Jul
26

The Collective Guilt “Continuum”




Posted at 4:16 by HTML Mencken

There’s been a lot of talk about Alan Dershowitz’s latest rationalisation for Israel’s murder of civilians. Digby references Ward Churchill. Billmon finds a Dershowitz clone and then references Osama bin Laden, after he nails what is really behind Dershowitz’s latest excusal of Israel’s war crimes: ethnic tribalism/racism.

Dershowitz used to have a fine mind but now, if Israel does something, no matter how depraved, he feels obliged to justify it. Torture, murdering civilians — if Israel set up Adam Yoshida’s precious “human-sized microwaves” (basically the Zyklon-B dynamic updated as a fine Kenmore with stainless steel appliques, and also no doubt handy for cooking those extra-large bags of butcher-porn popcorn) and melted Palis wholesale, Dershowitz would find a way to make that legal and moral, too. And what’s good for Israel is, of course, good for the U.S. Or, put another way, what one country/in-group has done in monstrous abuse of the filthy wogs/out-group, might be fun for another country to try.

So Dershowitz’s argument should be ignored on the same grounds that Osama bin Laden’s should be ignored: Such people as these who argue for the application of collective guilt only do so when the group that recieves it is the one they hate, and the group that dispenses “justice” is the one they love.

But… there is something to collective guilt. A.L. Rowse forever condemned and shunned A.J.P. Taylor, a man who had always been friendly to him, because, among other things, Taylor had written a book that implicitly placed blame on the German people for the Nazi government. But certainly the German people were responsible for the Nazis — such is conventional wisdom now — although of course there are heirarchies of responsibility (a civvie involved in infrastructure or strictly political apparatus, like Eichman and Speer, say, are of course more responsible, more guilty, than a housewife or a janitor). But for every person of voting age, there was some guilt, and the principle holds true everywhere.

General Grant believed in a form of collective guilt.

I am — though I voted against the bastard — somewhat responsible for George W. Bush and all that he has done. But then America is a mature democracy (indeed we are so structurally stagnated that reform is nearly impossible, and corruption and fraud is systemic) that is absolutely in control of its sovereignty and territory, and so the calculus should hold an American much more responsible for the American government’s actions than, say, a Lebanese responsible for its fledgling democracy’s actions.

All of this does not mean that it’s ever right to murder civilians. It was wrong for the U.S. to napalm Indochinese infants; it was wrong for the Allies to bomb Dresden factory workers; it was wrong for Osama bin Laden to murder those people in the planes and in the towers; it’s wrong for the Israelis to bomb Lebanese apartments; it’s wrong for the Palis to blow-up pizzerias full of teenagers. Etc.

Still, those who comprise a democracy or a “popular front” movement are more responsible for the crimes done in their name than those who languish under a dictatorship. Which is why no matter how crazy Dershowitz, et al., are, they can’t hold a candle to Leonard Peikoff, who argues that collective guilt equally applies to those who live(d) under tyrranies such as Saddam Hussein’s and the Taliban’s because, under such conditions, it’s incumbent among such people to make a revolution. Since those people didn’t — and he doesn’t care about Apache-helicopters or acid-throwing-thugs as excuses — then they deserve the cruise missile death that comes to liberate them.

58 Comments »

  1. mdhatter said,

    July 26, 2006 at 4:19

    Uh-oh. He said Israel again

  2. Jillian said,

    July 26, 2006 at 4:35

    If my dog ate my homework, does he also get an F for the class?

  3. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 4:37

    No, but he was obviously a bad dog for doing it?

  4. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 4:42

    And — why did you have a homework-eating dog in the first place? Did someone force you to have such a dog?

  5. Jillian said,

    July 26, 2006 at 4:44

    I don’t know!!!

    What answer would Daniel Pipes give? I give the same one he does!! Please don’t hit me anymore!!!! I give up!

  6. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 4:50

    lofl no no Jillian. I dunno. It’s tricky. I’m just saying here that there’s something legitimate to the concept is all.

  7. XeroMan said,

    July 26, 2006 at 4:57

    Retardo wants a long thread… :P

  8. I.F.Thunder said,

    July 26, 2006 at 5:03

    Does collective guilt extend to cats? I don’t think they’re going to buy into this.

  9. Jillian said,

    July 26, 2006 at 5:04

    No, I hear what you’re saying, and after the time I’ve spent digging into Nazi history, I *do* think the German people of the time were responsible – whatever that means, and to a very difficult to pin down degree – for what the Nazis did.

    The corollary to that which no American wants to hear is that if this logic is acceptable, then American citizens are responsible for the actions of its government, and our government’s actions have been very, very bloody and very, very illegal for a very, very long time now. Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Angola, the Phillippines, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama…take your pick. Our actions have brought vast suffering on people who never asked for our “help” in the first place.

    Ultimately, the blame game is pointless. The point is to just stop being assholes – us, Lebanon, Israel, the Kurds, the Sunni, the Shi’a, Pat Robertson – everybody. And it’s just not going to happen.

    The very ironic thing is that, despite not being terribly impressed with the efficacy of pointing fingers at a country’s civilian population, I’m still hoping to get out of this country as soon as I can. I suppose I do feel responsible in some ways. Responsible and powerless.

    It’s a pretty terrible feeling.

  10. Dorothy said,

    July 26, 2006 at 5:06

    I haven’t liked the concept of collective guilt since first or second grade when the teacher held the whole class back from recess because of the actions of a few students. Maybe the problem is that I had a teacher who blantatly explained the reasoning behind collective punishment: she expected the rest of the class to “apply peer pressure to keep the bad ones in line” to avoid punishment.

    And if they didn’t respond to “peer pressure”, then what? Were we supposed to beat these kids up after school? And if that doesn’t do it, what next? Terrorize them into leaving school? Send them and their families to an internment camp? Where do you draw the line? Once the teacher handed over the mantle of authority to the class itself, how the hell can she expect to manage their response to the situation?

    And what happens to all those innocent kids who resented the punishment so much that they basically said “Fuck you!” to the teacher and began to act out in class? (And why shouldn’t they–they were already getting punished whether they did it or not! In fact, expected return value and ROI thinking–pot odds, if you prefer to think in gambling terms–says that this is the best decision under the circumstances.) Each time she punished the whole class, she actually encouraged more kids to act up the next time. Thank gods we didn’t have any kind of 7 year old born leader in the class, or there might have been an outright rebellion.

    Of course, growing up in Catholic schools, I was indoctrinated into the biggest collective punishment scam of all time: Adam and Eve. See, because, centuries ago, your first ancestors fucked up, your life is miserable and you are damned to an eternity of suffering. Now, if you can manage to be absolutely perfect and never sin, never think about sex, never enjoy anything that could count as a luxury or pleasure for the sake of pleasure, you might get lucky enough to only hit Purgatory instead of Hell. Then, after thousands of years of suffering, if your descendents pray for you enough, you might, just might, manage to get a reprieve and sneak into Heaven. (You are praying for your ancestors in Purgatory, right? You’re not? Then they’re still suffering and it’s all your fault!).

    The problem with collective punishment is that it doesn’t work as planned, most of the time. The problem with collective guilt (karmic guilt, here, as opposed to actionable culpability) is that is difficult to draw the line between “legitimate” collective guilt and stereotyping. If we enable collective guilt to become mainstream, when is a Mulsim allowed to say, “Please, don’t shoot me just because someone who looked like me and sounds like me crashed a plane into a building: that wasn’t me”? When can a Frenchman say, “Fuck-ez-vous, Bill O’Reilly! Just because Chiraq disagrees with your idiot in chief, that does not make me a ‘cheese-eating surrender monkey’? When does a black person get to stand up and say, “Hey, I’m sorry your car was stolen by some crackhead who happened to be be black, but that’s no reason to deny me a job”?

    Where’s the boundary between collective guilt and racism, or sexism, or blood libel?

  11. Gratis said,

    July 26, 2006 at 5:09

    Well said, Dorothy.

  12. Dorothy said,

    July 26, 2006 at 5:19

    On further reflection, I can see the social value in collective guilt if you accept responsibility of your own accord. But when you try to assign collective responsibility to a group you don’t belong to…well, that just gives me chills. Maybe that’s the difference?

  13. Patkin said,

    July 26, 2006 at 5:42

    I think another problem with most forms of “collective guilt” is that we are no longer limited to one country being the sole location of people of that land.

    After all, if a person in America is decended from the French, what’s their moral culpability for say, nuke tests in the Polynesian islands France does? After all, they are French after a few generations. Is guilt an instance of halves, fourths, eighths, sixteenths? At what point are we not guilty of something commited by our forefathers?

    Or, to make this more integral to these arguments – What’s my guilt for Israel? I’ve never been there, never intend to be there, but I and thousands of folk like me happen to share a faith with the same heads of state there. Am I guilty of war crimes?

    Collective guilt is only useful for people who honestly view themselves as a part of a collective. I was not the student acting up, and so I am not responsible. I was not a voter in 2000, I was not one to vote in the administration in 2004. I am not a Zionist. I am not, I am not, I am not.

    But I am in the eyes of people who don’t know my politics. I am guilty for not being blatantly not-guilty. I am, as Dershowitz says, implicated by the fact that I am here to be targetted.

    We are not responsible. But we are the only ones who feel responsible, because the other side doesn’t even see the fucking problem. To take Dorothy’s example of student collective guilt, we are in a case where thirty-nine of forty students act up, and the one child who did not is the only one not arguing with the punishment.

  14. Righteous Bubba said,

    July 26, 2006 at 6:21

    Dershowitz can argue rings around this crap, so why assert it? Wholly baffling.

  15. Herr Doktor Bimler said,

    July 26, 2006 at 6:38

    Can I claim some collective credit for the occasional good things my ancestors and relatives have done?

  16. Demogenes Aristophanes said,

    July 26, 2006 at 6:44

    But… there is something to collective guilt.

    Of course. But then there is something to “ticking bomb” scenarios and failures of law enforcement and justice, too.

    But that doesn’t mean we ought to codify torture or vigilantism (much less the slaughter of civilians). Those things must always be outside the legal framework (and the moral one as well), even though we can imagine (very rare, the-dots-connecting-just-so) scenarios where torture, vigilantism or some civilian deaths in a war of self-defense could be justified.

    Dershowitz knows this. He knows that in a mature legal system extenuating circumstances are taken into account, and judges and juries are granted some leeway in interpreting the law, so that the man who burglarizes a pharmacy to save his dying wife (to take a popular example) can expect some mercy, if not outright exoneration.

    So, Retardo, you’re spot-on in calling Dershowitz precisely what he is, a racist/tribalist, trying desperately to put some patina of thoughtful respectability on war crimes by Israel and the U.S.

    As for Peikoff, he is just an angry, bitter old shit who wished he had been the one who got to fuck the corpse-like Ayn Rand, instead of Nate Branden.

    And one last question: Is it acceptable to call Palestinians “Palis”? I’ve only ever seen that on wingnut sites.

  17. Pinko Punko said,

    July 26, 2006 at 7:59

    My deal is this:

    Instead of thinking about collective guilt, at the very minimum- when are we supposed to accept responsibility (different than guilt) for the action of our government? While the US can certainly be described as a bad actor on many levels, I think our iraqi adventure has put us explicitly in the company of Israeli citizens in terms of how to now relate to our respective governments and the evils that they do. What makes it worse for the US is that our Iraqi situation is more comparable to the treatment of Palestinians/bombing of Lebanon than are Palestinian terrorism to al Qaeda and 9/11. You could even throw in the African embassy bombings, and I think the US probably still comes off worse than Israel who have had much greater provocation at the best, and at the worst, still have to live in the situation they have had a hand in creating.
    The problem with our system is there is no such thing as a real foreign policy. They have always operated in terms of short to mid-term cost-benefit analyses with limited known variables. Thus, our undermining of so many left-leaning governments throughout the years, contrary to our own democratic principles. Our fears of something worse have always fueled the suborning of our collective governmental conscience, thus the Shah of Iran is installed and so many fucking dominoes in the future….

  18. Jose Chung said,

    July 26, 2006 at 8:16

    Was it wrong for NATO to bomb Serbia for 78 consecutive days and kill thousands of civilians and displace hundreds of thousands?

  19. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 8:28

    The Serbian Operation is a duckbilled platypus in the zoo of all wars. It won’t do to use it as a measuring stick.

    (Indeed the only reason we are in Iraq is because stupid stupid liberals bought the devious neocon argument — which the neocons knew was bullshit — that the Balkan war was a model rather than the most unique of exceptions.)

  20. RobW said,

    July 26, 2006 at 9:44

    So, is that a no?

  21. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 9:48

    It’s either an “I don’t know” or an “it’s not applicable”. Your choice.

  22. Jose Chung said,

    July 26, 2006 at 12:36

    Bill (Chickenhawk) Clinton lied us into an unnecessary and illegal war in the Balkans which cost thousands of innocent people their lives, displaced hundreds of thousands more, and did serious damage to the infrastructure.

  23. Christopher said,

    July 26, 2006 at 13:29

    Man, Dershowitz is being a complete nitwit:

    “Hezbollah and Hamas militants, on the other hand, are difficult to distinguish from those “civilians” who recruit, finance, harbor and facilitate their terrorism. Nor can women and children always be counted as civilians, as some organizations do. Terrorists increasingly use women and teenagers to play important roles in their attacks.”

    Um… Isreal is a Democracy. And while I don’t know for sure, I assume that their military is paid for with tax dollars.

    By Dershowitz’s logic, while some Lbanese count as non-civilians, every Isreali is responsible for recruiting, financing, harboring, and facilitating “terrorism”.

    If anything, Dershowitz’s logic casts Hamas as the good guys and Isreal as the monsters.

  24. fish said,

    July 26, 2006 at 14:58

    You’re not saying that Ward Churchill might have a point are you? I read his column and despite the inflammatory rhetoric, he did have one, despite all the public howling and gnashing of teeth. And I disagree with Digby on this one. Saying “we had it coming” is a lot different than saying “they had it coming”. Churchill does not equal Dershowitz here.

  25. ned fucking flanders said,

    July 26, 2006 at 15:17

    But then America is a mature democracy (indeed we are so structurally stagnated that reform is nearly impossible, and corruption and fraud is systemic), absolutely in control of its sovereignty and territory, and so the calculus should hold an American much more responsible for the American government’s actions than, say, a Lebanese responsible for its fledgling democracy’s actions.

    So wait a minute – in the same sentence, you argue that reform of the American political system is nearly impossible, yet that somehow makes us more collectively guilty?

    I don’t get that. It would seem that, in a system in which reform is impossible, The People would actually bear less responsibility for the actions of its government than in a system that was actually responsive to the desires of the people.

    Our system has been broken at least since before I was legally able to vote, and most probably since I was a very small child (if not before). If the system was broken – and likely unfixable – before I ever got to participate, how can I (or someone like me) be held responsible for the product of the system?

  26. Mr. Mordant said,

    July 26, 2006 at 15:25

    But certainly the German people were responsible for the Nazis, such is conventional wisdom now, though of course there are heirarchies of responsibility (a civvie involved in infrastructure or strictly political apparatus, like Eichman and Speer, say, are of course more responsible, more guilty, than a housewife or a janitor). But for every person of voting age, there was some guilt, and the principle holds true everywhere.

    Let me apologize in advance if I sound irritable in the next few minutes, because though I have much heterosexual, manly, Platonic, General J.C.Christian-approved love for Retardo, seeing things get reified up to the high heavens is one of my pet peeves that strikes me as a wankerrific waste of time that could be equally well-spent counting angels on the head of a pin.

    To me, the only worthwhile question is what the fuck any of us are going to do about it, not how precisely to divvy up the responsibility pie. I would guess that people who read and write on political blogs for “fun” are already doing our fair share of being active, politically aware citizens, and the only thing left to do would be to get ourselves foolishly arrested by staging some Yippie or Biotic Baking Brigade-style street theater involving administration officials, which of course would amount to nothing, and would quickly get swallowed up by the next news cycle. (Is there any way to keep dissent from being inexorably commodified, come to think of it?) Hell, Leon Czolgosz fucking assassinated McKinley, and it obviously didn’t change anything for the better. Short of trudging along, one foot in front of the other, educating ourselves and doing our damnedest to persuade those closest to us who might be at least a little open to our influence, what the hell else are we supposed to do? What’s the point in finger-wagging on top of it?

    So Dershowitz’s argument should be ignored on the same grounds that Osama bin Laden’s should be ignored: such people as these who argue for the application of collective guilt only do so when the group that gets it is the one they hate, and the group that dispenses “justice� is the one they love.

    Part of why all this talk of “responsibiIity” irks me is because I remember seeing sanctimonious pricks on liberal blogs (!) using the last presidential election to drool over the idea that Americans were now perfectly “deserving” of any punishment anyone would care to visit upon them. Huh? So now foreigners can safely enjoy the annihilation of an overwhelmingly blue city like NYC guilt-free because of the voting patterns in the Midwest? I mean, these were people on our side, who all of a sudden didn’t see us as comrades fighting the good fight; we were just a red, white and blue abstraction.

    Or, to use another example of pure, undiluted idiocy off the top of my head, Ray Nagin pondering the idea that N.O. was wiped out because God is angry at us for invading Iraq. Anything is possible with morons, of course, but I don’t think Nagin harbored a secret hatred of N.O. citizens that led him to this “logical” conclusion.

    So I guess my point is that that kind of shit-for-brains stupidity can only thrive under cover of wide-ranging abstract generalization, which is why I have very little use for it in any event, not just in the hands of people like Dershowitz. Or maybe I just have a violent allergy to it because of being exposed to too much of Hegel’s flatulent windbaggery as a youth, prejudicing me forever in favor of the individual and the particular. It’s tough to say.

  27. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 15:32

    And one last question: Is it acceptable to call Palestinians “Palis�? I’ve only ever seen that on wingnut sites.

    I assumed it was. I’ve shortened it that way for a long time and have never heard any objection, that doesn’t mean it’s right. I dunno.

    So wait a minute – in the same sentence, you argue that reform of the American political system is nearly impossible, yet that somehow makes us more collectively guilty?

    That’s a paradox, yeah. There’s a lot in this post that I’d like to leave either vague or cloudy, because I’m just not sure of a lot of it save the parts about Dershowitz and bin Laden being dickface fucktards.

    But, to try to answer: there’s still a difference between US and Lebanon vis-a-vis democratic responsibility. The structural pollution, the roadblakcs and clogs in the ways of reform, still do not prevent the US from being in control of its soveriegnty and territory. No matter how corrupt we are, there’s no chance of an independent militia setting up shop here and attacking neighbors — well, at least not one that’s not been created BY the state.

    My main point in this is that no matter how corrupt or broken the democracy, its people are still responsible for its government in a way that people in dictatorships are not. I wanted to show that while Dershowitz was manipulating something for a certain wicked payoff, Peikoff was pulling evil shit right out of his ass. The former is devious, rotten sophistry, the latter is pure unadulterated evil philosophy.

  28. Mr. Mordant said,

    July 26, 2006 at 15:39

    Oh, and just for fun, Retardo, I’m sure you’re aware that our good buddy Noam nailed Dershowitz for being a shitbag a long time ago. Good times.

    He’s been on a personal jihad for the last twenty years, ever since I exposed him for lying outright in a vicious personal attack on a leading Israeli civil libertarian. Despite pretenses, he’s strongly opposed to civil liberties. Using his position as a Harvard law professor, he referred to what the Israeli courts had determined. But he was just lying flat outright. This was in the Boston Globe (April 29, 1973). I wrote a short letter refuting it (May 17). He then came back (on May 25,) accusing everybody of lying and challenging me to quote from the court records. He never believed I had them, but of course I did. I quoted the court records in response (June 5). He then tried to brazen it out again. It finally ended up with my sending the transcript of the court records to the Globe ombudsman, who didn’t know what to do any more with people just taking opposite positions. I translated them for him, and suggested that he pick his own expert to check the translations. The ombudsman finally told Dershowitz they wouldn’t publish any more letters of his because he had been caught flat out lying about it.

    Ever since then he’s been trying to get even, so there’s just one hysterical outburst after another. That’s not surprising, either. He’s basically a clown.

  29. ned fucking flanders said,

    July 26, 2006 at 16:10

    My main point in this is that no matter how corrupt or broken the democracy, its people are still responsible for its government in a way that people in dictatorships are not.

    Perhaps, but the extent of the difference in responsibility hinges critically on the level of corruption and calcification in that democracy. It’s not hard to imagine a situation in which the democracy is so fucked up it becomes a nominal democracy only – a Democracy In Name Only, if you will – and this becomes a distinction without a meaningful difference.

    So my main point is, your generalization may be too general to actually be of much value.

  30. dexter said,

    July 26, 2006 at 17:30

    i think a larger issue, and certainly more profound, may be why one screed got published on the opinion page of the los angeles times and the other was confined to anarchist web mags few ppl read.

  31. Nombrilisme Vide said,

    July 26, 2006 at 19:41

    But for every person of voting age, there was some guilt, and the principle holds true everywhere.

    How so? I mean this seriously. You go on to cite further examples of this, but you never explain why this is the case. Why would 1930s German citizens who voted against the National Socialists bear responsibility for their actions? Just by virtue of being voting-age Germans? Um, huh? How is this relevant? They did not sanction the election of the Nazis; why do are they to be held accountable to ANY degree for their actions? Because they accepted the outcome of the election and didn’t break into immediate revolt? Because they were a voting-age citizen? Do the politicians who ran against the Nazis also share this guilt? And if so, why are we limiting it to voting-age citizens? Seriously, if there was no way a voter could avoid culpability, it is no longer material if one could vote or not…

    Blaming the opposition in a democracy for the actions of the victors only really makes sense if the democracy operates on the basis of consensus (i.e., not majority) , and maybe not even then. Even in that case we need to assume that we’re not talking about a representative democracy, or that we’re talking about a representative democracy in which all officials can be immediately subjected to a recall vote at any given moment. Unless, again and not unlike Mr. Peikoff, you are advocating revolt in the face of undesirable voting results.

    Or, to put it more succinctly, what Dorothy said.

  32. digamma said,

    July 26, 2006 at 20:04

    Why would 1930s German citizens who voted against the National Socialists bear responsibility for their actions?

    It depends on how much Good Samaritanism you think basic morality requires.

    If I stand by and watch you get killed, is that okay? If I am big enough to kick your assailant’s ass without breaking a sweat, does that make it worse? If your assailant has a gun and I will likely die in the attempt to save you, does that make it better? This is what people mean by the continuum of innocence.

    I voted against Bush, but I can imagine that some of the innocent people being tortured at Guantanamo would like to know why I didn’t take more radical action. And I don’t think I’d have a good answer.

  33. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 20:10

    How so? I mean this seriously. You go on to cite further examples of this, but you never explain why this is the case.

    First, did I say they deserved to be murdered for it? No. I simply said they are somewhat responsible. Did you not read the paragraph where I said that it’s wrong to target civilians?

    Second, everyone in Germany was acting stupid at the time, the Communists, the Social Dems, the Christian Dems — and their constituencies. Had they gotten their shit together they could have beaten the Nazis but no, they were a bunch of squabbling fucks, many of them saying, “after them, us”.

    And we could have stopped Bush in 2000 if we hadn’t acted the same way.

    Why I inserted myself into this post by saying that *I* was responsible was precisely to forstall this sort of comment. Surely you don’t think I’m masochist enough to damn myself to a “deserving” slaughter? But I am somewhat responsible for Bush, less so than a Nader voter in 2000, and far less so than a Bush voter, but I am a member of the polity, a voter, and the American government, no matter the administration, is one of consent.

    You know, I realise that I’m a shitty writer but some of the responses to this post really befuddle me — is it a misunderstanding? The event that probably most informs my politics is Waco and it informs my sense of disgust and guilt — that was an absolutely fascist act, done by an administration I cast my first vote for. Goddamn right I felt guilty and disgusted by it and rightly so — I, in my small way, enabled it. It doesn’t mean that I’m the same as a murderer, but it sure as holy fuck doesnt mean I have a clean moral slate.

  34. ironicname said,

    July 26, 2006 at 20:15

    Mr. Mordant has it right. Damn fine comment.

    I’ve always believed that collective guilt is antithetical to American ideals; individual responsibility and culpability are the keys to liberty. The wingnuts would freak if we tried and convicted Ken Lay’s kids for being Ken Lay’s kids yet they freely apply the concept to Lebanese or Iraqis or Iranians or Syrians or anyone at all who gets in the way.
    I know the wingers and freepers are not known for logical or consistent thinking and I shouldn’t be surprised when I find neither logic nor consistency but Jesus Christ on a broken rubber crutch don’t they examine their beliefs at all? Ever?

  35. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 20:17

    Mr Mordant –

    thanks for that. i’d thought the chomsky-dershowitz feud started later, in the early 80s.

  36. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 26, 2006 at 20:20

    No one’s responsible for their parents or for people who share their ethnicity or race or whatever — EXCEPT their nation, if that nation is a democracy.

    A classroom, as every teacher I ever had reminded me, was not analogous to a democracy but rather to a dictatorship.

  37. Jillian said,

    July 26, 2006 at 20:23

    There was a case in Las Vegas that brings all of this to the forefront that happened while I was living there.

    A young man kidnapped a little girl from a casino and sexually assaulted, then murdered her. Apparently, he wasn’t aware that Las Vegas casinos have video cameras trained on every square inch of the property. Most of the crime was captured on surveillance tape.

    His best friend stood by and watched him the whole time. Didn’t participate in any way; just watched.

    The young man who perpetrated the crime got life in prison. The young man who watched got nothing. Nothing he did was a crime – it’s not a crime to witness criminal activity and not report it, and no one is under any legal obligation to try to stop a crime they witness.

    You can imagine the outrage this caused. I suppose everyone has to decide for themselves what they think about this case.

    Here’s a place to start reading, if you’re curious.

    I don’t think there is any easy answer to the questions raised by things like this.

  38. Jillian said,

    July 26, 2006 at 20:24

    Dagnabit – I can’t do anything right today. I can’t believe how much a simple cold can affect a person.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeremy_Strohmeyer

  39. DocAmazing said,

    July 26, 2006 at 22:12

    Funny depressing required reading: _The Clown_ by Heinrich Boll. Take-home message: after the war, the folks who voted Nazi still run things–and those who voted against are still on the bottom.

  40. Smiling Mortician said,

    July 26, 2006 at 23:02

    Jon Swift has a good post up on “The Cult of Civilianality”:

    http://jonswift.blogspot.com/

  41. Ally said,

    July 27, 2006 at 1:02

    I think Retardo is correct that the citizens of democratic nations are responsible for the actions of that nation’s government. It is the duty of the opposition to work against the ruling party when the latter’s actions are against the nation’s interests as understood by the former. When the actions of the government are extremist and illegal it is the duty of the citizens to revolt against the government, and attempt to overthrow it, if it cannot be removed lawfully.

    This is simple American civics. Of course, most people don’t care enough to even read about the government, much less protest, or pursue mass civil disobedience, or FSM forbid, engage in bloody revolution. I sometimes wonder at the contempt the founders of the U.S. would feel for us, if they knew how lazy, selfish, and afraid we would become. As long as they don’t cancel the fall-season on TV, or get caught fixing the Superbowl, the government is apparently free to do whatever it wishes.

    The sad truth is that we do deserve it. We provided the weapons that are killing children in Lebanon. We pay the taxes that fund the occupation of Iraq. We did these things collectively, and we are collectively responsible. If you can’t deal with it, either do what it takes to change it, or move to Canada.

    Yours — Ally

  42. Mr. Mordant said,

    July 27, 2006 at 1:28

    You know, I realise that I’m a shitty writer but some of the responses to this post really befuddle me — is it a misunderstanding?

    Oh, no, ain’t gonna be no pity party here, buddy. You’re a great writer, but this is a vague, touchy subject. I don’t know if I’m one of the ones who befuddled you, but I’ll just assume so, since I didn’t really address you directly so much as go off on a tangent.

    I think it’s safe to say that we all feel “responsible” over what our government does, since we care enough to beat our breasts over it in forums like this instead of numbly floating in a sea of stupifying entertainment like so many Wal-Mart shoppers, and we’ve probably all wasted valuable time trying to talk sense into our wingnut relatives. Right? Right. Okay, then. What else can we do?

    I’m asking in earnest, not in a sneering tone, not in an accusatory way towards anyone, or anything like that, but seriously – what does all this amount to? So what if we assign everyone a rung on the responsibility ladder? Leave that for the historians. What the hell else can we do in the here and now? I’d really like to hear some ideas (beyond the unbelievably stupid “quit paying your taxes and leave the country” bullshit in the above link).

    I understand what you’re saying, I just don’t see the point of it, that’s all. (I’m leaving aside the potential debate over whether we’re a democracy in name only while actually being a corporate oligarchy in reality, and whether that negates any of the responsibility anyway. :-) )

  43. Jillian said,

    July 27, 2006 at 1:44

    So what if we assign everyone a rung on the responsibility ladder? Leave that for the historians.

    Hey…that hurt my feelings. Historians need love, too.

  44. Ally said,

    July 27, 2006 at 6:02

    Oh, well Mr. Mordant, the point of it was to contest those who say civilians in Lebanon deserve to die because they haven’t kicked Hezbollah out of the country. The ‘Tard’s point was that those civilians haven’t the power to act short of rebellion and are therefore not as responsible as they would be in a functioning democracy. Sorry if that discussion bored you.

    As for what you can do, it is quite simple. You can bitch and moan, cast your worthless vote, protest in person or by letter, devote money to organizations and candidates, join or create an organization to influence opinion, practice civil disobedience, leave the country, murder authority figures, join or create a terrorist group, or overthrow the government. Obviously there are many options. You just don’t like them.. The first few don’t really work, and the latter few require personal sacrifice. The ones in the middle might be effective if pursued with energy. You seem a bit too impatient for those, though.

    Yours — Ally

  45. The Poor Man Institute » Freedom is slavery said,

    July 27, 2006 at 6:34

    [...] Retardo Montalban regrets that we’re all Osamas now: So [Alan “Bombs Away“] Dershowitz’s argument should be ignored on the same grounds that Osama bin Laden’s should be ignored: Such people as these who argue for the application of collective guilt only do so when the group that recieves it is the one they hate, and the group that dispenses “justiceâ€? is the one they love. [...]

  46. Marq said,

    July 27, 2006 at 7:58

    Along these lines, just when I think there’s nothing left that the Shrubbies can do to make my head spin, I read the following headline on CNN (paraphrased): Administration Debates Allowing Heresay Evidence In GITMO Tribunals. Holy fuck! Of course, such a turn of events would accomplish two objectives of the Chimpophiles-1.) To allow the conviction of anyone they please to charge with anything at any time on pretty much just their say so. 2.) To destroy the credibility of the court system, all the better to empower the executive. It’s utterly insane!
    Now, here’s a question for all of you–do you think there’s any set of circumstances that would provoke the U.S. populace to rise up and overthrow the government? For instance, if ’08 rolled around and Dumbya decided that he didn’t very much feel like retiring, so he “postpones” the elections, throws every elected Democratic and Independant Senator and House member into Gitmo-like facilities, appointing Rethuglican replacements for them, declares martial law, “suspends” the Constitution, etc, etc, would people revolt? Or would they just sit in front of the tee vee, watchin’ American Idol? I fear that there’s no question–it’d be the latter. Some would flee to Canada or the EU. But most would barely notice, let alone object in any way whatsoever. Convince me otherwise.

  47. Retardo Montalban said,

    July 27, 2006 at 10:51

    Ally — I wasn’t piqued at Mr Mordant, with whom I get on well. Mr Vide’s comment did get under my skin a bit. Apologies for that Mr Vide.

    This is a subject many are going to disagree on, and that’s fine. But I never meant collective guilt in the awful, fascist biblical sense whereby grandchildren are annihiliated for the sins of the grandfather.

    Collective guilt in a democracy is different.

    A subtext I also hope some take from this piece is that we have to be as serious about not so much winning as thwarting crypto-fascists’ paths to power. 2000 is a lesson for everyone. If it looks like a duck, goosesteps like uh.. like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. Bush had more corporate money thrown at him than anyone previously, including Clinton who was no mean corporate whore. So at the least we were gonna get an exponential rise in the kleptocracy factor in a Bush win. Also, a return as much as they could manage to social darwinism, claims of “compassionate conservatism” taken justly with a few grains of salt. Everyone should also have known that (hints of neo-isolationism being so much BS), would there ever be a national security crisis, a wingnut President would exploit it in a spectacularly bold way — after all, in previous crises, democratic presidents have been hard put to stop their internal Caesars from coming out; a wingnut is just gonna be a thousand times worse.

    And so he has.

    Such is our responsibility to ourselves and to the world that we must humiliate, degrade, spit on, and rhetorically annihilate Republicanism/wingnuttery from public life until wingnuttery is such a preposterous and shameful thing to espouse that it is considered the political version of, I dunno, Scientology. Editorz in his trackbacked post gets it right, we must tell the truth. But *then* we also must be ruthless like Leninists; our aim is not just to win the argument, but to mop the floors with our opponents. Too many people have died already because of our mercy to those who consider the world their playground of geopolitical murder. Never again.

  48. Jillian said,

    July 27, 2006 at 12:51

    Too many people have died already because of our mercy to those who consider the world their playground of geopolitical murder. Never again.

    If I believed for a second that were possible, Retardo, I might not feel as morbid as I do most of the time lately.

    Marq’s scenario is the one that gives me nightmares. The fact that I can’t find it in me to dismiss it as prima facie ridiculous and impossible is the surest sign I know of that our democratic processes are seriously, seriously sick.

  49. Mr. Mordant said,

    July 27, 2006 at 13:48

    No offense at all meant to historians, Jillian, sorry if it came off that way. Here, please accept a hug and a cup of herbal tea to help with your cold.

  50. Mr. Mordant said,

    July 27, 2006 at 14:17

    You can bitch and moan, cast your worthless vote, protest in person or by letter, devote money to organizations and candidates, join or create an organization to influence opinion,

    Yep, did all that, go on…

    practice civil disobedience,

    Yeah, that brought the Vietnam War to a screeching halt, didn’t it? Flaming Buddhist monks shocked the jingoism out of everyone, by golly! That’s a thought.

    leave the country,

    Still undecided on that one…

    murder authority figures, join or create a terrorist group, or overthrow the government.

    [...]

    You seem a bit too impatient for those, though.

    Beg pardon? I’m not the one gettin’ all Sergei Nechaev wit’ it up in here. In fact, to spell it out as plainly as possible: we’ve already lost this round. Sorry, but it seems obvious to me. The Bushies are going to have their way with the Middle East for the next few years, and the Democrats don’t look like they’re going to help in the meantime. The population is far too neutral or even favorable towards this administration for me to expect that anything will jolt them into outrage anytime soon.

    Being just shy of 34, I expect to be around for another couple installments of this insane-Republicans-in-power show that has already played out three times in my lifetime. I’m already looking ahead to the next cycle in, let’s just pull a number out of thin air, ten or fifteen years. What can I do in the meantime to have any positive impact by then? As I mentioned earlier, what can I do to stop the commodification of dissent (which seems to me to be an extremely serious problem)? In a system that has proven itself frighteningly successful at sucking the life and vigor out of any challenges to the status quo*, turning them into just another split-second of white noise, how can we do an end-run around that? And to top it off, is there anything I can do to make so many of my apathetic fellow Americans give a shit about more than stuffing their fat guts full of Big Macs? That’s the kind of thing I would like to see discussed more often. Sorry if that bores you.

    But hey, if you’re itching to be a revolutionary martyr, and you want to make Thomas Jefferson proud by watering the tree of liberty with the blood of a few tyrants, then don’t let little ol’ bourgeois me stop you. Put on your Che Guevara t-shirt and go storm the barricades already. Say hi to Czolgosz and the Weathermen for me, willya?

    *Tom Morello of RATM/Audioslave – used to talk about violent overthrow of the government, now cranks out the soft-rock hits. Damn, what would his homies in the Shining Path think?

  51. Ally said,

    July 28, 2006 at 1:28

    I doubt anyone is following this old thread, but what the hell…

    Retardo — Mordant was asking what the point was to splitting hairs over degrees of responsibility, so I responded. I didn’t mean to suggest that you two were having marital problems or anything.

    Mordant — You said:

    “What the hell else can we do in the here and now? I’d really like to hear some ideas (beyond the unbelievably stupid “quit paying your taxes and leave the countryâ€? bullshit in the above link).”

    So I tried to give you a list. You seem to have misunderstood my comment. I said the middle options (i.e. devote money to organizations and candidates, join or create an organization to influence opinion, practice civil disobedience) might eventually work, but that you seemed too impatient to pursue them. Your response states that you’ve lost interest in these options because they didn’t prevent Bush 2000. Well, that sounds like impatience to me. What do you expect? Some magical ray which makes everyone think like you?

    Look, I sympathize with your frustration, but there are no realistic alternatives if you want to have a chance of effecting change. If I’m wrong, please email me the real solution.

    Finally, I don’t appreciate the snotty implication that I am advocating revolution. It is sad that someone who writes so well should read so poorly.

    Yours — Ally

  52. mdhatter said,

    July 28, 2006 at 4:48

    i think we can get the kittens on board.

  53. piotr said,

    July 28, 2006 at 10:06

    I wonder if Alan D. was pressed with the lack of space, but he left his argument unfinished. You see, because Israel has nearly universal conscription and many soldriers are just reservist called for their yearly monthly duty, it is apparent that that are indeed civilian, and thus killing them is an act of terrorist — an unjustified attack agaist civilians. On the other hand, Lebanese, armed or not, are objectively terrorist (OK, the latter was the part of the argument that he has finished).

  54. Mr. Mordant said,

    July 28, 2006 at 15:39

    Well, Ally, just in case you’re still reading:

    I think we’ve probably been talking past one another to some extent, a lot of which is probably my fault, as I was talking mainly to Retardo and taking for granted that he already knew where I was coming from, so I could have been more clear, but anyway…

    I’m not really impatient with the usual political processes. Like I said, I’m more interested in things like the way this omnivorous system of ours devours anything and everything and renders it harmless and meaningless. I guess that’s almost more of a cultural issue than a political one, but either way, I’m still fumbling around in the dark to even try to get a handle on it, let alone figure out what to do about it. If I’m frustrated or impatient at all, it’s in relation to that.

    I didn’t really think you were a revolutionary-wannabe; I was just playing off of comments like – When the actions of the government are extremist and illegal it is the duty of the citizens to revolt against the government, and attempt to overthrow it, if it cannot be removed lawfully. [...] Of course, most people don’t care enough to even read about the government, much less protest, or pursue mass civil disobedience, or FSM forbid, engage in bloody revolution. I sometimes wonder at the contempt the founders of the U.S. would feel for us, if they knew how lazy, selfish, and afraid we would become. – which seemed to at least hint in that direction.

    So, sorry for that, especially for insinuating that you owned a Che Guevara t-shirt. No one should ever have to be accused of that, even in jest. I don’t know what I was thinking.

  55. Ally said,

    July 28, 2006 at 22:10

    Yeah, I do sympathize. It’s a big shit sandwich, and no one is feeling even a mite peckish. In fact, though, I regret dismissing protest as useless. It seems to me that the root of the problem is the media. The media needs to be pressured to actually practice its function of afflicting the comfortable. If each person who is outraged in the U.S. would write to the newspapers, the network news divisions, and so forth, things would, probably, gradually change. It appears to have worked for the “conservatives”. With a free, open, and discerning media, the Bush Presidency would have been an impossibility. So, I say, don’t waste your time trying to change public opinion. Force the media to report on reality. The facts are on our side.

    As for my possibly ambiguous stance on maybe suggesting that sometimes citizens should consider the possibility that their government may have gone too far, well, maybe at some point in some future where things might ressemble current circumstances — Bad is Good! Down with Government!* — some person might consider the relative merits of perhaps taking a more “radical” stance to said circumstances. Hypothetically, of course. So, yeah. Hope that was clearish.

    Yours — Ally

    * Just a quote from The Tick, maybe.

  56. fish said,

    July 29, 2006 at 22:51

    practice civil disobedience,

    Yeah, that brought the Vietnam War to a screeching halt, didn’t it? Flaming Buddhist monks shocked the jingoism out of everyone, by golly! That’s a thought.

    Um, yeah it did bring the Vietnam war to a halt many years earlier than otherwise might have happened. And in the Iraq war we had what was never seen before: worldwide protest before the war even happened. No it didn’t stop the war, but it turned public opinion against the war 5 years sooner than during the Vietnam War and maybe next time it will succeed in preventing a war. Or maybe the next time after that. Or the one after that. What is true is that the builders of empire have to work much harder than they did before and hopefully they will have to work even harder in the future. They scream louder now because they have so much less control.

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