Our Friends the Neocons—II


I wasn't the only one revolted by the New York Sun's editorial declaring that antiwar marchers should be tried for treason. Indeed, the article was roundly condemned by many writers, pro-war as well as anti. But one man has stepped up to defend the Sun: good ol' James Taranto, house blogger for The Wall Street Journal.

"There's an element of irony, and hypocrisy," Taranto declares, when one sees "self-styled advocates of vigorous public debate working themselves into a lather over a newspaper editorial. [Eugene] Volokh is right to distinguish between speech and actions on behalf of America's enemies; our constitution protects the former, while the latter may constitute the crime of treason. But no less salient is the distinction between advocating censorship and practicing it. If John Ashcroft or Mike Bloomberg were making noises about prosecuting protesters for treason, that would be cause for outrage. But if someone outside government makes the argument, why is that any less worthy of respect than the 'dissent' of those who make such 'arguments' as that America is an 'imperialist' power that wants 'blood for oil'?"

Taranto, of course, works himself into enough lathers to cover five men when he sees articles that advocate positions he disagrees with, even if the authors do not "practice" those positions. He seem to be saying that while the Sun is calling for censorship, that's all right because it's merely participating in public debate; but when others criticize the stand it took—that is, when they join the debate—they're hypocrites, because … um … well, this is where it gets kind of cloudy. The only way they'd be hypocrites is if they'd called for censoring the Sun, which of course they haven't.

Taranto may recognize, on some level, that his argument is lame, because he quickly tosses in a backup position: that the Sun didn't really mean it anyway. Instead, it was merely "throwing an outlandish idea into the debate, carefully hedging its statement so as to avoid actually endorsing it. In short, the Sun is guilty of nothing more than being provocative—hardly the worst thing you can say about an editorial page."

So it's OK to be provocative, but not to be provoked? My head hurts.

NEXT: Begun, the Clone Wars Have?

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  1. I’ve never understood why Taranto even has that job. Is he related to or have incriminating photos of some high-ranking Dow Jones exec? Oh, wait a minute, I think I just answered my own question. He works for Dow Jones.

  2. It’s a bummer that BOTW doesn’t have a decent feedback medium (comments) like, say, Hit&Run does. It seems piddling to write an actual e-mail to Taranto just to give him a check when he goes over the top, or when logic fails his lighthearted outrage.

    Still, along with Andrew Sullivan, BOTW makes for the best scheduled blogging that I know.

  3. Orwell examined British pacifism during WWII and concluded that pacifists, during wartime, objectively aid the enemy. His premise is that lines have been drawn when a country is at war – and one is either pro or anti-war. Once the fight is joined, there is no more fence sitting. If one takes a stand, it is judged as to whether it advances, or hinders the war effort.

    Pacifists, in focusing on deterring their own government’s actions, objectively aid the enemy, even if they do so with pure motives.

    This isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of well meaning and rational folks with rational doubts about the war. But when ANSWER was in D.C. a couple weeks ago publicly extolling the American public, especially troops, to thwart deployment orders and to take steps to bring down the government, ANSWER crossed the line between honorable dissent and sedition.

    In the vernacular of an earlier age, “are ye wi us, or agin us?”

    The Sun’s position is a bit far out there, but it isn’t as unhinged as our beloved commentator makes it seem.

  4. This all reminds me of the quote on the opening page of c0balt.com

    Yes, go read it. Be sure to refresh the opening page for different pictures as well. Some are hauntingly funny.

  5. Well, the US has a long and ugly history of imprisoning anti-war protestors, seizing their property, etc.

  6. Welcome back, Bennett; me and my earnest, P.C. pals have missed you. Feel free to lecture us on the nature of humor any time you want, perhaps someday on behalf of something that’s actually funny.

  7. Jesse, you should know that the Sun has always been a parody publication. Nothing there is to be taken seriously.

  8. Let me get this straight – Taratino admonishes those who criticize the Sun because it endorses, but does not practice, censorship?

    Sounds like a lot of intellectual buck-passing to me: “You can’t criticize my criticism of critics of the war, because my criticism makes me a champion of free speech, but yours makes you a censor.”

    My head hurts.

  9. …I swear to god, I said “my head hurst” above without reading Jesse’s statment of the same. What are the chances?

  10. There is no “war”. There’s this little clause in the constitution that says only our gutless Congress can declare war and they haven’t done it since WWII.

    There’s an interesting lawsuit filed recently by the families of some of our soldiers to test this out. The right wing packed courts will no doubt ignore it but any objective reader would see that it has merit.

    If there is no war, can there be treason by protesting it?

  11. I’m still trying to figure out how the courts are “right wing packed”. But that notwithstanding, I agree that congess has shown its gutlessness many times since WWII by refusing to declare war and leaving that little item in the hands of the executive branch, contrary to the Constitution (I’d say we defacto “declared” war every time we started shooting since Korea).

    Geez, I hate it when I agree, even a little, with Lefty.

  12. Hey, I’m trying to learn.

    Check out this article. Finally, one that informs me about all this paleo and neo stuff. Still not sure where I fit, though.


  13. It’s kinda funny, Skipper, in that done-to-death alleged-Chamberlain-parallels way. At least it doesn’t give the impression that the jokester is an authoritarian creep, like the Sun editorial does.

  14. The photo is funny Richard because the sign is probably a plant in that it lets warbloggers drone on about appeasement and then on onto wholesale violations of Godwin’s Law.

  15. Have another drink, Andy.

  16. I have to agree with the first poster. I have never understood why Taranto has that job. There are some fine (pro-war) writers at the WSJ. He’s not one of them. I can even understand why Jonah Goldberg has his job – yes he’s Lucianne’s son, but he’s also somewhat amusing, if lazy. Taranto’s just a pro-war prude.

  17. I’ve heard about the lawsuit. Generally, the courts avoid reviewing “political questions” like the plague. I can’t think of anything less reviewed by the courts than the legality of troop deployments by the Commander in Chief. I could be wrong.


  18. Send-up of the Murdoch wing of Neo-Conservatism.


  19. Bennett: I doubt that the editorialist literally expected the police to go out and look for treason suspects, so on that level the suggestion was a joke — though a better word for it would be “fantasy,” because I also think the writer would dearly love to see it happen. Either way, I think the mentality behind the article is repellent.

  20. You know what’s interesting about Washington? It’s the kind of place where second-guessing has become second nature.

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