Sunday, June 21, 2009

Comments Elsewhere: Iran

It won't be coherent, but you can follow the links and it'll make more sense.

In response to an open Iran thread, I wrote:
All protests are terrorism and therefore what’s happening in Iran is an insurgency.

I'm being facetious, of course, but follow the link and prepare to be mind-boggled.

In response to a very personal response to the Iran situation, I wrote:
When this happened twenty years ago in China, I made the mistake of assuring a friend that the protesters were protected from violent group reprisal by international attention. I was stupid then, naive, and I’ve seen plenty more cases in the two decades since I learned my lesson about predicting the future with certitude.
I can also say this: the Myanmar junta is not safe and secure because of their massacre; the Chinese government has been paying a slow but real price for Tiananmen (and Zhao Ziyang’s memoirs just came out, which really stung), and trying to assuage the Chinese people with prosperity (which isn’t a bad thing, mostly). Just because they survive in the short term doesn’t mean that they were unscathed; just because our lives go on doesn’t mean we forget or forgive; just because the protest ends doesn’t mean the discontent is gone.

I was also in this discussion about rhetoric and counterfactual history, but my comments don't really stand alone all that well. I did get a nice reply from one of the other commenters, though:
Gosh, you're smart but snotty as hell. Though I suppose that is part of your charm.

I have snotty charm!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: Twitter Tracks

Thinking about the remarkable use of twitter we've seen in Iran, I said
It really is remarkable, but there are a lot of other forms of communication still working, too: phones (including land lines!), copy machines (seriously underappreciated for their role in breaking down Soviet thought control), personal communication.

Twitter, though, is visible to the rest of the world, and much harder to filter quickly than blogs. Still, I’m actually concerned, a bit, about this: it leaves a record, one that’s very difficult to erase, and if the regime regains control, there will be a vicious backlash against identifiable twitterers.

Update: Apparently I'm not wrong.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: Strategic Silence

SEK made a point that I've seen elsewhere: expressed US support for the pro-democracy protesters in Iran would hurt their cause by associating them with foreign power. I responded:
In theory, then, the Obama administration ought to announce immediately and loudly that it accepts the results of the election as announced, and is looking forward to working with Ahmedinijad on critical regional and bilateral issues.

This would result in the implosion of any number of crania, probably to the good.

Actually, it probably should be "cranii."

For more detail on the uprising in Iran, see Andrew Sullivan. But be forewarned: he has a policy of showing violent and disturbing images, if they're real and relevant.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quoted: Obama in Cairo

I thought of this today:
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful.

Nothing else I'm thinking is printable.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: Judeo-Calvinism?

on Winchester: “Judeo-Calvinist dreariness”?????

It’s bad enough we get folded in with Christendom, but you’d think the culture that produced the Song of Songs would get an exemption from accusations of Calvinst Victorianism.

[Yes, I know "Calvinist Victorianism" is a linguistic and historical atrocity. That's my point.]

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Comment Elsewhere: Pseudonymity and Politics

In response to the unmasking of Publius, I asked
There have been three fairly prominent pseudonymous bloggers outed in the last two months (Hilzoy, Alaska Muckraker, and now Publius), all two by conservatives. Can anyone name a pseudonymous blogger -- conservative or liberal -- outed by a liberal for something other than vicious harassment or sock-puppetry?

I've discussed my pseudonymity here (and a little bit here).
Update: Someone at WashingtonMonthly reminded me that the Alaska case actually involved a Democrat; that doesn't mean that he's not a conservative, especially in Alaska, but I don't actually know.

Update (6/9): Shockingly, the culprit has apologized. It even appears to be a fairly sincere and complete apology, which is very unusual for a lawyer (or a blogger):
On reflection, I now realize that, completely apart from any debate over our respective rights and completely apart from our competing views on the merits of pseudonymous blogging, I have been uncharitable in my conduct towards the blogger who has used the pseudonym Publius. Earlier this evening, I sent him an e-mail setting forth my apology for my uncharitable conduct. As I stated in that e-mail, I realize that, unfortunately, it is impossible for me to undo my ill-considered disclosure of his identity. For that reason, I recognize that Publius may understandably regard my apology as inadequate.
He does not seem, in this, to be retracting any of the supposedly substantive arguments he and his supporters made against pseudonymity. But it's more than I expected, and a very positive result. Publius has "of course accepted." Moving on....

Picture: Pine Fingers

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Compare and Contrast: Killings in Kansas and Arkansas

There's been a lot of discussion, primarily on conservative blogs, about the different reactions to the Tiller assassination and the Little Rock Army-Navy Recruitment Office attack which killed Private William Long. Most of the discussion is based on a logical fallacy: that one must be entirely consistent in one's condemnations to be taken entirely seriously on any of them. "But what about..." is a classic rhetorical tactic, shifting the grounds of an argument and sometimes derailing it entirely.

That said, though, I'm largely in agreement that all violence needs to be taken seriously -- I'm a procedural liberal who thinks that political processes need to be settled by political and legal means, and I want to be protected when I make unpopular stands.

Still, I think there's a reasonable question: what, if anything, are the differences between these cases that might explain different reactions? Some of this is, clearly, speculative, as we haven't gotten the full details on either (alleged? Seems unnecessary) killer yet, but I'm working from the information available.

First, the similarities:
  1. unmistakeably violent murders, illegal acts
  2. May 2009
  3. used legal firearms
  4. apparent religious motivation
  5. clear political motivation
  6. perpetrator seems to believe they are acting in defense of the innocent
  7. victim was a firm believer in their cause
  8. individual perpetrators without organizational support, no conspiracy
  9. targetting respected social institutions (medicine, the military)
  10. targets demonized by political partisans, in long-running, public and intense disputes
I may be overstating some of the similarities, but the parallels are strong, nonetheless. Now, the differences:
  1. abortion rights v. the military
  2. civilian v. military victim
  3. handgun v. assault rifle
  4. individual target v. institutional target
  5. individual target v. potential mass casualties
  6. mission-critical individual v. low-ranking support staff (or, to put it another way, tactical v. symbolic)
  7. high-profile target v. previously anonymous victim
  8. domestic policy v. foreign policy
  9. at church v. at work
  10. older family man v. younger unmarried

The conservative charge of hypocrisy is based on the assumption that difference #1 is the critical one, really the only one. But it's #6 and #7, I think, which actually drive media coverage: the immediate effects of these deaths are different, as are the likely long-term effects. To a large extent, I'd say that #8, because it directly impacts more people's lives locally, and #2 also, are significant factors. Not to downplay the tragic death of this member of the military, but it is an occupation in which violent death in the line of duty is less shocking.

My final thought is one which others have also made. Given the parallels between the cases, why have so many prominent conservative voices failed to call the Tiller assassination an act of domestic terrorism, and to address the implications of that for domestic politics?

[edited to add images; crossposted at Progressive Historians]