Fellow Travelers


New at Reason: Ann Coulter's argumentum ad stupiditum may be sucking up all the oxygen in the discussion of radical leftism, but Michael Young examines some of the evidence that ossified radicals really are hurting America's cause, and their own.


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  1. Spur makes a good point, the world is really divided between idiotarians and non-idiotarians.

    Can you guess which side Spur is on?

  2. FYI, Mr. Young–Homage to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan Pier are not novels. Borth are works of nonfiction.

  3. Right? Left? Who fucking cares! My not critique Mr. Hitchins ideas in stead trying to put him into a stupid label.

  4. I must say, I am more scared of Ashcroft than OBL. I don’t think that’s a loony left position. OBL got lucky one day and pulled off 9/11. There hasn’t been the slightest follow-up attack. You’d think they could at least pull off a few suicide bombers or snipers but . . . nothing. And OBL is either dead or hiding out in someone’s basement in western Pakistan. Meanwhile, Ashcroft can call me a “enemy combatant” and that’s the last anyone will hear of me. And who knows what scary Patriot II things are cooking?

  5. how many half-truths and lies in dudes post, count em

  6. As to the notion that Ashcroft is a bigger threat than Osama:

    Like any distortion of the truth, there’s a certain amount of truth buried in this. Abuse of authority is _potentially_ much more dangerous than any terrorist group. There’s a reason why a corrupt cop will often evoke more community outrage than a rapist or murderer.

    But equating an official in the government with Osama misses the point. Without defending the gov’t or minimizing any of the ways it has abused power, there’s no denying that Al Qaeda is a REAL threat. Fighting Al Qaeda is one of the few legitimate tasks of the government, and we shouldn’t brush that aside.

    Anybody who cares about abuse of power should insist that the gov’t does its job (fighting Al Qaeda) while We the People do our job: Keeping the gov’t in check, holding it accountable, and making sure that it doesn’t exceed its proper powers.

    (I predict that somebody will soon call me a liberal Democrat who’s soft on terrorism, and somebody else will say that I’m going too easy on the “fascists” in the government.)

  7. “I must say, I am more scared of Ashcroft than OBL.”

    OBL is responsible for the death of more than 3,000 Americans. Ashcroft is responsible for the deaths of . . . none? A handful?

    OBL has sworn to exterminate America. Ashcroft has done . . . what?

    Given a choice between Ashcroft as Attorney General and OBL, I know who I would choose, and I’m no fan of Ashcroft.

    “I don’t think that’s a loony left position.”

    Since only loony leftists hold it, I feel safe calling it a loony left position.

    “OBL got lucky one day and pulled off 9/11.”

    One airliner crashing into a major landmark would be luck. Four is something else. In any event, do you want to bet that he can’t get lucky twice?

    “There hasn’t been the slightest follow-up attack. You’d think they could at least pull off a few suicide bombers or snipers but . . . nothing.”

    Mightn’t this have something to do with the the fact that we have been killing and locking up Al Quaeda members, supporters, and wannabes as fast as we can?

    “And OBL is either dead or hiding out in someone’s basement in western Pakistan.”

    Finally, something I can agree with.

  8. Michael Young – Thanks for the response to my question on Lebanon.

  9. I have no problem at all killing and locking up as many terrorists as possible. That’s probably why there hasn’t been any more follow up attacks. (Or maybe Al Qaeda is just much less competent than we give them credit for). BUT – here’s the thing – I want a firewall between the treatment of US citizens and everyone else. As things are now there isn’t one and theoretically any one of us can be thrown in the brig with Padilla. A US citzen accused of crimes involving terrorism should get a trial in a regular US civilian court like all other criminals. If the govt doesn’t have the proof, then don’t bring the trial. Don’t make up some vague “enemy combatant” category to lock people up when you don’t have the evidence to convict. That’s all.

  10. You “fight terrorism” first by nurturing a solid citizenry that has a sense of community and is united against the threat of said terrorism. Military attacks on windmills, fracturing alliances, locking up foreigners (brown-skinned, of course), lying and snooping does not advance the anti-terror agenda.

  11. brown-skinned? so it is racism

  12. I think I’m echoing thoreau to say that it’s kinda silly to compare the threat levels of Ashcroft and OBL in the first place. I feel potentially threatened by both, although OBL is obviously a much worse excuse for a human, and Ashcroft is much more likley to actually do something good amidst the things I consider distinctly bad. But only time will say who will do our nation more actual harm.

    I think that what prompted Hitchens to make his statement was anger at the misplaced equivocation and moral equivalency inherent in statements made by the likes of Chomsky who immediately followed up his lukewarm condemnation of 9/11 with a reminder of why the bombing of the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant “may” have been greater “in scale.”

  13. Ashcroft is not evil, OBL is, that doesn’t mean OBL is a bigger threat to me. It is wrong to say ‘Ashcroft is as evil as OBL’ but is is not wrong to say “Ashcroft is more dangerous to me than OBL”

    Charlie Manson is evil, but Ashcroft is more of a threat, unless I hang out with Roman Polanski or something, but I digress.


  14. Mr Young-

    #1- “commonsensical” is not a word- I don’t care how important the person who made the original mistake was.

    #2- “On Nationalism” by Orwell is a much more concise approach to this subject than your bizarre summary of two books. If you had bothered to read this essay, you would know you weren’t talking about “ideologies”, but about Anti-American nationalism. Of course, given the disgusting pro-american nationalism (not to be confused w/patriotism- RTFA), your exclusive focus on Hitchens and left-wing bugbears seems partisan. It’s a shame, as I can see you were trying so hard to be “fair”.

    #3- Mr. Hitchens, gifted writer though he is, was rather thouroughly hoist on his own petard regarding the Blumenthal affair. You can marvel at his increasingly weak, contradictory story (in his own words) in sequential articles in The Nation, WashPo, NYT, etc, or you can just read Blumenthals brilliant, scathing, iron-clad public record cited summary in his own book- and we’ve seen how you love summaries.

    #4- It’s laughably absurd to call the lumping of the GW Bush administration with other American administrations “invalid” for one simple reasons-regardless of who was President, AMERICAN PEOPLE and CORPORATIONS did all of those things. Of course, Rumsfeld playing kissy-face with Saddam, only to plan the “liberation” 20 years later probably has a lot to do with the perception that THIS administration has something to do with their situation too.

    #5- When Khomeni nationalized Iran’s oil, the economy collapsed, skilled people fled, and the country fell into shambles- and that was OK with Iranian people, because they found pride to be worth more than the comfort they had known under the Shah. They were humiliated to know they were a client state to the US and UK, and would rather be poor but proud rather than rich and subservient. It’s this example that makes your weak argument about humiliation by the US being better than humiliation by Tikriti’s utterly absurd- they weren’t humiliated when they marched in Kuwait. They weren’t humiliated when they were the major regional power. Saddam was a beast, but to convince me the Iraqi’s were more “humiliated” under Saddam than the US requires more rhetorical skill than you apparently posess.

  15. ^as to 5.: its like saying citizens of the soviet union were “humiliated” to be so.

  16. Pretty good, Str8, until #5. Who is “they?”

  17. “Thouroughly” doesn’t appear in my dictionary, though “commonsensical” does; so does “pettifogger” BTW, WTF does RTFA mean?

  18. Joe: I wouldn’t describe #1 or #3 as “pretty good,” either.

  19. Anon at 3:12-

    a. It appears commonsensical is in the dictionary- The definition I got? Adj. describing the unreflective opinions of ordinary people. I stand corrected- that word exists, and most certainly applies to Mr. Young’s line of reasoning. Of course, this leads me to recommend Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”- I suggest you RTFA.

    b. Read the F$%&*#g article.

    BTW- Anon = Spineless- Hope I spelled that right 🙂

    Joe- “They” means ordinary Iraqis in that context.

  20. RTFA – Read The F(rigging) Article

  21. re: anon ….I guess Str8 Shooter is the name on your birth certificate?

  22. Queer Shooter- I grant #1, but did you find any part of Blumenthal’s account of Hitchens to be incorrect? Those articles with shifting stories certainly exist.

    I’m genuinely curious.

  23. not taking questions from Anon anymore- get a handle, boys and girls, or STFU.

    God I love acronyms.

  24. Str8, I think your confusing the sense of responsibility for and identification with one’s government that is felt by citizens of a western democracy, with the feelings of the citizens of a dictatorship who see that someone from another religion, ethnic group, or tribe has seized control of the government. I think it’s pretty safe to say Iraqi Shia, Kurds, and Sunnis from the wrong tribe felt pretty humiliated throughout the reign of Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti.

  25. Once Ashcroft coverd the truth and justice statue with a sheet in order to hide a stone tit hanging out, thats when he became dangerous to America. This disrespect of a symbol of US libetry and justice speaks volumes of his own religious fanaticism. He might as well set fire to the American flag before the start of each press conference.

  26. Ok, now I’ll defend Ashcroft: maybe he was worried some crazed lefty feminists would sue him alleging that the topless statue constituted hostile work enviroment sexual harassment? So he covered it up.

    (Well, he probably did it because he’s a prude, but anyway . . . that’s another spin you could put on it).

  27. Thoreau:

    You’re a liberal Democrat who’s going to easy on the fascists in the U.S. government.

  28. US government = fascists

    how clever, did you invent that one?

  29. I’m more likely to be harmed by the effects of the US War On Drugs (courtesy of the US Justice Department) than I am by Islamic terrorists. That may not be true for people living in the Middle East, but it is true for the average US citizen. In fact, the US War On Drugs does have something to do with Afghanistan becoming somewhat tolerant of the Taliban and their Al Qaeda buddies.

  30. back in mooreland, still repeating the same debunked myth about Ashcroft and the statue.

  31. anon at 4:27-

    Since people always seem to jump on whatever I say and accuse me of being something I’m not, I predicted that my post would prompt somebody to call me a liberal Democrat who’s soft on terrorism, and that somebody else would say I’m being too easy on the “fascists” (quotation marks in original to emphasize that the characterization was not mine) in the gov’t.

    Kevin Carson decided to oblige me by combining both ridiculous allegations in one satirical post. He wasn’t intending the hackneyed “fascist” label in a serious manner.

  32. Thanks, Thoreau. Nice to know irony isn’t dead.

  33. I love it when “Str8 SHooter” says he won’t take any more questions from anonymous posters. Yeah, having a pseudonym is such a step up from being anonymous.

  34. There ya go Str8 Bu77sh!tt3R.

    mass graves
    gassed kurds
    massacred Marsh A-rabs (hundreds of thousands)
    massacred Kuwaitis
    political prisoners fed into shredders
    kiddie prisons.
    kiddie prisons! (It bears mention twice)
    failure to come clean over WMD programs
    rape squads
    attempted Bush assassination

    I’m sure that the Iraqis are much more ashamed and saddened by the U.S. invasion and occupation, than all that stuff.

  35. “I must say, I am more scared of Ashcroft than OBL. I don’t think that’s a loony left position.”

    Hardly surprising; I don’t know too many self-proclaimed loonies. But if fearing John Ashcroft more than OBL isn’t a loony-left position, it sure as hell is loony-something.

  36. I have read these comments, and was much relieved. I agree with Orwell, I agree with everyone who pointed Arab facism. But I used to do statistical risk assesment, and frankly the threat posed to me and my neighbors, and our children and our nation, by Ashcroft is considerably higher than the risk from Osama. Do the numbers. The changes that are being brought to bear threaten generations. How many people will be diaappeared, say oh, ten years from now? If you can disappear a few citizens today?

    Also check out Jesse Walkers posting “Suspicious Reading”, I think it makes the point quite well.

  37. good article.
    I’d be really curious to know what concrete changes & reactions Young has seen in Lebanon re: Syrian reduction in forces.

  38. The Syrians have just redeployed forces for the fourth time in three years. Has it changed the fundamentals of Syrian domination of Lebanon? Hardly. But there is a dynamism even in symbols that can be exploited, and I think the clock has already started ticking on the Syrian military presence here; indeed it started the day Israeli forces pulled out of south Lebanon in May 2000.

    As for changes in the country: I’ve written the above several times in the Lebanese press, indeed far worse, and have not been punished for it. In many ways this is very much a liberal society, for all its flaws. And the Syrians let things be if you avoid mentioning the things they’re particularly sensitive about, like the minority status of the regime.

  39. Hitchens did not switch to the right as far as I can tell — did he drop support for big government, universal health care, etc.? I haven’t read it if he has — he sided with a pro-war foreign policy with leftist roots — good conservatives (if there exists such a thing) opposed this war one and all — yeah the left is dumb, so are the neo-cons.

    Also, the left has said stupid things but certainly I take Ashcrost to be a biger threat to my life and liberty than OBL — he don’t pass oppressive laws that affect all Americans — increase my taxes (he’s just the scape goat) send my friends in the military to die in some shithole, etc. even if he continues to kill 3000k Americans a year, which he is unlikely to do, I’m still more likely to die in a car crash or have my home searched without a warrant.


  40. This reminds me of some of the comments made when it was obvious to everybody that, nobody what anybody said or did, Bush was invading Iraq. It went something like, “Just shut up. Grownups are in charge now, they know what they’re doing and all the anti-war whining will be bad for the troops, encourage Saddam, etc.”

    The war questions are a little more in vogue now, even from the troops. Trouble is, now it’s too damn late. We’re stuck.

  41. Although I enjoyed Young’s piece, his opening sentence is a prime example of why the labels “left” and “right” confuse more than they convey. If Hitchens is on the political “right” on Afghanistan and Iraq, it means little more than he’s “fer it.” By that reasoning, many of my libertarian friends must now be on the political “left,” since they’re “agin’ it.”

    Hitchens has been, to be sure, a fellow traveller for many years among the ranks of “progressives” (are their opponents “regressives”?), but I think even a cursory examination of his earlier writing in The Nation would lead to the conclusion that he has always been something of a contrarian.

    Mere ideologues (even, dare I suggest it, libertarian ideologues?) usually end up losing their way, and their audience, for failure to understand that the map is not the terrain and that a worldview which answers everything, no matter what the facts, is not much of an answer to anything. Hitchens has, so far at least, avoided that fate.

    As for Hitchens’ admittedly prodigious thirst, I can only suggest that editors follow Lincoln’s reaction to Grant, find out what Hitchens drinks and send a case or two to their own writers. I’m sure Reason’s writers wouldn’t object.

  42. I really think it is a shame to compare the threat of Achcroft to that of Osama Ben Laden. Whether we like it or not, Achcroft actions are tied by a minimum of ethical values and constitutional priniciples; which is not the case with Osama Ben Laden. Criticizing the government is a sign of democracy but defending the government’s enemies is not always the good way to do so.

  43. Debunked statue story, eh? I hadn’t heard. Got any backup?

  44. EMAIL: pamela_woodlake@yahoo.com
    URL: http://cheap-web-hosting.1st-host.org
    DATE: 01/19/2004 11:37:07
    Those whose paths are not the same do not consult one another.

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