Friday, January 07, 2011

Still waiting for the great leap forward.

Hitch on Blair:

"When Tony Blair took office, Slobodan Milošević was cleansing and raping the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Mullah Omar was lending Osama bin Laden the hinterland of a failed and rogue state. Charles Taylor of Liberia was leading a hand-lopping militia of enslaved children across the frontier of Sierra Leone, threatening a blood-diamond version of Rwanda in West Africa. And the wealth and people of Iraq were the abused private property of Saddam Hussein and his crime family. Today, all of these Caligula figures are at least out of power, and at the best either dead or on trial. How can anybody with a sense of history not grant Blair some portion of credit for this? And how can anybody with a tincture of moral sense go into a paroxysm and yell that it is he who is the war criminal? It is as if all the civilians murdered by al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be charged to his account. This is the chaotic mentality of Julian Assange and his groupies."

Marty Peretz on Obama:

"My point is that across the depths of Africa--from Egypt in the north to Zimbabwe in the south (and dare I say South Africa itself?) and in Congo and Sudan and a dozen countries besides--the killers and the humiliators are free to kill and humiliate without even a chastising from the United States. So where are the idealists and youthful human rights champions? Nowhere. Darfur was only an issue when they could taunt George Bush about it."

Jackson Diehl on Obama:

"When the administration touts its record it often focuses on the declarations it has engineered by multilateral forums, such as the U.N. Human Rights Council. The ideology behind this is that the United States is better off working through such bodies than acting on its own. The problem is that, in practice, this is not true. Set aside for the moment the fact that the U.N. council is dominated by human rights abusers who devote most of the agenda to condemnations of Israel. Who has heard what the council said about, say, the recent events in Belarus? The obvious answer: far fewer people than would have noticed if the same critique came from Obama or Clinton."

How to explain this? Nick Cohen has an answer:

"I accept that readers may find this a hard sentence to swallow, but when it comes to promoting democracy, the emancipation of women and the liberation of the oppressed, Barack Obama has been the most reactionary American president since Richard Nixon."

Meanwhile, Canada limps along.

28 Comments:

Blogger brad said...

Somewhat hilarious to hear Peretz, presumably writing from exile, since, according the the New York Magazine no one in the US wants to talk to him, write about "human rights" anywhere. His decades long unmitigated record of spewing the most vile kind of bigotry, finally, thankfully, caught up with him. The entire sad story is well worth reading, a precautionary tale, to look self critically into the mirror before playing out ones own demons elsewhere.

http://nymag.com/news/features/70310/

3:35 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Kind of missed the point there, didn't you Brad.

3:49 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

"I myself have much to ask forgiveness for, and much of this asking will be done in private, as is appropriate. But there are sins that are committed in public, and in this past year I have publicly committed the sin of wild and wounding language, especially hurtful to our Muslim brothers and sisters. I do not console myself that many other Americans at this moment are committing the same transgressions, against others. I allowed emotion to run way ahead of reason, and feelings to trample arguments. For this I am sorry."

- Marty Peretz.

A bigger man that his loudmouthed critics, whatever his faults.

3:54 PM  
Blogger brad said...

I'll admit that my tangential response may seem out of place, but Marty Peretz, really? My own time on the left leads me to be suspicious of folks who, often from afar, grand narratives of liberation, often laced with condescension, about others while presiding over their nasty prejudices at home. I do wonder how many Muslim bodies occupied the venerable offices of the New Republic whose proprietor mused about denying Muslims Constitutional protection. At what point do you stop taking someone seriously?

Marty's worldview belonged to another era. The New Republic, and the American press corp as a whole, is better without him.

ps check out the New York Magazine piece

4:07 PM  
Blogger brad said...

Here's what honesty and tenacity look like. Gives me hope in dark times

http://www.youtube.com/user/partyformarty#p/a/u/0/RqiMKEWUAeM

4:09 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

"At what point do you stop taking someone seriously?"

Just glancing at my watch. . .

4:43 PM  
Blogger brad said...

It's important to call out people that we have a tendency to agree with. Those on "our side" so to speak. People such as Marty Peretz accrue way too much power, seeking deeper into the morass, because no around his magazine shamed him for indulging in, over and over, the dark stains of bigotry. We're talking about a rather open record (people such as james fallows and eric alterman, hardly radicals have documented this) that lasted for decades. His apology is utterly unreflective and rather sad.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

I don't know whether I consider Marty Peretz on "my side" or not, but it's irrelevant to whether or not to the evidence that he's a bigot or a racist. What I have noticed is a weirdly obsessive (i.e. that crackpot Glenn Greenwald) and almost cultish preoccupation with Peretz, with geezers combing through every word Peretz has ever written in attempts to prove his bigotry, and where the "examples" are not gross misrepresentations they tend to miss their mark by a mile.

It is one thing to write about Palestinian society or Arab society as Peretz does, in ways that certain people will find "offensive," and cause delicate readers to reach for their smelling salts, but it is quite another to be a bigot or a racist. Quite frankly, I find the whole passive-aggressive bullying and rich-kid mob eruptions(of the sort Peretz had to put up with at Harvard) more unseemly than anything I've read from Peretz. And I instinctively distrust anyone who clearly doesn't have a clue what racism really is.

I find the whole thing too weird and "rather sad."

And totally off-topic.

5:58 PM  
Blogger brad said...

I'm more surprised that anyone bothered to call him on it. Twenty years of published bigotry and ethnocentric driven anti Arab diatribes and finally he gets nailed got it, in a blog posting. As for Peretz's bigotry, to find it, not much combing nor preoccupation is needed.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Bullshit.

2:35 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

brad is wrong about Peretz:

http://frontpagemag.com/2011/01/07/in-defense-of-marty-peretz-2/?utm_sou...

"Wells broke the story that as of the first of this New Year, Peretz would be stepping down and given the new largely honorary position of Editor in Chief Emeritus. Moreover, it was reported that his popular blog on TNR’s website, “The Spine,” would be dropped from the magazine’s site. This turned out not be true. I spoke to Peretz, who is teaching in Israel, by phone. He pointed out to me that he is actively writing new blog entries- as he has the past few days. Moreover, rumors that he was forced out of the editorship are not true. He was contemplating leaving that post the last few years, he said, and only pleas by Frank Foer and Leon Wieseltier kept him from doing so. Involved in other projects, Peretz feels he had no time for the responsibility and day to day work of an editor in chief, and felt that now was the right time to relieve himself of the job. Moreover, the implication that the Board of TNR wanted him out are also not true; nor were the rumors that they had a controlling share in the magazine and that he had to bend to its desires."

5:29 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Also, to speak of Peretz as being in "exile" in Israel sounds like an extremely cynical (almost ugly) metaphor, that possibly indicates brad's real beef with Peretz, I suspect: his proven record of supporting Israel even when such support has become increasingly so much less fashionable in leftist circles. In fact, criticizing Peretz in the terms and tone brad does is a rather de rigueur practice among the readers of TNR, most of whom are of the my-president-Obama-right-or-wrong type.

Peretz was a great supporter of Obama the candidate, so much so that he even downplayed the influence of Obama's initiator into the history of the I/P conflict. He even tried to cleanse Rashid khalidi of his anti-Zionist animus. But Obama's Cairo speech and other ingratiating attempts towards the Muslim world, while treating Israel as a regular fall guy removed those scales from Peretz's eyes. And a bitter disappointment it was for him.

I myself have been most emphatic in my criticism of Peretz's myopia and his tendency to believe in his own manufactured illusions so that when he encounters realities that do not conform to it, he lashes out in rage. Thus, for him to find out that Israel is a country where there are octogenarian rabbis who tell their flocks utopian tales about the end-of-times was too much of a reality check. He would prefer it if Israel were just Tel Aviv, as seen through the film "The Bubble". Well, it isn't. Israel's society is as normal as any society of people who respond to perpetual, relentless distress in different ways. This is MY main beef with Peretz.

And just as I was sure Peretz was wrong in enthusiastically endorsing Obama's candidacy with such reckless abandon and disregard to the actual man, I think he is wrong in the expression of such bitter disappointment in him. There is nothing mysterious about Obama. What you see is what you get. A cold, mediocre leader who doesn't have the stamina or conviction to even pretend to cling to the tatters of his own promises. That he doesn't pretend is to his credit. Peretz needs to calm down a bit, that's all.

BTW, brad's characterization of Peretz as "spewing the most vile kind of bigotry" is wrong. Peretz's most famous piece of anti-Arab "bigotry" was this:

"“Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims,” Peretz wrote. “I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense they will abuse.”

The worst that can be said about it is that he was not careful enough in the way he translated a thought-experiment into language. He only "wonders", he does not prescribe or tries to persuade.

Peretz has done what Martin Amis did when he famously said:

"What can we do to raise the price of them doing this? There’s a definite urge – don’t you have it? – to say… the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not let them travel. Deportation – further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan … Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children."

Here is Christopher Hitchens defending Amis against the charge of bigotry, which can be deployed in as a defence of Peretz as well:

"This is exactly the bull that Amis was taking by the horns. You don't have to know him, or for that matter to be an expert on Jonathan Swift, to see that the harshness Amis was canvassing was not in the least a recommendation, but rather an experiment in the limits of permissible thought. As he once wrote in another connection: "What am I to do with thoughts like these?"

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/nov/21/race.religion

6:08 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Terry: My second comment seems to have disappeared after I'm sure I saw it posted. Perhaps it got spammed?

6:44 AM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Contentious one: I didn't see another comment from you. Dunno what happened.

Viz Peretz and the Arabs: The one thing he does not do is infantilize the Palestinians. I do find him far too pessimistic, too dreary, too hopeless on the subject of the democratic potential of Arab countries. But that view is an important view and helpful to check the optimism of the kind I find myself embracing.

I know you've spent a good deal of time at the Spine and engaging Peretz. I'll leave it to you to judge whether he's stooped to bigotry - after having been alerted several times by his detractors' shouts of "fire" only to discover nothing even resembling smoke in his work, I'm skeptical of the Peretz-The-Racist thesis. After al just because Alexander Cockburn says it, doesn't mean it's true.

In my experience, his "controversial" critiques of Muslim cultures are mild compared to the critique of those same cultures I find among Muslim democrats, liberals and progressives.

T

11:18 AM  
Blogger brad said...

Eric Alterman, who occupies the liberal Zionist perch over at the Nation, wrote the most authorative take-down years ago. It reads well today. My own perspective is that Peretz's bigotry is part and parcel of an ethnocentric worldview. He has allowed a romanticized idea of Israel distort and frame what he writes about Arab and Muslims, leading him into the morass, and finally, thankfully exile. Here;s Alterman

http://tinyurl.com/2yqe6p

4:06 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Eric Alterman notably concedes that his own view derives from the same sort of "ethnocentric wordlview," as you put it, that you claim distorts Peretz's view. Alterman calls his own view the kind that matters "if you happen to care about the respective fates of American liberalism, Judaism, or journalism." Alterman also has the decency to confess that his own rage about Peretz derives from an appreension that he "enlisted The New Republic in the service of a ruinous neoconservative doctrine."

Normally I don't abide slander in comments around here, so your reference to Peretz as a bigot was the last time you'll make it here. And again, you're wildly off-topic. If you don't want to engage the serious points raised by Hitchens, Peretz, Diehl and Cohen about the moral slovenliness of the Obama administration and its supporters, by all means don't, but please take your preoccupation with slagging off Marty Peretz somewhere else.

4:50 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Peretz was a great supporter of Obama the candidate, so much so that he even downplayed the influence of Obama's initiator into the history of the I/P conflict. He even tried to cleanse Rashid khalidi of his anti-Zionist animus. But Obama's Cairo speech and other ingratiating attempts towards the Muslim world, while treating Israel as a regular fall guy removed those scales from Peretz's eyes. And a bitter disappointment it was for him.

I myself have been most emphatic in my criticism of Peretz's myopia and his tendency to believe in his own manufactured illusions so that when he encounters realities that do not conform to it, he lashes out in rage. Thus, for him to find out that Israel is a country where there are octogenarian rabbis who tell their flocks utopian tales about the end-of-times was too much of a reality check (shock). He would prefer it if Israel were just Kibbutz Degania, or Tel Aviv, as seen through the film "The Bubble", a place that looks more like New York City’s younger sister. Well, it isn't. Israel's society is as varied and normal as any society of people who respond to perpetual, relentless distress in different ways.
_______________

7:00 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

The words that clinched Peretz’s claim to Islamophobia are:
"But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims… I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse."

“I wonder whether I need honor these people” says Peretz. Wondering, apparently, is forbidden by Brad and his ilk. If you wonder about some sacred principle of political correctness, you are not merely wondering, you are guilty of a thoughtcrime.

Peretz’s thought crime is of the same type that Martin Amis was accused of when he said:
“What can we do to raise the price of them doing this? There's a definite urge - don't you have it? - to say ... The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation - further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they're from the Middle East or from Pakistan ... Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children..."

“There's a definite urge”, says Amis.

Hitchens explains it well:
“Sam Harris, a Jewish warrior against theocracy and bigotry of all stripes, had written that it was often fascists who made the most sense when talking about immigration to Europe. The last statement had truly shocked me in the way that the Amis and Straw remarks had not, and I was therefore writing about the way in which the battle over Islamism was making good people wonder aloud about saying or thinking unpleasant or ungenerous things.

This is exactly the bull that Amis was taking by the horns. You don't have to know him, or for that matter to be an expert on Jonathan Swift, to see that the harshness Amis was canvassing was not in the least a recommendation, but rather an experiment in the limits of permissible thought. As he once wrote in another connection: "What am I to do with thoughts like these?" In that celebrated essay, he was rehearsing the idea of killing his wife and children to spare them the horror of a nuclear groundburst. Critics as literal-minded as Eagleton and Bennett would no doubt detect, in this, a buried and lurid fantasy of murder and infanticide.”

So the cheap metals of honest and anguished thought experiments turn into gold at the hands of the likes of Brad and fellow-alchemists. Thus Amis and Peretz are no longer in the realm of questioning, searching for the limits of human and civic tolerance. They are the very instruments of such limitations.

I am struck by the rigidity, tightness, and lack of subtlety in Brad’s critique of Peretz. His disregard for what is really being said, his malicious indifference to the fact that Peretz, by wondering, in effect reaches the limit of HIS intolerance.

7:01 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

The words that clinched Peretz’s claim to Islamophobia are:
"But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims… I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse."

“I wonder whether I need honor these people” says Peretz. Wondering, apparently, is forbidden by Brad and his ilk. If you wonder about some sacred principle of political correctness, you are not merely wondering, you are guilty of a thoughtcrime.

Peretz’s thought crime is of the same type that Martin Amis was accused of when he said:
“What can we do to raise the price of them doing this? There's a definite urge - don't you have it? - to say ... The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order. What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation - further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they're from the Middle East or from Pakistan ... Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children..."

“There's a definite urge”, says Amis.

7:02 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Continued:

Hitchens explains it well:
“Sam Harris, a Jewish warrior against theocracy and bigotry of all stripes, had written that it was often fascists who made the most sense when talking about immigration to Europe. The last statement had truly shocked me in the way that the Amis and Straw remarks had not, and I was therefore writing about the way in which the battle over Islamism was making good people wonder aloud about saying or thinking unpleasant or ungenerous things.

This is exactly the bull that Amis was taking by the horns. You don't have to know him, or for that matter to be an expert on Jonathan Swift, to see that the harshness Amis was canvassing was not in the least a recommendation, but rather an experiment in the limits of permissible thought. As he once wrote in another connection: "What am I to do with thoughts like these?" In that celebrated essay, he was rehearsing the idea of killing his wife and children to spare them the horror of a nuclear groundburst. Critics as literal-minded as Eagleton and Bennett would no doubt detect, in this, a buried and lurid fantasy of murder and infanticide.”

So the cheap metals of honest and anguished thought experiments turn into gold at the hands of the likes of Brad and fellow-alchemists. Thus Amis and Peretz are no longer in the realm of questioning, searching for the limits of human and civic tolerance. They are the very instruments of such limitations.

I am struck by the rigidity, tightness, and lack of subtlety in Brad’s critique of Peretz. His disregard for what is really being said, his malicious indifference to the fact that Peretz, by wondering, in effect reaches the limit of HIS intolerance.

7:02 AM  
Blogger brad said...

Right as if openly musing about whether "muslims", presumably assumed here to be an undifferentiated mass, whose lives are "cheap", are "deserving" of first amendment protection, is not bigoted. And now you pretend that this comment exists outside a rather long and documented record of misinformed animus that Peretz has aimed towards Arab and Muslims for decades.

As for Khalidi, at the height of the McVarthyite campaign, Hitchens who has known Khalidi for decades wrote "Barack Obama was looking for a Palestinian friend, he could not have chosen any better." He is and has been an eloquant voice for justice, a Palestinian, scholar, who Obama would be well off to listen to. Your dismissal of him as an "anti Zionist" is interesting given all that jazz you stirred up about "thought crimes".

11:57 AM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I remember Rashid Khalidi extremely well from his occasional appearances on Canadian TV during the second intifada. THere was great pressure on Arafat to exert himself and his forces to arrest terrorists involved in the planning and execution of terrorist attacks against Israelis. Khalidi thought that doing so would make Arafat Israel's policeman and openly said that the Palestinians should not act as Israel's police force in apprehending these terrorists. A little after that Khalidi's trail went a little cold and then he re-emerged as Edward Said's newly groomed for TV and Western audiences, an "an eloquant voice" from which most of his previously Arabic accent has disappeared. (I am very sensitive to accents as I myself speak with an accent).

Hitchens is someone I like to read and I am always willing to be persuaded by him. But his friendship with Said (from which he distanced himself as you must know after 9/11) casts a grim shadow over his treatment of the I/P conflict. And it's funny that you cite an anti-Zionist like Hitchens to provide bona fides for Khalidi NOT being an anti-Zionist.

There is very little doubt that Khalidi would like to se eIsrael dissolved. It was Edward Said's most fervent wish and there is no reason to believe that Khalidi, who always speaks ominously about the one-state solution (last week on Charlie Rose) is any different. Anyone who harbors such an aspiration is an anti-Zionist.

1:08 PM  
Blogger brad said...

That sinister bile about Khalidi as a- ghasp!-eloquent Arab with his "disappeared" accent is revealing. My argument has less to do with whether the the man is a Zionist or anti Zionist, and more to do with your tone and particular line of argument. We're the police, Marty Peretz once pronounced, as he explained the New Republic's role in guarding the ideological battlefield that defines Israel/Palestine discourse. You seem to share a similar and rather distasteful preoccupation.

ps I've hammered at this point a lot but let me state it again. If what Marty said about Muslim lives, openly musing whether they "deserve" of Constitutional protection, is not an example of bigotry than the word may as well be robbed of all meaning.

2:03 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"That sinister bile about Khalidi as a- ghasp!-eloquent Arab with his "disappeared" accent is revealing"


Talk about "sinister bile". You should address your complaints to Khalidi who clearly was groomed away from his "sinister" accent, following, I suspect, Said's advice. Arabs are terribly sensitive to such things. I remember reading a criticism of infinitely eloquent Fouad Ajami's politics by an Arab writer. He was comparing him with Edward Said. The one, he said, tall, fair, princely looking, aristocratic. The other, short, swarthy, dark, bearded, a peasant who never out grew his Arabic accent. Said was nothing if not perceptive of how his "western" appearance and flawless, correctly accented English were very persuasive when he was trying to impart to American audience why Israel is a criminal entity. One could only meet Khalidi on Canadian TV, in those days, places like the infamously anti-Israel "Counter Spin". So he learned to speak in the proper accent and has obviously made inroads into such hearts as yours.

It's pretty bizarre for me to be lectured about accents by brad, a thought crime detective. Talk about accents and you are automatically a bigot.

Bigotry has become a pretty elastic term, with the likes of brad around.

2:54 PM  
Blogger brad said...

Your dissection of Khalidi's changes of accent, along with the sinister implication about the man it's meant to convey, may be among the weirdest debating point I've come across in some time. Plainly ridiculous and bordering on creepy. I think you;re the one, not Said, who is fixated by this idea of swarmy Arabs who hide their inner barbarity through developing refined accents and sporting fine clothes. Freaky. Here's Hitchen's eloquant defence of Khalidi. Well worth reading.

http://tinyurl.com/5wz2qg

5:22 PM  
Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

I'm having a conversation, brad. I'm not trying to change you POV. I'm describing my experience of Khalidi and his weird fluctuating accent, which I try to make sense of, as much as I can.

The reason I dislike and suspect Khalidi is that he pretends to speak moderately now, when he is a radical thinker and a proponent of the One state solution, an antisemitic solution of Israel's existence. To that end, he is willing to change in order to make himself more appealing and reliable to Western eyes and ears.

_________

From Hitchens link:

"One could go a step further and say that many Israelis have used the words apartheid and terrorist to describe at least some of their government's policies. In just the same way, one could note that Khalidi has clearly denounced violence when used by his "own" side"

Khalidi was against the Oslo Accords, he considered Arafat a traitor to the Palestinian cause for coming to an agreement with Israel, and as I mentioned earlier, I saw him on Canadian TV saying that the Palestinians should not act as Israel's policemen by apprehending terrorists during the second intifada.

This is in clear contradiction to what Hitchens is claiming. Khalidi is nowhere near the equivalent of Israeli leftists who lash out at their own government.

6:09 PM  
Blogger brad said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Enough already.

7:38 PM  

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