and purity of purpose. But John, were not in Kansas anymore. It isnt that the media is publishing these stories or even the fact that most of them are probably true. Ive written on several occasions that I have no doubt the Koran flushing story (or something similar) is probably true. The question is again, one of context. The people responsible for shaping opinion in the Arab world could give a good goddamn about whether the allegations have been investigated by our military or not. Theyre not giving us brownie points and patting us on the back for being good world citizens and cleaning our own house. They are using the stories of abuse stories Mr. Cole points out proudly that have been investigated or are being investigated by our own military to impede, obstruct, and otherwise hinder our efforts to win the war and bring democracy to the benighted 10th century peasants who are so easily led and misled by their holy men and holy warriors.

I reject this categorically. The Arab press and the Arab street may greatly exaggerate American media reports and anti-American stories, but I find it highly unlikely that the starting point for every jihadist is too much exposure to reports of abuse in the NY Times. Even if the media never covered any of these issues, the Arab propagandists would whip up false stories in their own press. The Amercian media is not an enemy in the war on terror, and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion have made the rounds of the Middle East without Michael Isikoff’s help..

If anything, as today’s events have shown, the media dispels far more of those rumors. The media took seriously the charges of desecration of the Koran (even if the right wing blogosphere did not), the military and the administration took note, and, as a result, it is now widely being reported (as I write this, there are 922 news stories covering the retraction by the detainee) that such acts of alleged abuse have been publicly addressed, discredited, and actual acts of desecaration of Koran by the detainees themselves are being reported. I call that a clear win.

Rick continues on:

Nowhere in Mr. Hewitts post or in anything written by a conservative blogger has there ever been a hint, a suggestion, a whiff that analyzing media motives in reporting abuse is an attempt to hide the truth. (Note: See LaShawn Barbers defense of her statement regarding the Newsweek story that Mr. Cole attacks here) Mr. Cole is accusing Mr. Hewitt and, by extension me, of being dishonest. I resent it.

What other motive can there be to explain the attack on the media for reporting legitimate abuse WHEN THEY FINALLY HAVE the documents to provide a full accounting. If there is another reason, other than the silly anti-military angle, please let me know.

As for LaShawn’s defense, it is anything but. Maybe LaShawn’s self-indictment. I have written about that here, and you can see for yourself, but LaShawn’s argument is that even if the toilet flushing incident was true, the media should not have reported it because it hurts the United States. Her defense that she did not say what she in fact did say is not to explain how I misinterpreted her, but to point out why hers is a valid position. In other words, her denial is instead a full-throated attempt at justification. Color me unimpressed. Again, I would link to her site so you could read about it yourself, but as a good conservative, she has the persecution complex down pat and has requested that I not link to her or trackback her again.

At any rate, I never implied or said Rick was dishonest. If he agrees completely with Hugh, I would argue he is wrong. But not dishonest. There is a distinction, I might add. I might take this time to point out that some people, including a few people in pretty high-ranking positions in the administration believed up until very recently that there were WMD in Iraq. I don’t think they are liars. Does Rick?

Rick continues on:

Finally, in an impassioned peroration, Mr. Cole ignores the facts of life and, by logical extension accuses bloggers who disagree with him of unwittingly aiding and abetting the enemy:

Maybe it would be best to ask the soldiers. Would they rather labor in harms way with the rest of the world suspecting the worst of them, or would they rather there be a clear and open prosecution of those who ARE the worst of them? Which do you think they would prefer? Which approach makes their lives more dangerous and more difficult? Whose approach to this problem is going to create more IEDs, suicide attacks, and bombings?

To suggest that we do otherwise and to try to bully the media into ignoring these abuses does the administration no good, does our servicemen no good, does America no good, and leads me to believe that Hugh Hewitt and those like him are nothing more than our own right-wing versions of Michael Moore.

This is nuts. How can the proverbial 98 pound weakling bully the 400 pound gorilla? Lets get our David and Goliath identification right or at least put the matchup in some kind of perspective, shall we?

And being told that my criticism of the press will create more IEDs, suicide attacks, and bombings really sticks in my craw. This is the argument used by the left about our entire war on terror that were creating more terrorists by our policies. The idea that the fanatics need any excuse at all to kill us is absurd as is the idea that some mythical openness on our part will change some hearts and minds.

Rick’s criticism of the media in no way will help create more IED’s, and this is nothing more than hyperbole. What will cause more IED’s and more trouble for our troops is not addressing rumors and allegations and just pretending they are beneath us and nothing more than a media creation. Right now, the world press is reporting that the Koran flushing is, in fact, nonsense. I rather like that, and believe it is better than having allegations flying around and given the appearance of credibility by our apparent unwillingness to address them.

I think I am right. Rick is free to disagree. Rick now goes for the jugular:

And in his desire to do what he thinks is best for our military, it appears to me that Cole has unconsciously adopted some of the themes and talking points used by people who actually do hate the military, who lovingly dote on each and every casualty, who oppose the militarys efforts in recruiting and retention, and who by word, by thought, and by deed seek to have the United States military defeated on the field of battle.

We used to call this treason. In this day and age, these sentiments get you invited to the best cocktail parties, has the MSM hang on your every word, and procures the lickspittle a book contract. And these are the people espousing these sentiments who agree with Mr. Cole?

As Rick has perceived insult where there was none intended, he no doubt would recognize that I probably view an implied accusation of treason to be pretty offensive, however ham-handed and dismissible it might be. I have in no way adopted the rhetoric of people who hate the military.

Follow the necessary logic to get to this laughable implication of treason. First, you must believe that the media is anti-military. Not just anti-military, but anti-American. Not just anti-American, but willing accomplices of the enemy, and thus, treasonous. Second, you must believe that defending the right of the those treasonous media types to report freely is also treasonous. It is, at its worst, an argument of treason by insinuation, and its absurdity is matched only by its offensiveness (Rick now states it was really just bad writing and not intended at all. Fair enough, and I shall take him at his word. I would delete this section and sink it down the memory hole, but that would make this post seem pointless).

I reject all of this. The media is not, as an institution, anti-military. The media is, however, suspicious of the military establishment, and for good reasons. The Pentagon routinely lies to them. See Tillman, Pat. Or the Pentagon Papers. Or any hundreds of other similar events. At any rate, even if the press is suspicious of the military establishment, Rick is somehow confusing criticism of the Pentagon with criticism of tthe actual soldiers as well as the goals of the United States.

Speaking of the Pentagon Papers, on to what Terry Moran (Rick’s brother) had to say:

“There is, Hugh, I agree with you, a deep anti-military bias in the media. One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it’s very dangerous.”

Is Terry Moran, a prominent member of the nebulous media, treasonous because he is a member of the media? Of course not. Neither are any other members of the media. They may be offensive, in cases biased, and in cases all out jackasses (Linda Foley, Ted Rall, Eason Jordan, and others come immediately to mind), but, as a whole, they are not anti-military, and certainly not treasonous. If the media suffers from some Vietnam syndrome, so too does the right-wing, and the main symptom is an all-out hositility to all things media.

In fact, many in the media are downright flagwavers and damned patriotic, and in the case of some, outright jingoists. I have no problem attacking, by name, slimeballs (again, Eason Jordan and Ted Rall come to mind), but we have got to stop this generic smearing of the media. Most of them are doing their best to get it right. Just because they are rightly suspicious of the military establishment does not make them anti-military or anti-American.

So let’s stop these generic attacks on the media. Media Slander is up, and they will document the actual atrocities. And while we are at it, can we conservatives please stop this laughable cult of victimology? We have the Presidency (for the second time in a row and the fifth time in the last seven elections). We control the Senate by a ten seat margin. We control the House by a larger margin. We have dismissed or dismantled virtually every institutional check in order to limit opposition debate and increase institutional control, regardless how short-sighted that might be. We are ramming through just about every judge we wanted, and are about to reload the Supreme Court with Antonin Scalia at the helm.

We control dozens of governors offices and an equal number of state legislatures. We have hundreds of think tanks, hundreds of talk show hosts, hundreds of conservative columnists, millions of bloggers. We have dozens of partisan magazines and pundits, legions of 527’s and grass-roots organizations, and dozens of think-tanks. We have, ostensibly, our own damned cable news channel and so many right leaning editorial boards of newspapers I can’t even begin to count them. Memes that start in obscure blogs find their way onto the front page of allegedly liberal newspapers in the matter of two days.

We may be a lot of things, but persecuted victims we are not. To assert otherwise is to engage in a self-defeating flight of fancy that should be met with nothing short of outright ridicule.

Let’s remember that, and remember that the media is not the enemy and their attempts to report abuses by this government are not the problem. We will all be a lot better off if we do, and we can better address our own shortcomings (which are myriad) if we have a critical appraisal of who and what we are and what we are doing. Sure, Chris Matthews may be a sneering jerk at times and has difficulty presenting conservative positions. Tune in to Bill O’Reilly if you need a pat on the back. So you don’t like what the Washington Post wrote about Republicans. Pick up the Washington Times for that big wet kiss some apparently need. And so on and so forth.

Even if we do buy into the absurd supposition that the media is overtly hostile towards conservatives, I contend that their criticism would still be vital. An outside appraisal would be a good thing, particularly when you consider the self-referential and oft-delusional nature of our own manufactured media organs (National Review, for example) and the rest of the echo chamber that the right-wing blogosphere appears to be becoming. We are wasting out energy attacking what, in my mind, has been, overall, a pretty friendly media establishment as of late.

And just for fun, you might ask Move-On or Media Matters how liberal they think the media is. The answer might surprise you. So, some perspective, please.

At any rate, a good debate. Thanks, Rick. Go Steelers.

And please, readers, don’t take it upon yourself to defend me by going to Rick’s site and crapping all over the place (not that any of you have). I am a big boy- I can take care of myself.

This Will Give You the Vapors

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, aka Instapundit, today:


Mayor: What do you mean, biblical?
Ray: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor… real Wrath-of-God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies.
Venkman: Rivers and seas boiling!
Egon: 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanos.
Winston:The dead rising from the grave!
Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats, living together… mass hysteria!

Worlds colliding!

I need air.

This Will Cause Quite The Stir…

The Instapundit:

ANDREW SULLIVAN seems to think that I should be blogging more about Abu Ghraib, and less about the Newsweek scandal. Well, I think he should be blogging more (er, at least some) about the worse-than-Tiananmen massacre in Uzbekistan, and perhaps a bit less about gay marriage. But so what? What people blog about is none of my business. Andrew seems to feel differently, and beyond that seems to have endorsed the “fake but accurate” defense of Newsweek’s reporting.

I do confess that I think that winning the war is much more important than Abu Ghraib, and that viewing the entire war — and the entire American military — through the prism of Abu Ghraib is as unfair as judging all Muslims by the acts of terrorists. Andrew has chosen the role of emoter-in-chief on these subjects, and he’s welcome to it, though he would be more convincing in that part if he didn’t count wrapping people in the Israeli flag as torture…

As Mickey Kaus has noted, Andrew can be excitable. A while back he apologized to me for some of his criticisms during the election, and more recently he has apologized to his readers for his waffling and defeatism on the war last spring. Perhaps he’ll apologize for this at some point in the future. But, I confess, I find the question of what Andrew thinks less pressing than I used to.

Is it possible to agree with both of them? Let me see if I can thread that needle.

I think the Newsweek deal, as unfortunate as it is, is overblown, and in the grand scheme of cosmic relevance, not that big of a deal. Seriously- a media institution was a little loose in its fact-checking when attempting to play gotcha politics with a President that everyone in the media feels is fair game? Count me as underwhelmed. You people have heard of Bill Clinton, haven’t you?

I also think that anyone who excuses any subsequent riots, violence, and general thuggish anti-western behavior as Newsweek’s fault is being played the fool. The protests, the violence, the *whatever*, has been going on a long time, and they have been doing it without verification of these rumors and for far less provacation. As such, it is just an excuse- not a cause of the behavior. They did, after all, kill 3,000 people just for being American on 9/11.

However, it is probably necessary to add that what Newsweek did was/is inexcusable, and as such, that is why Newseek apologized and retracted the story. It is also why no one on the left is trying to excuse Newsweek’s behavior, and instead they are writing post after post attacking the Instapundit- for attacking Newsweek. And the blogosphere circle-jerk continues unabated.

Likewise, anyone who really thinks that Zarqawi and his crew of terrorists in charge are really doing what they are doing because of Abu Ghraib similarly needs their head examined. There is, however, a big distinction.

Unlike the fake Newsweek story about Koran-flushing, Abu Ghraib happened. We did torture people, and it wasn’t just wrapping them up in Israeli flags (which I find amusing as a torture method- If I had an Israeli flag, I would hang it below my American flag outside my apartment). Because of this, Zarqawi and his merry band of hucksters now can tap into a legitimate vein of anti-American sentiment, and I believe Abu Ghraib did damage the occupation seriously. My first thought when the Abu Ghraib story broke was:

Do these soldiers understand how many of their brothers-in-arms they have just executed?

Do they understand how many Improved Explosive Devices they just built?

Do the recognize how many random grenade attacks they have just initiated?

And on a simply human level- Have they no sense of fundamental decency?

I think that there is clear evidence of institutional rot in place, throughout the military, and definitely throughout the intelligence community. I think it is a joke that only a few low level soldiers are being punished. If they punish one, they should punish every soldier there, because I guarantee you every soldier in that place knew what was going on, although I don’t think the individual soldiers shojld receive that much punishment at all- their leadership should.

I was in the confined quarters of a deployed army unit- I know how it works. A Private in first platoon knows when a Specialist in 4th platoon is struggling to pay his phone bills home. Everyone knows everything that is going on- and I bet you damned near every soldier in that unit saw those pictures and knew what was going on in there.

Why? Because I am convinced they were told to do this stuff by intelligence officers and those in the chain of command.

At any rate, to bring this rambling post to a close, the Newsweek story is a tempest in a teapot. Abu Ghraib was much, much, worse, and an actual stain on our honor and dignity. The Newsweek story is an excuse for bad behavior, Abu Ghraib is a legitmate reason for bad behqvior- which do you think is worse, in the grand scheme of things?

Should all of this have been reported? I agree with Glenn that reporters should have some understanding of the consequences of their story, if for no other reason than to ensure good fact-checking, but I have to agree with Andrew that this statement from Lashawn Barber is just idiotic and, well, fascistic:

Let me clear up one thing. Whether Americans flushed the Koran down the toilet is irrelevant. Newsweek should not have reported it, even if true. Its common sense, people. Those journalists knew how Muslims would react! Why would you hurt your own country and risk more deaths just to report this fact? To what end???

America-hating morons media!

If you don’t want reporters reporting bad things about you, don’t do bad things. That is how you co-exist with an open and free press.