More on the virtues of a little perspective

Mr. Bookworm still finds troubling my political transformation, which is actually something I understand.  After all, when we stood under the chuppah so many years ago, he knew what he was getting — a stalwart Democratic life partner.  It was bad enough when his siblings, after 9/11, betrayed him by going conservative, but his wife!  I ask you!?  He’s fighting a rearguard action by bringing DVDs into the house that he presents to me without comment, in the hopes that I will rethink my new ideas and return to the fold.  I’m stubborn as an old pig, though, so I don’t think he’d better hold his breath.

In any event, as part of his effort, we watched two DVDs this weekend.  The first had no effect on me at all; the second, I think, was a disappointment to him, as tending to prove my case more than his.

The first DVD was Outfoxed : Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism, a movie made right before the 2004 election.  The movie’s basic premise was that Fox News, despite it’s “Fair and Balanced” logo actually has a conservative slant.  Were you ever more shocked?  I think the guys and gals who made the movie really think that members of the American public watch people like Bill O’Reilly, Neil Cavuto, and the other regulars, and are hornswoggled into thinking that these commentators aren’t biased.  In fact, O’Reilly, Cavuto, et al are a blessed breath of fresh air in the media in that they’re so absolutely up front about their biases.  The Fox News audience, unless it’s really as dumb as the liberal establishment thinks it is, knows precisely what it’s getting and, judging by the numbers, that’s precisely what it wants:  commentary that doesn’t pretend to be balanced, all the while hiding a profound agenda.

In any event, the main “horror” and “scandal” shaming Fox (that it supports the President) could just as easily be applied in mirror image to the other 90% of the broadcast media (they all hate the President).  The shame, though, is greater for the latter, because they don’t have the decency to admit that bias.  I’d read the NY Times with much more interest and pleasure if it would stop hiding in the closet about its biases.

The second DVD, which also dates from 2004, was much more impressive than the above piece of hysterical polemic.  Mr. Bookworm and I just finished watching Voices of Iraq, a movie by and about the Iraqi people.  The gimmick is that the producers shipped 150 digital video cameras into Iraq in 2004, and let the Iraqi people film themselves.  The movie is about 95% footage by and about Iraqis, but it does include, at rare intervals, (i) American newspaper headlines that seem to be at odds which or exaggerations of the story on the ground; and (ii) videos of staged riots and Hussein era torture.

What was fascinating was how different the story the Iraqis tell about themselves is from the American media talking head version.   Once the handheld videocams found their way out of Fallujah, where they were hostile to Americans, and Baghdad, where they were understandably resentful of the great hardships imposed on their previously urban lives, you heard from people who were grateful to have Hussein gone, regardless of the hardships.

These grateful ones were the people who had survived Hussein era torture, and who laughed at the idea that being stripped naked and having your genitals fondled could be considered torture.* They were the Kurds who have living memories of Hussein’s slaughter of almost 200,000 Kurds, as well as his poison gas attacks on their villages.  They were the Marsh People, who live at the heart of the ancient Fertile Crescent (Ur), who were displaced and almost destroyed when Saddam deliberately drained their swamps.  The list of people grateful for Saddam’s downfall, and willing to put up with almost any hardship as long as he was gone, was phenomenal.

It was also amazing to see the liberality of thought so many Iraqis displayed — a fact daily obscured by the evening news.  Somehow it seems timely to point out in this regard that one of the biggest attacks the Outfoxed movie makers had against Fox News was that it had the temerity to show good news coming out of Iraq.  Lies, lies, lies, the movie makers implied.

I’m not so naive that I think things are wonderful in Iraq.  God knows that, if my home were reduced to intermittent moments of electricity and water, I’d be disconsolate.  I’d be even more unhappy if IEDs plagued my City.  But, on balance, I might still be happy to see the last of a man who led my country in an eight year war that saw 400,000 of my fellow citizens dead;** a man who committed genocide against hundreds of thousands of Kurds (including using chemical weapons against them); a man (and his sons) who routinely used unimaginable torture against those who merely disagreed with him; and a man who thought it was good public policy to behead people on street corners.  The film says that the low estimates for the Iraqi deaths under Saddam’s watch are one million people, with the highs coming in at about six million.  Freedom with limited electricity has to be preferable to life in that kind of nationwide torture chamber.

In the same way, I’d be deathly afraid of the Islamic death squads trying to impose their reign of terror throughout Iraq.  I’d recognize that, until matters stabilize somewhat, America is the only bulwark against Iraq falling to the Iraqi equivalent of the Taliban.  And I’d be damned resentful of American politicians and citizens who now want to cut and run — even if I wished that the Americans hadn’t come in the first place.

One last thought, which I’ll throw in here because I don’t have another place to put it — while most of use remember only a Germany resurgent in the late 1950s and onwards, thanks to the fact that the Americans got rid of the Nazis and instituted the Marshall plan, few of us like to dwell on the appalling period immediately after WWII ended.  Much of Germany was in ruins; the continent was crawling with war refugees, who were augmented with those escaping the Iron Curtain; and the Americans were unpopular with unregenerate Nazis (just as they are now unpopular with the Baathists).  It never occurred to the Americans, though, to walk away.  Instead, they stuck it out until Germany was back on her feet.  I’m pleased to say that, in another war sixty years later, with Bush at the helm, Americans are following the same pattern and staying the course.


*You don’t need to be reminded, do you, of the despair that current Abu Ghraib residents felt when the Americans turn the prison back over to the Iraqis?  Our polls and papers may still feel a squirmy masturbatory excitement when they think about America’s humiliation over the Abu Ghraib scandal, but those Arabs at the receiving end of real torture, as opposed to degradation (which I don’t countenance or support) know the difference.
**No one needs to remind me that the U.S. at this time sided with Iraq, on the principle that the enemy of my enemy was my friend.  The war started in 1980, while Iran still held the hostages, so I really don’t think you can blame the U.S. too much for sending words of encouragement when Saddam’s itchy megalomania had him facing off with the Iranians.

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  • Ymarsakar

    Evil fights Evil, but the end goal of the Good is to get rid of both.

    When humans have seen real reality, everything else of a lesser caliber seems like a dream. Vice a versa, it works the opposite for Berkley clones. Those who have not seen the real reality, everything seems real to them, including illusions.

    The polls in Iraq don’t make sense unless you know the individual dividends. 90% of Kurdistan wants America to stay. Kurds are 20% of total pop. Sunnis other 20%. Shia 60%. Sunnis have 70% wanting America to GO. Shia? Shia are divided. Sometimes 50% sometimes 60% want us to go. Probably so that the Shia can purge the Sunnis, a good reason they would not want us here to interfere, not because they don’t like us, but because we aren’t “Shia”.

    So when they say the majority of Iraqis want us to leave, that doesn’t even tell part of the story. I don’t care what the Shia-Iran buddy lovers want. I don’t care what the Sunni resurgent Baathists want. That removes so much of the percentage from the polls that it isn’t even a majority for either side.

    The people who matter, are the silent voices. The ones without powerful representatives in Al Sadr or Sunni Baathist old school style thugs. They are the ones living in slums on the outskirts of Baghdad, pathetically grateful that an American military unit brought them food.

    The problem with democracy is that what the people want as a majority is not necessarily the best thing for the majority or the minorities. We have solved it. Iraq has not yet. Until Iraq either implements their own “federal system” or uses our own, people talking about making policies based upon what the majority of Iraqis want or do not want, are committing a pretty infamous mistake, the Athenian mistake with Socrates.

  • Ymarsakar

    Btw, Book, if he is trying to get you back, you should go with fair’s fair, and attempt to convert him with your own DVDs. Productive as well as fun perhaps. Band of Brothers is curiously, a favorite for military veterans and other Republicans, Jacksonian or not. I say curiously, because i’ve never heard about it except from those sources.

    It is a nice opportunity to see what kind of decisions people make and how people should act in war. It is much better if you understand why people do the things they do, because it aids you in understanding other people and situations. Band of Brothers, therefore, is nice in that it deals with situations very much alike what we see in iraq.

    The list of people grateful for Saddam’s downfall, and willing to put up with almost any hardship as long as he was gone, was phenomenal.

    hardship breeds endurance and will, after all. The best fighters come not from decadent civilizations, but the boondocks of nowhere.

    Endure, in enduring, grow strong.

    I was watching that vid clip about Kurdistan, funded by the Kurdistan government that O’Reilly mentioned, awhile ago. It was very interesting to see how well done and positive it was. It was almost glowing, in fact I’m pretty sure it was glowing.

    Humans do not seem to become stronger without facing harsh challenges, life and death encounters, and so forth. It is that which tempers the steel of the human soul and character. There is really no substitute for that tempering. It is sad, in a way, that for humanity to achieve greatness, there must be suffering to be overcome. Would it not be better for suffering to cease to exist? But if that was the case, wouldn’t we get a bunch of Hollywood decadent freaks? Either way, it is not a Paradise in Eden.

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  • erp

    In the biased media and arts department:

    We’ve been enjoying Mystery! on PBS shown here on Sundays at 9 PM. Their latest offerings have been the “Inspector Lynley Series” — not our favorite, but entertaining nevertheless. Last night was a repeat of an episode entitled, “The Word Of God.”

    In it we were treated to a moral equivalence between Islamic fundamentalists and American mid-western Evangelicals. The gist was that people should no more expect that Moslems to be terrorists than American Evangelicals. There was a bit more, but I don’t remember what it was because I was seeing red.

    The bad guy was, what to me was an obviously Jewish scholar at the British museum who went on a killing spree in his avarice for obtaining an ancient Koran which he planned to defile and sell page by page to willing collectors.

    The Moslems were victims of the corrupt British system. The immigration officials were comic book caricatures who wanted to grab any Moslem for deportation, a female doctor who harvested organs for profit and a healthcare system that forced a desperately sick Moslem man to sell his good kidney to pay for his dialysis and future transplant. The fact that many people live long productive lives with only one good kidney escaped the attention of the writers of this vile trash.

    Perhaps Mr. BW would like to explain why a BBC offering would inject such a hateful message in a show that tossed one softball after the other to the British Moslem community . . . and offer an opinion on why American Evangelicals didn’t riot, loot and burn to protest this ridiculous depiction of the faith.

    “The Word of God” ? I sincerely hope not.

    I was so angry

  • Danny Lemieux

    If I think of great movies that helped nurture my understanding of and conversion to a conservative way of thinking, I would have to include 1972’s “The Culpepper Cattle Company”, a Western that has a lot to say about the Liberal/Left versus Conservative divide over who we are, the antiwar movement, and why we are in Iraq. It was a portend of what was to happen in Southeast Asia and the collective shrug of the Left after Vietnam and Cambodia were betrayed by the Democrat US Congress.

  • kevin

    After reading the WorldNetDaily article you linked to, I can only comment on the subtitle, “Saddam’s daily horrors make America’s Abu Ghraib abuses seem almost trivial.” I would object to the word almost–in comparison, they were trivial.

  • erp

    kevin, right you are. The early reports about Abu Gharib, now lost, told a completely different story. The story was that someone high up in CBS news (Mary Mapes name was mentioned — this was prior to her exposure in Rathergate) orchestrated the whole thing. Selected people at the camp were sent cellular picture phones and arrangements were made for the pictures to be transmitted back to CBS.

    The soldiers involved are certainly not blameless, but they aren’t brutal torturers and only they know what kind of child murderers and worse were incarcerated there. They were indulging in a little frat boy payback and who can blame them considering how they had to mollycoddle these poor excuses for human beings.

    When the story of the media is finally revealed, it will turn everything we think we know about the last 50 or so years around by 180 degrees.

  • Sherlock

    The most disturbing media bias is, as Bookworm says, the bias that does not reveal itself. And the worst of that form is found on NPR! NPR commentators have raised practice of hidden distortion to a fine art.

    For example, Dan Schorr commenting on the NIE. He first says that media cited “parts” of the report to criticize Bush. Fine. Then he states that the White House released “other parts” of the report to rebut them.

    What Schorr is obscuring with this apparently even-handed wordplay is the fact that there was no equivalence between the behavior of the two sides here at all. Whereas the media selected individual statements to show Bush’s policies in a negative light, Bush in response released the ENTIRE “Key Findings” section from which those statements were cherry-picked.

    The contrast could not be greater between one side that seeks to control what information reaches the public as a way of shaping attitudes, and the other side that believes that if people are fully informed, they will reach sensible conclusions.

    But of course, Dan Schorr is firmly in the first camp, so he plays a little word game to hide that much different behavior of the two sides in this debate, trying to evolve the potentially embarrasing situation of the media being shown to be quite selective about its “leaks”, to a simple situation of “he said – he said”… or “everybody does it”.

    I suspect most NPR listeners just dismissed the whole thing as more gotcha politics by both parties, just as Schorr intended them to – after all it was a leak that didn’t work out, so best stuff it down the memory hole.

    This is SOP at NPR, and in the lefty media in general, and it is contemptible.

  • Ymarsakar

    Sometimes a few eggs need to be broken to make a goodness omelet, you know.

    I don’t know how the media can obtain their vaunted moral high ground with such philosophies, but I’m sure they found a way, one way or another.

    Bush should really infiltrate the media and provide them with disinformation. Meaning information that is designed to be wrong. After awhile, nobody will know whether a leak is true or not because.

    Technically, that is a dirty trick you use against enemies, but then again Bush’s humanitarian gentleman treatment of the press and of information, doesn’t net him any real friends in the Leftist media, now does it.

    Trying to convince people to stop using a tactic, when that tactic benefits them, is like asking someone not to cheat in a life and death situation. It is kind of hard unless you make it so that their tactics, harm them more than it helps them.