Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Josh Marshall has a excellent, far-reaching post up, written yesterday, about the frustration of trying to engage in debate with people who have no desire to engage in any sort of serious discussion. (I was accused of something similar in my comments section recently, by the way, and I sort of pleaded guilty. But in the end, I responded.)

Take somebody like Mark Steyn, who wrote a polemic in The Daily Telegraph a few days ago that sounded nothing short of hysterical. ("How the West will win and continue to deny it")

Never mind events that have not yet occurred: we now live in a world where there is no agreement on events that have already happened.
Indeed. I wonder how that happened. Could it have anything to do with so many commentators (and politicians) on the Anglo-American right who deny certain facts that are staring us in the face -- or in the case of this guy, exploding in his face?

For example, last year I thought the Americans won an amazing military victory in Iraq; the European media, by contrast, thought the Yanks were bogged down in a bloody Vietnam-style quagmire from which there was no escape save ignominious retreat.
OK. Since we're having fun with straw arguments, here's one of my own.

Some of us read the papers and are concerned about what's going on in Iraq. Others on the lunatic right insist there's nothing to be concerned about, that Iraq is a completely safe and orderly, and that speaking of lawlessness and insecurity in Iraq is simply spreading the lies of the liberal media. Indeed, when these people write about "lawlessness" and "insecurity," they actually put these words in mocking quotation marks, as if both were make-believe.

Cute, huh? Except.... that's not a straw argument at all. Here's Steyn again, several paragraphs down:

Those do-gooders who fret about "lawlessness" and "insecurity" in Baghdad would be better off turning their attention to the United Kingdom: the demand of Radio 4's Today listeners for the entirely reasonable right to kill burglars reminds us that there are huge electoral rewards for a party willing to liberate the middle-class from Britain's social decay...
This appears in a British newspapers, so I reckon there's pretty good chance Telegraph readers have a better sense than I do of what the hell Steyn is talking about.

But let's be serious for a moment and compare apples to apples, shall we? Regardless of the state of Britain's alleged "social decay," Britain is not Iraq, a country that does indeed have a real problem with insecurity and lawlessness. Not "insecurity" and "lawlessness."

You knew that. So does Steyn. That's why this is not an argument. It's simply entertainment -- a pseudo-sermon aimed at a disturbingly large choir.


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