Friday, November 24, 2006

Journey to the bottom of the well

I almost never read Charles Krauthammer, not because I disagree with him, but because he has a funny name. Kraut Hammer. What the fuck is that? The German Hammer? Does he prance around his house in tights chanting Kraut! Hammer!? Sorry for that image, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. (note to young writers, making fun of a person’s name is always a good way to build credibility in an opening paragraph!)

But seriously, I almost never read Krauthammer because he is a man of low moral standards and a tool for the worst elements of Conservatism. I would just say he is an evil moron, which would be accurate in the vernacular, but I don’t like to use the word evil because of its supernatural connotations and the question of whether or not he is a moron requires a nuanced argument. Does he believe his own twaddle or does he simply espouse it to further some Conservative cause? If he believes it, he is clearly a moron. But I would argue that he is a moron even if he has a very high IQ and cynically and effectively uses it to craft arguments with the express purpose of suckering the rubes. That’s still stupid to me.

Regardless, genuinely stupid or not, he is definitely a man whose political desires, if fulfilled, would lead to a lot of death, destruction, oppression, and other bad things for the world. And unlike most of these terribly wrongheaded (to give them the benefit of the doubt) people, he is mysteriously granted a national platform to peddle his destructive nonsense. And reading him normally makes me sick. Not physically sick, but existentially sick, not just for myself, but for the entire human race. Sick that such creeps lurk among us. Sick that all too often they prevail. And doubly sick that a newspaper with the reach and prestige of the Washington Post publishes such a sicko.

Nevertheless, this morning my stomach is steeled with mass quantities of turkey and dressing from the night before and he was writing about Borat, so I read what he had to say. Krauthammer’s columns are always instructive in a bad way or two and today’s column was no exception.

He notes that Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Borat, went around the United States spouting anti-Jewish nonsense in order to expose the casual anti-Semetism, or indifference to anti-Semetism, of the American people, which Cohen maintains illustrates the path to the Holocaust.

Krauthammer’s argument is two-fold. One fold illustrates a tried-and-true propaganda technique, the other a logical fallacy.

Krauthammer does not dispute Cohen’s assertion that Americans are generally anti-Semetic beneath the surface or at best indifferent. He argues that we should instead focus on anti-Semites everywhere else in the world -- in Iran, Venezuela, France, and other members of the axis of evil too numerous to mention.

This is the “hey look, over there!!!” propaganda technique. It is employed when one is caught with one’s pants down and wants to focus attention elsewhere. In politics, the underlying argument when this technique is employed is always: focus your denunciations on places where you have no influence rather than here in the U.S., where you do.

The logical fallacy underlying the propaganda is that Krauthammer simultaneously argues that indifference paves the path to the Holocaust and that it doesn’t. He strenuously rails against anti-Semetic leaders and popular indifference to anti-Semetism in the rest of the world, but gently notes that “America is the most welcoming, religiously tolerant, philo-Semitic country in the world” because notable American anti-Semites have helped Israel.

Basically what he’s saying is that anti-semetism is okay as long as the anti-Semites are Americans and they don’t act on it. Does he believe that crap? I doubt it, but Borat is making Conservatives look bad, so all good propagandists must denounce or distort its message and/or messenger.

Logically, it goes like this:

Harry Truman was an anti-Semite
Harry Truman helped Israel.
Therefore, America is the greatest country in the world and fuck those goddamned anti-semetic foreigners, kill, kill, kill!!!!!!!

Heckuva job, Charles.