Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Words in a Time of War"

Marty Lederman

Mark Danner gave this commencement address to the graduating class of the U.C. Berkeley Department of Rhetoric last month.

As far as I know, it has not received anywhere close to the attention it deserves. I'm not familiar with any more incisive or more powerful account of how we came to be where we are today.

[Thanks to Scott for the tip.]


I give you my favorite quotation from the Bush administration, put forward by the proverbial “unnamed Administration official” and published in the New York Times Magazine by the fine journalist Ron Suskind in October 2004. Here, in Suskind’s recounting, is what that “unnamed Administration official” told him:

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’

Oh please! No self respecting Republican would even grant the premise of the Dem self congratulatory turn of phrase "reality community," nevertheless claim that he or she operated outside reality.

There are literally thousands of Dems who work for the executive and are technically part of the Bush Administration who might generate this fiction, but no Republican who I have ever met.

‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.

Find me a single Republican who would credit the far left smear that the United States is an "empire" or an "imperial power."

Are fictional creations like this how Dems really see the world? If so, that would go a long way to explaining how they constantly "misunderestimate" the GOP and this President in particular.

Reality based community indeed!

Professor Lederman: Not to toot my own horn, but I linked to that same bit in the "Senator Clinton's Views" thread, pointing to a copy of it at truthdig. Feels good to be running at least a couple minutes (well, 44, but who's counting?) ahead of the curve in such fine company.


It's sad to see Mark Danner miss the point, as do so many American "journalists" otherwise known as reporters or newspapermen or as Andrew Marr calls them, hacks. The problem is not that we now live in an age of rhetoric it's that in pretending to live in an age of reason the members of the intellectual class have forgotten how to read a con. [What Marr still calls a trade America has made a profession.]

In a world where most of the people think American liberals are lazy fools, how can these fools claim the right to reason? If Al Gore can claim to speak for reason, where does that leave those who are actually Social Democrats? Where does that leave Tony Judt?.

It's a shame that a lawyer is not aware that the age of reason has led to little more than the rule of the assumptions of Neoclassical economics, when the adversarial ethics that is the basis of his career, and in fact the of rule of democracy and law as we define them, are both predicated on the rule of institutional prerogatives and formalized rhetoric.

The rule of reason will always end as the rule of the reasonable, and the definition of what's reasonable will change over time. [or do you agree with Nino Scalia?] Left unchallenged people will believe what they want to believe. Reasonable people believed Bush. Only the unreasonable knew enough to be afraid from the beginning.

Thanks for the link. All I can say (mouth) is "Wow."

Garth said...

Bart, i think you criticise Mr. Danner falsely

Unless Danner is misquoting Suskind, I thought I was accusing Suskind of writing this fiction.

A bit of mistatement, foreshortening --

". . . . It is no accident that one of Karl Rove’s heroes is President William McKinley, who stood at the apex of America’s first imperial moment, and led the country into a glorious colonial adventure in the Philippines that was also meant to be the military equivalent of a stroll in the park and that, in the event, led to several years of bloody insurgency — an insurgency, it bears noticing, that was only finally put down with the help of the extensive use of torture, most notably water-boarding, which has made its reappearance in the imperial battles of our own times."

Actually, the insurgency in opposition to the McKinley-initiated (as urged by William Randollph's Herst's yellow journalism) effort to subjugate the Philippines under US _diktat_ continued well into the 1930s, and "required" as response a US puppet-dictatorship that only fell with Marcos.

And that doesn't address the continuing underlying Muslim insurgency by those subjugated by Spain's earlier imposition of Christianity.

For those interested in the down-and-dirty of that US effort, google "anti-imperialism Mark Twain Zwick".

"sorry... a senior aid from Bush's inner circle... or Suskinds a liar.

"which is it Bart?

"# posted by Garth : 9:34 PM"

Why be particular? To Bart, reality is a fantasy. And when asserted in a way which refutes Bart's ideology, and or exposes his morally depraved heroes for what they are, is a lie.

Garth said...

do you care to retract your statement in light of Ron Suskind's quote from KKKarl?

You have yet to provide any attributed quotes by Rove which even remotely match the statement which I called fiction.

excerpts mine

Karl Rove: We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality...We’re history’s actors…. and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

Please give us all a link showing that these are quotes attributed to Rove. The best you could do is another unattributed rambling by Suskind in a Frontline episode.

The evidence for Rove is circumstantial but persuasive, at least until we see an alternative contender. Cf. Rove's pseudo-intellectual maunderings in the Jeffrey Goldberg N'Yawker puff piece.

The context, from Suskind:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Now, note the Esquire 2002 story on "Mayberry Machiavellis." Suskind talked to several people in the spring of 2002, but couldn't get to Rove. "Eventually" he got his interview, one topic of which was Karen Hughes.

(Also in that article: "Rove, who never graduated from college but has a deep love of academic inquiry, seemed to enjoy having DiIulio to fence with.")

@Garth: Yo, do you have a working link for that bit of Bart's you quote on treason; I think I'll wanna see the whole ugly lot of it. Thanks!

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