Sunday, March 18, 2007

Overblown rhetoric will become reality

One of the big criticisms of the progressive blogosphere is that people are prone to using rhetoric derived from other historical periods to describe what's happening now. This is sort of an over correction. It started as trying to find historical parallels, like this website does, in order to understand what's happening now after 9/11, but at some point devolved into cheap parallel making for dramatic effect. This blog, usually in the past, participated in this. But enough of the ass covering, onto the analysis.

The way that the implications of 9/11 have been framed by conservatives has often involved invocations of World War II, like people are getting off by having their fantasies of participating in that conflict realized in part by the GWOT, the Global War On Terror. It's sort of a macabre fantasy. People in Iraq are being slaughtered, the invasion and the attempts to combat the resistence to the occupation have been bloody, now the civil war is claiming more lives. People tortured, conservatives and their new turncoat liberal allies justifying the torture through a self aggrandizing and false claim that it's a serious moral decision but that it's a justifiable sacrifice. At times it seems like the conservatives have no concept whatsoever of what's actually going on, the significance of families losing loved ones.

If the spectacle of war has been replaced by a self serving fantasy for many conservatives, a more benign form of fantasy has come over parts of the progressive blogosphere. Interestingly enough, the real left has been resistent to this, but at the same time has suffered because of lack of willingness to innovate in analysis. But enough of that. In the progressive blogosphere often the rhetoric comes from the early days of the Nazi regime or sometimes from Stalinism. Things are 'purges', 'putches' occur, people identify with the resistence to the fascists and cast the Bush regime in the starring role.

Fantasies like this are more benign because the people doing them recognize what's happening in Iraq and because the Bush administration is actually doing really bad, scary things. And because the rhetoric from non-government affiliated right wingers is escalating and escalating. So there's a basis to be afraid, but that doesn't change that how the fear is expressed is often in terms that, if taken literally, would be really, really, overblown and would verge on the fantastic.

In a way I understand, because I have been a practitioner of it, where these people are coming from, but I think that expressing things in these terms also contributes to a kind of defeatism, where what's happening is so ominous that there's nothing left to do but cower behind keyboards and wait it out. If you look at what's happening without creating a counter fantasy of beseiged partisans you can combat what's happening more effectively. If you embrace a defeatist stance you lose some of the edge that you could have in fighting the administration.

Either way, what's happening seems to be ominous. It feels like a trial run for something bigger. Overblown or not the rhetoric and the fantasy probably tend to be in the right direction, with centrists who say that nothing's wrong being the real losers in this fight between left and right, but somehow I feel that if things really devolve into situations where there are putches and purges, where people are even forced to become real partisans, not just fake partisans, that they'll wish the days when all of this was rhetoric would come back.

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