I'm hardly in a position to complain about people who like to hear themselves talk - I wouldn't be blogging if I didn't share that vice. But we all ought to have some regard for our fellows, some sense of shame. To that end I've come up with a handy list to help cultivate that fine sensibility. If you find yourself incapable of writing a column which isn't a rehash and reordering of some or all of the following themes, you, my friend, have nothing of substance to say:
1) You have an uncontrollable urge to nakedly display your scientific and political ignorance by invoking Kyoto as unassailable evidence of America's selfish, childish refusal to behave like a responsible member of the world community. (You don't know carbon dioxide from Carmen Electra, but you do know how those Americans are...)
2) You opine that since Americans think well of Bush's war policy and have been guffawing loudly at many intellectuals and journalists for the last few months, freedom of opinion is being squelched in America.
3) You take it as given that European leaders, and European opinion, are more intelligent, sophisticated, and effective than American leadership and opinion, which are, axiomatically, based on naiveté and a puerile willfulness. Knowing this, you don't have to bore yourself with actually addressing the arguments against Kyoto, the ABM, the international criminal court, or your preferred interpretation of the Geneva Conventions.
4) You insinuate that Bush's election is illegitimate. Apropos of nothing.
5) You exploit the tragedy of innocent Afghans killed in the war, apropos of nothing. You are completely insensible to the vulgarity of this pointless rhetorical ploy.
6) You use the word "triumphalism" to describe non-obsequious or non-defeatist political rhetoric.
7) You're still invoking Guantanamo as evidence of America's gross abuse of human rights and overweening arrogance.
8) You cannot exit from a column without penning the magic mantra "hearts and minds."
A decent person should probably fall silent from shame well before fulfilling all seven of the above, but Hugo Young unblushingly spews them all today. In the Guardian, natch. He warms up in style:
This will sound to some people like an anti-American column. It is not meant to be. As the writer, I assert that it is not. I'm the one who knows. I am not anti-American in any of the conditioning senses the epithet usually signifies: ethnically hostile, corporately obsessed, economically resentful, chanting every night the well-known litany of Washington's postwar dirty deeds.
Of course not, dear. You have, I'm sure, a most thorough-going fondness for the dear dim little yahoos. (By the way, how does one go about being "ethnically hostile" to a multi-racial nation of 280 million?)
That my disclaimer is necessary, however, is a commentary on the diminished state of consultative democracy just now.
Pssst! Hugo. Doll-baby. Just a word to the wise here. More than one earnest soul has irredeemably branded himself a buffoon in the eyes of honest and decent folk with this sort of last-honest-man-see-what-a-brave-lover-of-democracy-I-am-unlike-the-rest-of-you-sheep posturing. And they all richly deserved what they got. You had the chance to redeem yourself by actually presenting informed and rational criticisms of, say, the rejection of Kyoto, or the administration's position on the Conventions. But you didn't.
Well, there's #2 and #3.
The war has allowed a president without a mandate to grow into a heroic figure whom nobody wishes to challenge.
Nice - a concise use of #2 and #4.
Innocent Afghans have been killed.
There goes #5.
#3 gets a lot of play in various forms, for example:
The need for the coalition was perfunctorily acknowledged, but not the faintest doubt was allowed to attach to the fact that it would continue to operate on America's terms.
The military success, in other words, emboldened the president to speak as though there is no broader purpose than the assertion of American power. He sounded like a man whose war had intensified rather than slackened his belief in America, if necessary, going it alone.
If necessary, yes. What nation operates on terms unacceptable to its own interests? How does this signify "no goal but power"? What "broader purpose" should America be pursuing?
Other voices, it appears, are not terribly interesting, especially European voices that bring up the priority of a Middle East peace process being resumed, or publicly insist on codes of behaviour in the Guantanamo prison camp that rest on different attitudes to human rights than those now prevailing in war-torn America.
Here is a perfect example of how "multilateralism" is often code for "doing as Europe says". Yes, the "peace process", which Europe insists must be pursued as an end in itself, detached from any consideration of its effectiveness. How dare Washington take a position on Arafat contrary to the EU's? Oh, and here's #7. What "different attitudes to human rights" might you be talking about, Mr. Young? The attitudes of European nations who are deporting right and left, sometimes on secret evidence, without appeal, and in violation of supposedly prevailing human rights standards? What "behaviors" in Guantanamo are you referring to? Wait, best to be vague about that. Don't want to be hoist by the Plasmodium petard. Young graciously admits that "[t]here can be arguments about that" - oh, I see. He doesn't mean arguments from Americans:
Our governments do not have them, at least in public. To judge from the tortuous haste with which Mr Blair yesterday backed away from the early doubts his foreign secretary expressed about Camp X-Ray, they don't have them in private either. Instead, we fall in with the unilateralist impulse of a new age.
Ah, that's why. Couldn't have anything to do with the foolishness and inaccuracy of said secretary's pronouncements on Camp X-Ray. It's the unilateralist tyranny! The following paragraph is ripe with the odors of #1 and #3, and:
Now, with all the yapping about Camp X-Ray, the White House has begun to ruminate in semi-public that, like ABM, the Geneva Conventions may be suddenly unsuitable to the new era.
Many Americans must find this only sensible.
Will Young acknowledge that sensible persons can argue about the relevance or obsolescence of 30- and 50- year old agreements, or disagree about their interpretation, in the case of the Conventions? No, of course not. Why? Because, like the Kyoto Treaty, the ABM treaty and the Geneva Conventions are revealed truth (and, as is the case with many sacred documents, many holy sermonizers appear not to have read that last one). The only reason Americans presume to question them is because we are, well, a pack of bullies: "After all, it reflects power relationships nobody can contest.". (He's also scandalized that "[n]uclear testing is blithely listed for resumption". Would that those childish Americans would follow the sage example of multilateral France!)
This dreadful impiety of looking after one's national interests, and refusing to obey the commands of babbling Europe, "negates the notion of a world community of self-respecting nations."
Yes, those are direct quotes. Young really is the paragon of bloviating unreflective pomposity I here represent. Follow the link and you'll find #6 and get lots more of #3 before the wind dies down. But stay alert for one last fragrant gust of #8 before the all clear.
Moira Breen is a native Floridian currently living as a geek/housewife/writer in Portland, Oregon. She produces the weblog Inappropriate Response.