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December 29, 2004

Comments

disagree with your "graceful". a style of writing that requires every goddamned sentence to contain a condescending and self-righteous sneer at the author's political foes can not be called "graceful".

Ever wonder what a David Duke eulogy for Martin Luther King Jr. might look like? Wonder no more.

Good Lord Von, please always indicate that what i'm about to read is at RedState. If that is graceful in any way I have some beautiful timeshares in Baghdad you might be interested in. Slapping a gifted human on the day after her death by backhanding her constantly only qualifies as an opportunity to lose my lunch.

okay, now that i'm at it, tell me again why 3 conservatives need a 4th on this blog when we have only 2 on the left? And if you consider yourself a moderate in any fashion, please re-read your above post. If this is your idea of grace or a sensible take on an incredible human being, you sir are no moderate.

No wonder you blocked comments on your previous post.

David Duke?

And so ObWi lurches a bit further down the path to WashingtonMonthly-dom. To coin a word.

Anyway, to clue in the dull-witted, the short essay was an attempt to get my own fellow-travelers to see Sontag as something more than a shrill leftist harpy. No hate-object of reflexive anti-Americans can be all bad, cleek's protests notwithstanding.

Jade,

Speaking of racists - She was attacked for visiting Hanoi during the Vietnam war and declaring "the white race is the cancer of human history"; more recently she caused many to bristle with her comments following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US.

Defend away.

No hate-object of reflexive anti-Americans can be all bad, cleek's protests notwithstanding.

While I take your point, I don't think you meant to phrase it that way...

Stan: Context is everything.

Sontag once wrote: The writer's first job is not to have opinions but to tell the truth...and refuse to be an accomplice of lies or misinformation. Literature is the expression of nuance and contrariness against the voices of simplification. The job of the writer is to make it harder to believe the mental despoilers. The job of the writer is to help make us see the world as it is, which is to say, full of many different claims and parts and experiences.

It's often very easy to take a small snippet from a much larger story, hold it aloft and attack it. But it's also very dishonest.

To my mind, Sontag's gift (and what made her controversial) was that she was willing to engage those truths, regardless of how unpleasant they may be. OTOH, propagandists--such as those found at Red State--like to pretend truths are always good and virtuous and easily discernible.

The editor of the literary magazine I worked on in college once critiqued a submission so harshly(zeroing in on one aspect of it) that I called her on it, asking if that's how she really felt. She answered, "Not really. But I think it's important to express strong opinions on some matters...mediocre opinions help no one."

That bit of advice has stuck with me (and if you're still reading at this point, explains a fair bit about how I blog). It also sums up what I admire most about Sontag. Her infamous critique on camp, for example, is devastating if you refuse to suspend your outrage so long that you can't get past the bits you disagree with, but it's glorious if you calm down and give it half a chance. The strength of an opinion is not always designed to hurt those who disagree with it.

Consider the intended audience of Tactitus' tribute before you judge it too harshly.

well I see that my comment is undermined by Jadegold's...what I get for projecting I guess.

Jadegold,

Provide the context then.

Sontag was herself not free from polemic, or hyperbole, and even error. I feel indebted to her from my readings of her sixties work, and even tho I agreed with a lot of what she said about Vietnam( and America), I disapproved of her and others implicit or explicit support of Hanoi. I was around back then; it was a very tired nation gone crazy. Excess was expected, if not necessary.

I reread the Abu Ghraib piece today, and found much that was offensive. And much I considered insightful, courageous, original, and unique.

Sontag portrayed an intellectual fastidiousness combined with moments of tendentious polemic. Like some other writers known around these parts I like to read. I found Tac's piece fair and generous considering his perspective; a pleasant confirmation of his subtlety. I will defend Tac no further, cause it really hurts....but I will defend the ObsWi comment section til it is no more.

I mean really, is there some sort of smoke signal when the right is losing so bad you e-mail the pinch hitters?

Let's talk some turkey here. The left columnists here are very solid. The right is feeling nervous and maybe the lefties are feeling overly gracious about it, as we sometimes are: we're guilty of being that horrible thing called 'sensitive'.

Here's an idea that may not be floating around here.

How about having an e-mail address here where the participants can submit threads? If the powers that be reject them, fine. It will be the sweat off our backs, not yours (how better to plead to the male ego). If it's a slow day and the 4 righties and 2 lefties are busy then dip into our pool of submissions and let us have a turn. It's simple and somehow democratic, which is the kiss of death where the right-wing is conccerned (if democracy is what the right-wing wants, why isn't the first item on the ballot in Iraq come January: Do you want the Occupiers to leave? Since we don't want the correct answer of the majority we do not ask the question). And don't even get me on the subject of the 'war' in Iraq. When did Congress declare War? If you mean that 'blank check', please visit the gravesites of the founding fathers while they spin like a slot machine.

I know that is really the kiss of death as those with power rarely want to share it. Is that why some bloggers name their sites after themselves?

I have complicated opinions about Tacitus, and if I could write as well as he does, I might write an essay something like his Sontag piece ... about him.

Which is to say that the essay was eloquent and maddening, and had something for everyone. Malkin?
That's a little like Larry Fine showing up in "Anna Karenina" for some eye gouging amid the more important chaos.

But, it is refreshing to read Tactitus the man again on Redstate and maybe we'll see him on Tacitus.com again soon.

His "fellow travellers", as he calls them, on both sites should read the Sontag essay and learn something about eloquence.

Me too.

Disagree with wilfred. In our present times and conditions (like Repubs are in charge for a while, ya know), and in the spirit of this blog's founder, an actual partisan Republican would be a most useful addition to the blog. Is BD available?

Find a tough, secure one.

Bob, if what you want is just more heightened screaming matches like the kind we had before the election then usher in the BD's of the world but my take is it was exhausting for us all but not as enlightening as it could have been. If our goal is information and substantial discussion, then my idea has alot more merit, and BD can participate to his heart's content. Let the air in here, not the bickering of siblings (you notice i did not call for another left wing blogger anywhere in this thread).

an actual partisan Republican would be a most useful addition

you mean Sebastian, Slarti and Von are not partisan Republicans?

Why do we need to weigh the stack even more than the electorate when we are 2/3 to 1/3 and our electorate is at 51/49 (probably reversed if the election were held today)?

Let me clarify something, if we have a moderate poster on this site, it is only in comparison to Neo v. Liberal, not Conservative v. Liberal and it is the Neo's that are in control of the government lock stock and barrel.

re: a tough secure Republican

Well, it seems to me that the Republican victory was based on projecting feelings of persecution and victimhood, so a secure Republican is a contradiction in terms. I mean, Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas?

I honestly don't care if the new poster is elephant, donkey, griffin or dodo, I would just like someone who is willing to post with cites and not descend into legalese (not a slam on the lawyers here, it's just that a more common sense approach to questions of justice would be appreciated)

A couple of other thoughts, first one vaguely related to Sontag. It seems to me that the fault line is not between the left and the right, but between those who favor international solutions versus those who espouse a certain isolationism. That's not an original thought, but it seems to me that Sontag represents a left approach to international intervention, which I think accounts for the high notes within Tacitus' essay, but is also opposed within the left by advocates of isolationism. However, on the right, there is the same tension (watching CNN here in Japan, with the question of the day being something to the effect of why should we help the tsunami affected countries when we have had a spate of disasters and seeing some of the responses, as well as various responses here outlines the isolationist side of the right) that is being papered over and can only get worse as things get worse in Iraq.

Finally, a very depressing thought that is off thread, but I hope some may comment on. It appears that thousands of Western tourists are missing and that looting is a problem in many areas. I think this suggests that terrorists will be awash in potential identities and documents. This cannot be good news.

It's often very easy to take a small snippet from a much larger story, hold it aloft and attack it. But it's also very dishonest.

Hahahahaha. Oh, man. Ah, nevermind.

. . . those with power rarely want to share it. Is that why some bloggers name their sites after themselves?

You mean like Daily Kos? Or did you mean Wonkette?

When did Congress declare War?

Oh, please. If you want to have a talk about the government appropriating extraconstitutional powers for itself in general, great, let's do. We can go back to the Social Security threads, to start with. But I think you don't have a problem with the government appropriating extraconstitutional powers for itself in general. Just the ones you don't like. (I suspect the same is true for pretty much anyone, by the way. I just hate to see that dislike wielded as a weapon rather than a principle.)

. . . an actual partisan Republican would be a most useful addition to the blog. Is BD available?

Yeep. Isn't one blog left gasping in his wake enough?

Actually, sorry to both Jadegold and wilfred for the pointless sniping. That was stupid and unproductive, and likely to simply tick people off rather than result in anything but fleeting satisfaction at my own cleverness.

It's been a long, long year.

Phil, thanks so much for saying that. I have become such a huge fan of yours in the past several months (and my apologies if we got off to a bad start). You are a wonderful part of this blog. And you actually weren't off the mark in your comment, i do have a problem with the govt. appropriating extraconstitutional powers, whether it's something i'm fond of or not.

Von, I really enjoyed all of the comments, what a crew.

ps. may your long year end restfully and may you have a very Happy New Year.

"you mean Sebastian, Slarti and Von are not partisan Republicans?"

I consider Mr von a moderate; and Sir Slarti of Bfast and Messr Holsclaw more libertarian and independent. They may correct me if I am mistaken. By "partisan Republican" I mean an actual committed advocate for the Party and its public agenda. A propagandist that the other members could gang up on. :) I consider such a position honorable and wish the Democrats had a couple.

An large number of guest posters is not a blog but an exxtended comment section. My suggestion should be totally disregarded, for I don't want von and hilzoy blaming me for the jerk...."It was your idea". The factors that would go into such a choice, like attracting traffic, maintaining order and comity and quality and quantity of posts, keeping comment sections readable...are like the reasons I am a commenter and not a blogger.

That was stupid and unproductive, and likely to simply tick people off rather than result in anything but fleeting satisfaction at my own cleverness.

Cleverness? Where?

His "fellow travellers", as he calls them, on both sites should read the Sontag essay and learn something about eloquence.

Eloquence and Tacitus is what Steven den Beste is to brevity and coherence.


Obviously, jadegold you are not a patron of Tacitus and his writings because if you were you would understand the shallowness and incoherence of your comment.

Sorry, TtWD. Ol' Tac is just the big kid on the short bus.

Well, Jadegold is angry. About....something. My racism, perhaps.

Anyway, I am pretty interested to see that Sontag(!) is somehow not a propagandist. Au contraire: she could be a good one.

I don't know Josh, you ain't a Roman Catholic but you are a racist. Who knew.

In the overall complexity of the situation, ignoring Sontag's passing would have been my preferred route (reflects my comment on Tacitus) but the comments so far don't focus on Tacitus's comments on Sontag per se but on Tacitus himself. A lot of projecting going on, and it ain't pretty.

It's how these things usually go.

"the comments so far don't focus on Tacitus's comments on Sontag per se but on Tacitus himself."

The post in question was sufficiently self-congratulatory (from a far-from-Redstate point-of-view at least) that this is fairly appropriate.

John Thullen: I have complicated opinions about Tacitus, and if I could write as well as he does, I might write an essay something like his Sontag piece ... about him.

Yep. Only, if Tacitus had just died (which God forbid), I think I'd be gracious enough not to publish it - since his friends and admirers wouldn't thank me for it.

Von: the blogosphere's only graceful and sensible

Well, I can now interpret what you meant by "graceful and sensible" - which is, apparentyly, "not abusive, just carping and patronising" - but by my usual definition of the words, what Tac wrote was neither graceful nor sensible. Still, it was RedState.

Bob McManus: Is BD available?

God, I hope not. I occasionally scan Tacitus.org looking for Harley's posts (wish he'd get a blog of his own), and am thus reminded of how fortunate we are on ObWing to have the right represented by Von, Slarti, and Sebastian.

(Additional note: however, if what was meant by "the blogosphere" was meant "the right-wing blogosphere", I suspect that Weiss and Von are probably right.)

wilfred, thank you very much -- that was more kindness than I generally deserve. Hope your new year is a good one.

Jadegold, you really know how to take an apology gracefully. That must be how you've developed the latitude to lecture others on things like grace, truth and honesty.

Hitchens' take on Sontag. Quite nice.

you mean Sebastian, Slarti and Von are not partisan Republicans?

Republican, perhaps. Partisan? Hardly. I voted for Kerry, fer Chrissakes.

You'll also note that Sebastian and Slarti are hardly party line guys; Sebastian is at odds with the administration (and me) on the question sof Social Security privatization (among other things). Slarti is more libertarian in his outlooks than anything else.

From my perspective, our lefty posters are more ideologically consistent (though not partisan). Which is why we felt the need for a more ideologically consistent guy or gal on the right. We're also open to considering adding another lefty or left-center voice. The goal, as always, is to have balance.

Understand the purpose of ObWi: This is not Daily Kos; this is not RedState. This is a place where the left and right can meet and argue and try to find common ground (or, at least, common humanity). This is not a war; this is a discussion. We'd like to keep it that way.

As for the Sontag essay: To folks who aren't Sontag fans (e.g., me), it was a telling reminder of the good that Sontag did. I understand how and why Sontag fans would feel otherwise: a retrospective on (for example) Kierkengaard written by one of the legions of folks who think he's little more than a childish fancy is going to rub me a bit wrong -- regardless of how charitable it may be in context. But that doesn't mean that such a retrospective would not be a worthy addition to the discussion.

Finally, Rilkefan's unfair snark aside, the ad hominem attacks must stop. If you'd like to criticize something in the essay, do it. Indeed, as part of our discussion, I'd very much appreciate hearing where and how the essay is unfair to Sontag.

Von, if you'd linked to the essay as an example of an ideological opponent of Susan Sontag writing about her after her death, I'd probably be able to comment on the essay as an essay. Reading that you think it "the only graceful and sensible reflection on her" is just going to put my back up, and I think that's what people are responding to.

I'd very much appreciate hearing where and how the essay is unfair to Sontag.

Good idea. Again, as I noted above, I think much of the criticism here of the essay misses the intended audience (and there's no doubt that Tac has a knack for getting lefties' blood boiling), but this line is unfair to both Sontag and the left in general:

Vietnam fought America, and America was the enemy, the enemy of which was one's friend.

America was not the enemy to either Songtag or those opposed to the war. This falls into the "love it or leave it" category of reasoning. I don't believe that the "end of America" was ever Sontag's objective. If she empathized a bit too blindly with existing Communist regimes (which she latter corrected), it wasn't so blind as to adopt their desire to see the US fall, just change what was widely viewed as an foolishly considered war plan. Yes, it's fasionable now that Communism has been defeated to insist that anyone and everyone should have known it would be and dedicated themselves to it and perhaps been as harsh on the Communists at they were on the US Administration, but that's more a victor's writing of history than it is a realistic assessment of what the world looked like in the 60's or what's rhetorically effective. Also, internationlists, by nature, can't help but see both the good and bad in all states' governments. Only someone blindly supporting the US would see those protesting our conflict in Vietnam as "enemies" of America.

In defense of Von, the words are not his, but of Weiss. However, the Instapundit approach is asking for trouble, if you ask me.

Arts and Letters Daily has a good compendium of Sontag Obituaries. (left column, just below the idiotic NYTimes MLA article)

liberal japonicus: In defense of Von, the words are not his, but of Weiss.

Yes, but he posted Weiss's assessment here as one which he wholeheartedly agrees with.

I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt when they quote: It's too damn easy to make a mistake like this when cutting and pasting.

Jade,

Still no context...

but the comments so far don't focus on Tacitus's comments on Sontag per se but on Tacitus himself

that's exactly how i read his essay.

Reading that you think it "the only graceful and sensible reflection on her" is just going to put my back up, and I think that's what people are responding to.

So noted.

that's exactly how i read his essay.

I don't think that's a fair reading of the essay, Cleek, but to each their own.

I wonder what Sontag would think about the way Democrats are stealing the election in Washington state and now trying to in North Carolina.

I guess white men and womem are the greatest evil on earth.

Stan and smlook
If you didn't bother to read Tacitus' essay, at least have the good grace to read von's 8:32 comment and reflect on it a bit. I assume it applies to everyone.

another tribute to Sontag (via Bloggy) worth reading, including this quote by her:

But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to bow one's head before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything and the incapacity of our moral understanding—which is also the understanding of the novelist—to take this in.

The most important part of wisdom is to understand what you don't know.

America was not the enemy to either Songtag or those opposed to the war.

Not quite true, really. Sontag herself certainly saw America per se (to say nothing of white people!) as a malign force in the world, and the antiwar movement of the era is replete with examples of people who detested this country -- as, well, the enemy. Note, please, that contrary to your formulation, I am certainly not arguing that all antiwar persons were opposed to America.

Also, internationlists, by nature, can't help but see both the good and bad in all states' governments.

Sorry, but there's really no excuse for ever having been pro-Communist after about 1920.

Liberal J,

Von's comment doesn't provide the context that Jade is claiming that i am missing...

If anyone is looking for a beautiful rendering of Sontag from someone who I don't usually agree with, try reading what one should look like:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2111506/

Oh, Wilfred. Hitchens' virtue here is that he's never tangled with you on a blog.

Stan
Tacitus' essay does, as does Hitchens. Unless you think that we judge the totality of a person on one comment they made 30+ years ago. I call that ad hom, even if the person in question is dead.

Here, via Wampum blog, is a Sontag essay. The end of the post notes that someone went to the trouble of google bombing her, which I hope depresses Tac as much as it does me.

Sorry LJ, i didn't see your link before i posted.

Tacitus, a pleasure to be at the end of your misguided attacks, as always.

Sorry, but there's really no excuse for ever having been pro-Communist after about 1920.

Being pro-Communist and thinking Castro, for example, was an overall improvement to the Batista government, is not exactly the same thing, you know. Absolute power will corrupt even those with good intentions. Your argument can be boiled down to suggest that it's better to let right-wing dictators remain in place rather than let left-wing ones from take over. Not exactly the most moral position.

Heh.

Being pro-Communist and thinking Castro, for example, was an overall improvement to the Batista government, is not exactly the same thing, you know.

Why confuse matters, Edward? First the antiwar-as-anti-American obfuscation, now this. Sontag was pro-Communist, not merely someone who asserted that Castro was a relative improvement over Batista. (Not that this is a defensible position either, but it's irrelevant here.)

Your argument can be boiled down to suggest that it's better to let right-wing dictators remain in place rather than let left-wing ones from take over. Not exactly the most moral position.

Actually, if you want to gauge things by pure numbers killed in the past century, it's a fairly reasonable argument to make.

Stan: Sontag did retract the comment. However, let's take a look at the comment as it appeared in the Partisan Review in 1966:

The truth is that Mozart, Pascal, Boolean algebra, Shakespeare, parliamentary government, baroque churches, Newton, the emancipation of women, Kant, Marx, and Balanchine ballets don't redeem what this particular civilization has wrought upon the world. The white race is the cancer of human history.

While certainly inflammatory and hyperbolic, it could be argued the legacy of white Europeans has included numerous atrocities such as colonialism, slavery, genocide, and at the very least a callous disregard for other races.

As I mentioned earlier, context is everything. And it's absurdly easy to take the Beavis and Butthead approach to attacking political foes and pretend Sontag merely called the white race a cancer without context. If that's your preference; fine. But it's a dangerous path. After all, we could easily demean a Thomas Jefferson who wrote that Christianity was 'myths and superstitions" and believed racial equality could never be achieved.

Sontag, like a Jefferson, wasn't right about everything. But who is?

liberalj,

Thanks for the link. But that's not the piece where she declared "the white race is the cancer of human history". It was nice of Jadegold to jump to her defense, though.

Why don't I turn off blockquoting here.

That's better.

blockquote.

Off!

Stan: I consider it an honor and privilege to jump to Sontag's defense, however inadequately.

Sorry, but there's really no excuse for ever having been pro-Communist after about 1920.

In retrospect that's the case, but it's way too strong in in any other sense.

Why confuse matters, Edward? First the antiwar-as-anti-American obfuscation, now this. Sontag was pro-Communist, not merely someone who asserted that Castro was a relative improvement over Batista. (Not that this is a defensible position either, but it's irrelevant here.)

I'm not trying to confuse matters. Sontag realized her mistake in celebrating Cuba and North Vietnam and said so. Why she was first mistaken about Cuba, for example, is understandable if you consider the regime Castro replaced and the fact the US was fighting the war against Communism in unacceptable ways. She was a bit too binary in her thinking...she's not the only one. Remember, we were once supporters of Hussein in this country, which provides interesting transition into

Actually, if you want to gauge things by pure numbers killed in the past century, it's a fairly reasonable argument to make.

In retrospect that's the case, but it's way too strong in in any other sense.

My point exactly. Thank you!

"the blogosphere's only graceful and sensible reflections on Susan Sontag."

Ahem.


Jade,

While certainly inflammatory and hyperbolic, it could be argued the legacy of white Europeans has included numerous atrocities such as colonialism, slavery, genocide, and at the very least a callous disregard for other race

Ah! Let me see if I get this right. Slavery didn't exist in Africa till the white man came there, native americans didn't fight, scalp and sacrifice each other prior to the white man setting foot in America, genocide is exclusively a white man's phenomenon, etc,etc, etc..

And it's absurdly easy to take the Beavis and Butthead approach to attacking political foes and pretend Sontag merely called the white race a cancer without context.

I see. So, if I call all blacks criminals and then use crime statistics as evidence (cause context is everything, you see), you'll come to my defense when somebody calls me a racist.

Edward,

Why she was first mistaken about Cuba, for example, is understandable if you consider the regime Castro replaced and the fact the US was fighting the war against Communism in unacceptable ways.

Just curious, was Castro's way of fighting acceptable?

Just curious, was Castro's way of fighting acceptable?

As a pacifist overall, I'd say no.

Sontag has argued that although war is to be avoided as much as possible, it's not always possible to stop genocide, for example, without war. Therefore, it's a matter of which side you believe has the masses' best interests at heart. Comparing Bastita and Castro in the early days of the latter's regime, it's not too hard to see why some folks thought the revolution had been a good thing overall.

Tacticus and others, If there is no excuse for anyone being pro-communist after 1920, and if the issue is being raised against an American leftist now, the shouldn't we also discuss the support given by American conservatives to Hitler?
Shouldn't there be a sort of statute of limitations on how far back people go when assessing the positions of current people on current issues?

Ah! Let me see if I get this right.,

Nope, you're not going to get it right. Bill Gates didn't invent the PC either; but his influence on personal and business computing can't be denied.

So, if I call all blacks criminals and then use crime statistics as evidence

Context is everything, Stan. I'm certain you could produce crime stats that show blacks are disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system but you'd have a tougher time answering the question as to why that is.

In retrospect that's the case, but it's way too strong in in any other sense.

No, it's actually not. After the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war, there was plenty of information available about the methods of Communist rule: slave camps and extermination. After the Second World War, there was even more. There was no excuse, however popular it may have been amongst the intelligentsia.

Why she was first mistaken about Cuba, for example, is understandable if you consider the regime Castro replaced and the fact the US was fighting the war against Communism in unacceptable ways.

Huh? I see no evidence at all that Sontag's support for Castro's regime was motivated in any way by any opinion on or analysis of Batista's regime. Your second contention, that support for Castro was justified by American actions against him, is illogical and would have been rejected by Sontag himself. American conduct has zero bearing on the objective merits of Castro's regime -- as Sontag herself recognized when, despite bearing no real love for American policy in the matter, she nonetheless cornered the detestable Gabriel Garcia Marquez in 2003 over his own support for the tyrant.

Remember, we were once supporters of Hussein in this country....

A justifiable policy decision then and now, really. Also irrelevant to the argument at hand, except as a diversionary tactic.

lily,

We have seen plenty of "Bush=Hitler" signs and comparisons...But no "Bush=Mao" or "Bush=Lenin" or "Bush=Stalin", etc. How come?

....the shouldn't we also discuss the support given by American conservatives to Hitler?

If you wish. To what end?

Shouldn't there be a sort of statute of limitations on how far back people go when assessing the positions of current people on current issues?

Why?

Jade,

Context is everything, Stan. I'm certain you could produce crime stats that show blacks are disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system but you'd have a tougher time answering the question as to why that is.

Fascinating. So blacks have an underlying reason for being disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system, but the reason for the white colonialism, slavery, etc., is solely the color of the white man's skin?

After the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war, there was plenty of information available about the methods of Communist rule: slave camps and extermination.

Huh? Didn't that only provide information regarding the methods of communist rule in Russia? Space for reasonable debate clearly existed regarding whether communism could be "done right" or "done better." The fact may be that most reasonable people would have (and, it turns out, did) answer "no," but this is hardly the same as foreclosing the debate entirely based on a couple years of terror and abuse that started (and formed a part of) a World War of terror and abuse.

Sorry, that should be "started during ... a World War of terror and abuse" -- i.e., WWI.

von: the USSR horrors were largely in place before WW2. The famine and forced collectivization, as well as purges, happened during the '30s.

A justifiable policy decision then and now, really.

Chuckle. One can never tire carrying water for Dear Leader, can one?

Let's see; communism was a bad, bad thing because a certain regime (one which had essentially abandoned the philosophy of communism) had used slave labor camps and extermination.

But Saddam Hussein, using chemical warfare on his own people and engaging in some pretty hideous practices WRT torture and extermination;why Tacitus gets out the big red, white, and blue foam 'We're #1' finger and waves it around.

Didn't that only provide information regarding the methods of communist rule in Russia?

Well, no. We had Communist regimes in Hungary and much of Germany too, to say nothing of the civil wars in places like Finland, Estonia, et al. Pretty bloody-minded movements in every case. Plus, there was an ample corpus at that point of Communist theorizing on the proper applications of terror, etc.

Space for reasonable debate clearly existed regarding whether communism could be "done right" or "done better."

Eh. I disagree, but I do agree that this is a debatable point. However, by the time Sontag started declaiming on the subject -- 40 years later -- that space was definitively gone.

Sorry von -- misread your post. You're right, as always :)

Gray Tacitus...there are those of us who profoundly believe that the truth lies in gray. Again, as Sontag noted:

the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to bow one's head before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything and the incapacity of our moral understanding—which is also the understanding of the novelist—to take this in.

Those who are so confident in their POV they don't attempt to account for the crimes it gives pass to (like supporting a dictator who used nerve gas to fight our enemies in Iran or like the number of innocent civilians our invasion of Iraq cost their lives) see only in black and white. To them the goal is so noble, the means are insignificant.

Those attempting to synthesize a philosophical POV with the reality of that POV don't have the luxury of glossing over the messy details like that, however. They struggle to bring it all together and account for the messy details, opening their minds to consider that perhaps they don't know everything, and perhaps this idea or these actions over here will eventually benefit the greater good. It's messy work and it's fraught with mistakes. But it's the only way some folks can face themselves in the mirror each morning.

One can never tire carrying water for Dear Leader, can one?

Consulting my dictionary of sloppy leftist metaphors, I see that "Dear Leader" refers to George W. Bush, who was, I believe, living in relative obscurity in west Texas at the point at which the policy in question was implemented. So, moving on from that.

Let's see; communism was a bad, bad thing because a certain regime (one which had essentially abandoned the philosophy of communism) had used slave labor camps and extermination.

Not quite: nearly all Communist regimes used slave labor camps and extermination. None respected what we would consider a basic minimum of civil liberties.

But Saddam Hussein, using chemical warfare on his own people and engaging in some pretty hideous practices WRT torture and extermination;why Tacitus gets out the big red, white, and blue foam 'We're #1' finger and waves it around.

Think this through, Jadegold, and do it slowly so you get it right: Where, if ever, have I justified or defended the atrocities of Ba'athist Iraq? How, if at all, does asserting that support of Ba'athist Iraq versus Islamist Iran in the 1980s constitute a defense of those atrocities? You can do this.

Gray Tacitus...there are those of us who profoundly believe that the truth lies in gray.

Well, I suppose I'd do the same in your shoes: abandon all factual points completely, that is, in favor of gauzy sermonizing.

Tacitus,

It might help Jade to understand if you explained it this way:

Being against Operation Iraqi freedom doesn't mean that you are Pro-Hussein. I imagine he can wrap his mind around that one.

von: the USSR horrors were largely in place before WW2. The famine and forced collectivization, as well as purges, happened during the '30s.

You can extend that to 1950's. A lot of people died needlessly in the second world war. Ever hear of shtraff batalions? They formed those by emptying out prisons (which had a huge number of political prisoners, as well as criminals) and were used purely for suicide missions.

The doctors plot was alleged in 1953.

From 1950's on, you could've still done time for telling a political joke.

We'll leave the argument about whether a reasonable person could, in 1920, hold the position that communism might be "done right" because I agree with you that a reasonable person in 1960 could not have. (Hence, my not-being-much-a-fan-of-Ms.-Sontag.) Still, on the subject of hindsight reasoning:

None [of the communist nations circa 1920] respected what we would consider a basic minimum of civil liberties.

True. But, then, the U.S. did not respect what we now consider to be a basic minimum of civil liberties in 1920. And I don't mean the "culture war" issues of the day. I mean segregation, the right to voice disagreement with a war effort, etc. (Did this mean that the USSR of the '20s was preferrable to the US of the '20s? Of course not. But "better" is not "good" -- or, in this case, even "minimally acceptable.")

Stan -- my point was about WWI, not WWII.

Being against Operation Iraqi freedom doesn't mean that you are Pro-Hussein.

Timc, some on the right understand this. Most don't. Many more don't care so long as their party leader doesn't get hurt politically.

Frankly, I see Tacitus in the latter two categories. It's laregely a self-interest thing.

Well, I suppose I'd do the same in your shoes: abandon all factual points completely, that is, in favor of gauzy sermonizing.

Achooo!!! to borrow a line from "I, Robot" ...Sorry but I'm allergic to BS.

Fact. The US supported Hussein while he was violating nearly every human rights and warring convention we value.

Fact. There were not WMD. There were no ties between Al Qaeda and Hussein of any importance. We will not put into play a domino effect of democracy from Iraq, but there are upwards of 100,000 dead civlians there.

Fact. The US is even now supporting regimes we know are horrific because it's strategically advantageous: Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudia Arabia, etc. etc.

Fact. In each of these instances, there's two ways to approach these messy details. One is to turn a blind eye and assume God's on your side, so it will all work out in the end...history will forgive you. The other is to own up to the full reality, discuss it openly (without patriotic bullshit spin), and acknowledge that you don't have the copyright on morality. In other words, to synthesize the total landscape as best you can so that you're not not charging into battle with blinders on.

No points for guessing which requires more honesty and maturity.

But no "Bush=Mao" or "Bush=Lenin" or "Bush=Stalin", etc. How come?

i'll guess it's because Hitler (and what he did) is known by more people in the US than Mao and Stalin combined. even if you missed high school completely, you can get a good idea of Hitler and the Nazis from popular culture (movies, video games, references in sit-coms, Bugs Bunny cartoons, etc). a "Bush=Mao" sign would require explanation, Bush=Hitler is understood by all.

Frankly, I see Tacitus in the latter two categories. It's laregely a self-interest thing.

Given where I work and the field I aspire to, my conservatism and Republicanism are hardly salutary qualities from a professional or renumerative standpoint. But if you wish to persist in believing that I am a partisan mercenary(!), I for one am not opposed to your continuing to make a fool of yourself.

Smart move, though, abandoning your argument.

As for Edward....who on earth are you arguing with, here? Am I promoting the eschewing of "full reality" and open discussion? No? Then shall we get back to your defense of Sontag? Or are you taking the Jadegold route, here?

cleek,

i'll guess it's because Hitler (and what he did) is known by more people in the US than Mao and Stalin combined. even if you missed high school completely, you can get a good idea of Hitler and the Nazis from popular cultur

But now that makes one wonder why that is so :)

As for Edward....who on earth are you arguing with, here? Am I promoting the eschewing of "full reality" and open discussion? No? Then shall we get back to your defense of Sontag? Or are you taking the Jadegold route, here?

connecting the dots for you...

This began with my critique of your essay line "Vietnam fought America, and America was the enemy." In elaborating on why this is a binary argument that doesn't account for a worldview that attempts to look beyond "America, love it or leave it," I outlined other "facts" that were meant to demonstrate that it's not necessarily anti-American to object when America is conducting itself in morally questionable ways.

All of which was meant to explain (with the quote I've included twice now), that Sontag realized the total landscape was beyond her grasp, but she was dedicated to acknowledging as much of it as she could synthesize. Much of the criticism of her is totally unfair, because her critics are not meeting her on this playing field. They're arguing with blinders on, insisting, for example, essentially that by 1920 it was perfectly clear that Communism was 100% bad and America was 100% good, when anyone standing on Sontag's playing field, eyes wide open, would understand it was not so binary.

Smart move, though, abandoning your argument.

Not abandoning a thing, Tac. Your interest is largely motivated by self-interest not by what is best for this country or even what you perceive is best for the nation.

We can explore this at greater length if you wish.

Way up thread I made a comment that condemning current leftists for the support given toCommunists back in the 20's was as unfair as condemning current conservatives for the support give to Hitler before WW2. Or at least that's what I meant to say. Tacticus responded in a way that makes me think either my point wasn't clear or he misunderstood. I suggested that a statute of limitations might be in order and he asked "Why?" Well because arguments based on the distant past can be so unfair or irrelevant. I understand that the starting point of this thread was Susan Sontag's history and her writings against the backdrop of history but there is a point at which the coversation turned into a "blame currently and recently dead people for what other people said and did a long time ago."
Right now I think current conservatives spend a lot of time arguing with with their fantasy of how leftists thought three decades ago. Of course it's easy to do that with Susan sonntag because she has writing from three decades ago but the pattern presists of acting like any Democrat who speaks now must be speaking the point of view of someone who really pissed off a conservative thirty years ago. So I've moved into a second point; not only can it lead to a lot of pointless and irrelevent name-calling to blame people now for what other people did a long time ago, but there is a tendency for people now to perceive their political opposites in terms of out-of-date stereotypes. yes lefties do this to conservatives, too. Thus the need for a statute of limitations.

How, if at all, does asserting that support of Ba'athist Iraq versus Islamist Iran in the 1980s constitute a defense of those atrocities?

If you want to be patronizing (and it seems that you do - "Think this through, and do it slowly so you get it right") it is best if you employ meaningful sentences to do so. I think what you mean here is:

How, if at all, does asserting that support of Ba'athist Iraq versus Islamist Iran in the 1980s was justifiable constitute a defense of those atrocities?

Please correct me if I'm wrong. It just seems that coherency would be an essential underpinning of such repellant smugness.

On the actual topic of the post, however, I quite liked your essay. You obviously disagree vehemently with much of Sontag's thinking, and it would have been pointless for you to write the piece as if that wasn't true. I found the piece to be a good faith attempt to correct an misapprehension held by many of your own political cohort about a particular aspect of an opponent. An attempt made honorable in its way by the fact that there was no obvious motive to write the piece except to offer that corrective. As I read it, it wasn't really meant for us lefties.

yes lefties do this to conservatives, too. Thus the need for a statute of limitations.

Why a statute of limitations when cognitive dissonance will do just as well? Tacitus claims "nearly all Communist regimes used slave labor camps", he also questions the need for any statute of limitations. Third, he claims "there's really no excuse for ever having been pro-Communist after about 1920".

Now we know that nearly all Western capitalist countries permitted slavery, and since there is no statue of limitations, the only question is what year to use as the cutoff for when there was no excuse for being pro-capitalist. 1700? 1800?

Of course conservatives would consider this line of reasoning absurd. Cognitive dissonance is useful, it keeps you from ever having to really look in the mirror.

von: "Rilkefan's unfair snark aside"

Under the assumption you didn't understand my brief point, von, I'll expand - in my view the post does not say what it ought to ("Sontag lived and died a principled proponent of liberal interventionism; I disagree with her interpretation of blah but praise her courage in her convictions; conservatives ought to appreciate her agreement with us on foo and emulate her passion for a better America and world"). Instead, the thrust is more "Sontag used to shill for genocide but more recently she held positions which are close enough to ours to be approved, and we should appreciate how far she's come from the despised left, which holds this, that, and the other despicable positions." I think Tacitus's woefully inartful "fatally skewed" is a good example of what I mean. Or someone who by certain standards is a shill for imperialistic, war-profiteering, homophobic Conservatism using the word "shill" in a eulogy - I thought that was self-congratulatory (as if there could be no principled if wrong-headed "hardcore" left position).

More generally, as a professional nihilist I don't have a stake in this question, but isn't "the distance travelled from genocide" a rather repulsive metric?

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