Thursday, January 20, 2011

If you aren't angry, you haven't been paying attention

Ian Welsh lays it out just about right. And David Lindorff further discusses the monsters in our midst.
The Skipper has been criticized by a few under the Godwin's Law argument, but I agree with him and with Welsh that we too often fall into the trap of reasonableness, that by going along to get along we too often normalize extremist opinion and outrageous attitudes by our tacit acceptance.

We grossly overvalue civility when we condemn people for using strong language to describe reprehensible actions and attitudes. Right-wing radio hosts and  tea party activists make horribly racist statements on a regular basis, but somehow calling them racists  is verboten. The American and Canadian government now routinely step all over basic human rights and openly embrace plutocracy, but to call them fascists is somehow considered beyond the pale. Somehow, somewhere along the line it became unacceptable in the mass media to declare the emperor is stark naked.

We, as a society, need to start calling people out and making them take responsibility for the things they say. I'm all for free speech. When someone starts casually talking about murdering people, about 'bombing them back to the stone age," I think everyone else should be free to to call them a monster without being lectured about how its impolite to do so.

Lindorff's example is a classic:

I brought my son and a friend last year to the notorious Army Experience Center, a multi-million state-of-the-art virtual war recruiting wonderland located in a mall in working-class Northeast Philadelphia. Filled with an array of very fast computers and video screens on which kids as young as 14 could blast away in realistic war scenarios, and featuring two darkened rooms that had the real bodies of an armored Humvee and a Blackhawk helicopter where kids could man the guns and operate in a 3-D video environment with surround sound so that you felt like you were moving through hostile territory and had to “take out” the “bad guys” while quickly identifying innocent civilians and avoiding shooting them. My son, his friend and I tried the Humvee out, and at the end of our “mission,” the recruiter, an Iraq vet, congratulated us, saying we were “the best gunners all day!” and that our error rate had been “only 30%.”
I asked him what “error rate” meant, and he said, “Collateral damage--civilians killed.”
“Thirty percent of the peope we just killed were civilians?” I asked, aghast.
“Oh yeah,” he said matter-of-factly. “Don’t feel bad. That’s not a bad percentage.” 

When did it become okay for soldiers to murder civilians? Why is torture, murder  and repression any more acceptable when embraced by Barak Obama than it was when it was done by George W. Bush, or for that matter Stalin, Hitler or Pol Pot. How can we as a society decry the use of gangs of armed thugs and secret police to suppress dissent in Iran, while applauding the same tactics in Toronto?

8 comments:

Jason said...

"When did it become okay for soldiers to murder civilians? "

I dare you to go to Balloon Juice and ask Soonergrunt this question.

harebell said...

Lt Col Lloyd Grossman was a true visionary when it came to how making it easier to kill the enemy makes it easier to kill everyone.

At the risk of sounding like a geezer, soldiers of the future will be putting their lives on the line in a much different way to those of the past. Folk in the past could have been shot or blown up while identifying their target. The future soldier's involves the possibility of heart attack while eating cheetos and drinking jolt while maintaining a below 30% civilian death toll on their screen.
If that is the standard then no soldier of the future could ever honestly receive an honourable discharge or be said to have served with distinction or shown valour.
I guess I'm very sad that soldiery has been taken over by the fearful more than I'm angry.

Boris said...

harebell,
Ah, but you see in Canada, these Digital Warriors would receive the Stephen Harper Medal for Valour and a whole system manufactured glory would be built around them.

Toe said...

Canadians/Americans were trained well to never ever ask themselves what if unarmed and defenseless civilians by the multi-thousands being slaughtered were white. There are no white on white wars anymore, haven't been since the last 'declaration' of war. Even now we haven't had an actual 'declaration' of war.

This last decade has made prejudice against Muslims/full spectrum brown people socially acceptable, a neo-con long term effort, for purposes of war and immigration and a multitude of other things. The people who make this plain, including journos are marginalized.

It isn't much different than the neocon strategy of making the public believe their big lies about the economy. It's the unions fault or the size of government and not gov's fault with deregulation and the vast wealth in the hands of the elite.

The awful realization is that we can't depend at all on the media, so it's up to us and us alone and I absolutely do not believe an election is the answer. It hasn't been for the past 6 years and this time won't be any different. Canada needs a good purging or GroundHog Day is here to stay.

Edstock said...

"When someone starts casually talking about murdering people, about 'bombing them back to the stone age," I think everyone else should be free to to call them a monster without being lectured about how its impolite to do so."

You've got a point, Rev. That's why when I start talking about murdering people, I NEVER start casually, but always with premeditation, and maybe even premedication.

As to 'bombing them back to the stone age', ol' Curtis E. sure created a meme! Works, too. The North Vietnamese were confident the US would collapse, and refused to continue negotiations in Paris. Cost Uncle Sam 12-13 B-52's, but the North Vietnamese ran out of SAMs, and the B-52 express started "going downtown". 2 weeks later, "can we talk?". It's politically incorrect, but sometimes, because war really is hell, part of that hell might be a return to the stone age. If it's an enemy of Canada, the stone age works for me.

A.V. said...

"If it's an enemy of Canada, the stone age works for me."

This logic justifies every attack on Canadian civilians too, though.

Rev.Paperboy said...

I dunno Edstock, that is the slippery slope toward things like Dresden and this kind of thinking:


"I think there are many times when it would be most efficient to use nuclear weapons. However, the public opinion in this country and throughout the world throw up their hands in horror when you mention nuclear weapons, just because of the propaganda that's been fed to them. "
Curtis Lemay

"Killing Japanese didn't bother me very much at that time... I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal. "
Curtis Lemay

Lemay killed more people in the fireboming of Tokyo than the A-bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima did. And he's right about the war criminal bit.

Edstock said...

Lemay killed more people in the fireboming of Tokyo than the A-bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima did. And he's right about the war criminal bit.

Unconditional surrender's a bitch, ain't it?

As to war criminal, you're entitled to your opinion. The obliteration of Japan did not happen overnight. The Japanese had been given notice of unconditional surrender. The Yamato had suicided in a futile effort to do something, and the US had total air superiority.

The B-29 raids had been happening for some time all over Japan as the base on Tinian got built up. Anyway, the Japanese were still being intransigent, so with the advent of Lemay, they switched to low-level incendiary.

Yes, the death and suffering was ghastly. That the military fascists of the Japanese government used Japanese civilians as human shields in their defiance, when the homeland is toast (surrounded, outgunned, outmanned, running out of food and fuel) is the real war crime, when shortly after, the Americans toasted for real.