Popping Up in the Strangest Places
So I'm looking at the stats for the Empire, and I see that a bunch of folks have visited from Warblogger Watch
I went over there, and sure enough, they mention this site - objecting to my criticisms of Jimmy Carter and the former Narcissist-in-Chief and their recentl bleatings about why we shouldn't attack Iraq.
The same little note over there cites the Chronicle of Higher Education
"One Year After September 11, Where Is the Dissent? ... Can we assimilate and understand legitimate criticism? Is there really room in our culture for complex discourse and debate?"
I'd say, sure there is. Let's see some.
Not more bleatings about "we need another round of U.N. inspections of Iraq." And not "the despotic leader of Country X is just as bad as Saddam Hussein, why aren't we going after him instead/too?"
Those aren't terribly strong arguments - I'm not saying people shouldn't say those things if they believe them, just that, in my opinion, they shouldn't be taken seriously.
We had several years of inspections, and they failed. But that's all Jimmy Carter has to offer, and it's just not very insightful, or useful.
And as for Bill Clinton, well, anything he says about foreign policy has to be viewed in light of his failure to do anything about AL Qaeda for eight years, his refusal to take Osama bin Laden when Sudan offered him to us on a plate, and his arm twisting of Ehud Barak to make ever more dangerous and reckless concessions so that Clinton could get a Nobel Peace Prize for presiding over a treaty in the Middle East (no matter how doomed to failure it would be, no matter how many Israeli lives it would cost). So, his credibility on foreign policy is zero. If he'd had anything useful to say, he had eight years to say - and do! - it, and he didn't. Carping about it now is, at best, pointless.
As for dissent in general, the Chronicle piece argues:
What followed from this genuinely horrendous and insane act of homicidal violence has been, unfortunately, a considerable loss of American freedom of one important kind: the freedom of expression. There has always been a small fringe of dissenters within our national borders, but that group has never had an easy time of it. Tocqueville and Thoreau noted our conformist tendencies as a nation, even in times of peace, although we are probably no different from most countries. It's easier to go along with the crowd, to wave the flag, to pledge allegiance to the powers that be.
What exactly is so shocking here? Dissent, by definition, is going to come from a minority, and the majority isn't going to like it. This has been true throughout human history. The author at least has the good grace to note that.
And dissent gets hissed at. Again, this is neither new, nor surprising, nor is it wrong. What is wrong - and what has not happened - is for dssent to be outlawed or otherwise officially punished.
The article says, a little later:
One recalls how Susan Sontag was vilified after, early on, she offered the mildest dissent, in The New Yorker, from the flag-waving. In the mainstream media, there has been a terrifying unanimity of opinion. To be sure, the political fringes have had their spokesmen (Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, Edward Said, and so forth), but those voices are rarely heard on CBS, NBC, CNN, or ABC. Even public radio and television seem to steer clear of articulate and unapologetic dissenters.
Villified? So what? She said things that the vast majority of people, apparently, disagreed with and took offense at, and she got criticized. Cry me a river. Free speech is not free from consequences.
It's neither censorship nor stifling of dissent to say that one thinks a dissenter is wrong, or to question their motives or to otherwise attack their speech with speech of one's one. Anything more than that is out of bounds, certainly, and rightly so - and it hasn't happened anyway. Has Sontag (or Chomsky, or Vidal, or Michael Moore, or any other "big name" dissenters) been physically attacked? Fired from a job? Had any official proceeding taken against them? Been "disappeared" or otherwise harassed in any real, physical sense?
We don't much hear them in the mainstream media because they're not in the mainstream
. But we do hear them, and the very fact that this conversation is going on is proof in itself that the dissenters are being heard.