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Willful Ignorance: The antiwar Left just doesn't get reality.
National Review Online ^ | April 23, 2003 | Mark Goldblatt

Posted on 04/23/2003 6:21:20 AM PDT by xsysmgr

Last Thursday, the New York Post ran a piece of mine in which I compared the antiwar movement to a religious cult "hoist on tenets of faith rather than points of evidence — and, thus, in the final analysis, no more responsive to counterarguments than guys who stand on street corners in sandwich boards forecasting the end of the world next weekend . . . no, next weekend . . . no, next weekend."

It was, I thought, a clever little piece, and I knew it would get under the skin of protester types — which usually means a dozen or so e-mails telling me what a right-wing fascist I am, what a neocon blowhard, etc.

What I didn't count on was the column getting read on air, in its entirety, by Rush Limbaugh. (Memo to Rush: Next time you read a column of mine, mention my novel. It's called Africa Speaks. Now available in paperback.) In the space of three minutes, I was transformed from irritating stick insect to cause celebre. By the time I returned home after lunch, I had 175 e-mails, and over the next 48 hours, I received around 300. The first wave was overwhelmingly positive; among dittoheads, I was the bee's knees. But as the column made its way gradually leftward, the replies became more and more ferocious.

Now nothing pleases me more than antagonizing folks on the political left — it's an especially bloodless version of bear baiting — but in this case I noticed an odd phenomenon. The rage seemed to coalesce not only around the antiwar-movement-as-cult metaphor but also on another line, a throwaway, in which I mentioned that the blame-America mindset characteristic of the antiwar movement's true believers was difficult to maintain "in light of the manifest truth that America is the most benevolent world power in the history of the planet."

Astonishingly, that sentence just set people off. I say "astonishingly" because the proposition that the United States is the most benevolent world power in the history of the planet is only slightly more arguable than the proposition that the Nazis did mean things to Jews during World War II. Denying that the U.S. is the most benevolent world power in the history of the planet is indeed akin to denying that the Holocaust happened in the sense that it's so beyond debate that it's pointless to begin laying out evidence in support; the effort only dignifies the irrationality of those who would deny it. To deny it, in essence, is to deny that real world exists, that the past really happened — which perhaps excuses postmodern intellectuals, who deny such things on a regular basis. But the rest of us are left to ask who are America's chief competitors for the title of most-benevolent world power? Ancient Greece or Rome? The Mongols under Genghis Khan? France under Napoleon? The British Empire? Nazi Germany? Imperial Japan? The Soviet Union?

To be sure, America clawed its way to world-power status and left in its wake a trail of bloody victims. As is the case with all world powers, America is even now a blundering, big-footed Gulliver walking among squeaking Lilliputians; a certain degree of squishing comes with the territory. But in the century since its ascendancy, judged by the decency of its intentions or by the consequences of its actions, American benevolence is without precedent.

Still, one reader replied, "The U.S. has bombed over 200 countries since WWII. Good thing we did it benevolently. Cheerleading for the rich and powerful killers you worship has you in the gutter. Have fun wallowing in your bloodlust and ignorance."

Another wrote, "Why don't you tell 5,000,000 dead Vietnamese, 5,000 dead Panamanian citizens, every black American, or every single pure blooded Native American (there is not a single one left alive) that we are the most benevolent government there is?"

And another: "America being the most benevolent world power ever . . . you are really not a student of history are you? When was the last time you saw a large number of Native Americans? How much longer did America cling to slavery when the rest of the world had long since realized the evil of it? Who was the first and only country to ever use their weapons of mass destruction? Who has the largest store of weapons of mass destruction?"

And yet another: "'Most benevolent in the history of the planet' — and you're calling me a 'true believer'?"

There's something more significant going on here than a profound lack of historical perspective or a skewed understanding of the scholarly record. Both of those are signs of ordinary ignorance. But this is willful ignorance — which is much more insidious. It's as if the very suggestion of America's fundamental benevolence triggers an intellectual gag reflex among hardcore leftists. It cannot be tolerated; the system rejects it whole, regardless of the mental contortions that follow, because allowing it to penetrate would gum up the entire works.

Concede American benevolence — concede, in other words, what cannot be denied by a reasonable observer — and the epistemological underpinning of radical politics crumbles to dust. Can Gore Vidal continue to publish once that concession is made? Can Noam Chomsky continue to deliver speeches? Can Tim Robbins even go out in public?

In such circles, it's become a matter of self-preservation to posit America's essential evil. To posit, in short, a condition contrary to fact. Precisely because our policies seem so well intended, and their outcomes so often benign, critics who operate on the assumption of American malignancy must turn to conspiracy theorizing in lieu of inductive logic. Thus, for example, they will note that Bush has personal ties to oil company executives . . . and that Iraq has lots of oil . . . ergo, the true purpose of the invasion of Iraq must be to enrich oil companies. What's wrong with this analysis, apart from its dubious grasp of market economics, is that it takes as axiomatic moral monstrosity. It presupposes that the president of the United States would, in effect, commit mass murder in order to line the pockets of his friends; it presupposes further that the Republican party is wicked enough to nominate such a person, that the electorate is depraved or callow enough to support him, and — since there's no evidence of genocidal tendencies in Bush's past — it presupposes the innate capacity of the analyst to peer into the furthest recesses of his soul. You can dress up an argument of this type with rhetorical flourishes, and publish it in a respected journal, but, in terms of its sophistication, it's really of a piece with those "Bush = Saddam" signs that crop up at antiwar rallies.

It's just false.

The truth, I reiterate, is that America is the most benevolent world power in the history of the planet. If you cannot recognize this, you might as well be reading tealeaves.

Mark Goldblatt is the author of the novel Africa Speaks, now available in paperback.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: antiwar; left

1 posted on 04/23/2003 6:21:20 AM PDT by xsysmgr
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To: xsysmgr
They don't get it and never will because they don't want to get it.
2 posted on 04/23/2003 6:28:20 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (Saddam's Hiding In Tikrit He's Eating Another Daisy)
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To: xsysmgr
If the fanatical left in the United States have such an intense hatred of their country, why don't they just move to a truly "benevolent" country like, say, Cuba or North Korea?
3 posted on 04/23/2003 6:29:47 AM PDT by rrstar96 (Strength and Honor!)
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To: xsysmgr
This is a well written and concise further explanation of the theme that is rapidly being recognized throughout the American body politic and the world.

That is, the left is in basic denial of reality. It must deny reality, because to embrace it would require it to reject its most basic premises, which have been proven wrong time after time after time.

4 posted on 04/23/2003 6:30:47 AM PDT by marktwain
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To: xsysmgr
This is a well written and concise further explanation of the theme that is rapidly being recognized throughout the American body politic and the world.

That is, the left is in basic denial of reality. It must deny reality, because to embrace it would require it to reject its most basic premises, which have been proven wrong time after time after time.

5 posted on 04/23/2003 6:30:47 AM PDT by marktwain
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To: marktwain
Say it again. I hate it when I have a twitchy index finger on the mouse.
6 posted on 04/23/2003 6:35:45 AM PDT by Conspiracy Guy (Saddam's Hiding In Tikrit He's Eating Another Daisy)
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To: xsysmgr
Excellent article. It's always amusing to troll by America-hating websites like DU to read the comments of those miserable lefties. They never argue that maybe things are not too bad but could be better. No, things are always awful, it's still the mid-fifties as far as civil rights, no make that pre-Civil War, and everything is rotten, terrible, and all the lefties and minorities in the U.S. are being thrown in prison and innocent peaceful countries are being invaded left and right by our greedy, bloodthirsty, evil, CAPITALIST!!! humanity-hating government and their people slaughtered just for fun.

Not much subtlety on the left. They deal in extremes. But that is the only way they can justify their lunatic views. I guess to them it is more convenient to construct a view of things that is so outlandish that only a real nutter would believe them rather than confronting reality. Facing reality would mean having to give up that old commie dream.

7 posted on 04/23/2003 6:36:09 AM PDT by driftless ( For life-long happiness, learn how to play the accordion.)
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To: xsysmgr
You say it is the good cause that hallows even war?

I say unto you: it is the good war that hallows any cause

Not your pity but your courage has saved the unfortunate.

--Friedrich Nietzsche


Perhaps the term benevolence is better than Michael Ledeen's theory that Americans love war, but I think this over-all its a silly debate.
8 posted on 04/23/2003 6:36:49 AM PDT by JohnGalt (Class of '98)
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To: xsysmgr
Again this needs to get to as many people as possible...it is "right on!"
9 posted on 04/23/2003 6:39:43 AM PDT by woofie
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To: xsysmgr
The self-hating screeches from the left remind me of the wicked witch in "The Wizard of Oz" as she dissolved into nothingness, musch as the libs today --- "I'm melting, I'm melting!------"
10 posted on 04/23/2003 6:39:55 AM PDT by ladtx ("...the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country." D. MacArthur)
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Comment #11 Removed by Moderator

To: xsysmgr
Nice take!

Can Noam Chomsky continue to deliver speeches?

Noam, the guru. Noam, the epitomy of careful research. Noam, the deaf and blind but not dumb....no he can talk.

12 posted on 04/23/2003 6:41:01 AM PDT by Tom Bombadil
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To: marktwain
That was worth repeating, MT. I hope you are right, but alas, we live in a country that elected Bill Clinton....twice. I wish I could be optimistic, but I fear that being wrong won't be enough to overcome the 'hip to be Left' mentality that exists in this country.

"In such circles, it's become a matter of self-preservation to posit America's essential evil."

While the author may be right about this for now, I fear that is short-lived. The truth is, in such circles, it has always been posh and popular to posit America's essential evil. As most of those who do are wealthy liberal elites (some in Hollywood, some in D.C., some running victims organizations which they themselves victimize), people without means and education will go on believing that liberalism is the way out of their condition. That's certainly the message that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be selling in '08. And in this country, I wouldn't take bets against her celebrity to win.

13 posted on 04/23/2003 6:42:31 AM PDT by anniegetyourgun
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To: marktwain
Of course the left is in basic denial of reality. This is almost by definition.

Conservatism is the application of learned knowledge of the ages. You conserve that knowledge, you learn from it, you apply it. The politics of prescription.

The political left is the antithesis of conservatism. Since conservatism is, at its core, based on reality and what can be learned from it, leftism must be based on rejecting reality and turning from it, rejecting the lessons of the past.

14 posted on 04/23/2003 6:44:44 AM PDT by William McKinley (You're so vain, you probably think this tagline's about you)
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To: xsysmgr
Considering that the deny reality crowd now has a death grip on the Democratic party, it is truly terrifying to contemplate what they will do when the Dems regain the White House. And, at some point, the Dems will regain it.
15 posted on 04/23/2003 6:45:51 AM PDT by ricpic
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To: xsysmgr
But this is willful ignorance — which is much more insidious.

When I started lurking at Leftist boards like FreeDem and DU a few years ago, I was taken aback at the willful ignorance of the posters there.

I even took a screen name that reflected my astonishment of their willful ignorance, and posted challenges. I didn't last long, of course. I still lurk there, and am still incredulous, that those who think they have all the answers are so ignorant of even current events and recent history.

16 posted on 04/23/2003 6:46:18 AM PDT by Balding_Eagle
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To: xsysmgr
bump
17 posted on 04/23/2003 6:48:41 AM PDT by KSCITYBOY
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To: Flurry
They don't get it and never will because they don't want to get it.

These idiots can't find the truth for the same reason a thief can't find a policeman.

18 posted on 04/23/2003 6:49:57 AM PDT by rickmichaels (Those who f*** with America f*** themselves)
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To: anniegetyourgun
While the author may be right about this for now, I fear that is short-lived. The truth is, in such circles, it has always been posh and popular to posit America's essential evil. As most of those who do are wealthy liberal elites (some in Hollywood, some in D.C., some running victims organizations which they themselves victimize), people without means and education will go on believing that liberalism is the way out of their condition. That's certainly the message that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will be selling in '08. And in this country, I wouldn't take bets against her celebrity to win.

Hillary may manage to win, but you'll notice one thing about her: For the most part, she has backed the war in Iraq. I doubt she would have done so, if she could see any political future in opposing the war.

I think there has been a paradigm shift that has left the peacenik, DU-type crowd outside of mainstream debate. Yeah, they will continue to have a few reps in Congress and they'll get their say in the media, but the peacenik left has been cut-off from power.

Even if Hillary becomes President, she will do so in a rightward shifted paradigm. It still wouldn't be good, but it should limit the damage she can do.

19 posted on 04/23/2003 6:50:04 AM PDT by Celtjew Libertarian (No more will we pretend that our desire/For liberty is number-cold and has no fire.)
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To: xsysmgr; Flurry; rrstar96; marktwain; driftless; JohnGalt
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20 posted on 04/23/2003 6:51:53 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
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To: xsysmgr
I read this again and it is getting better
21 posted on 04/23/2003 6:54:48 AM PDT by woofie
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To: xsysmgr
Excellent. BUMP.
22 posted on 04/23/2003 6:57:13 AM PDT by tuna_battle_slight_return
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To: xsysmgr
Excellent. BUMP.
23 posted on 04/23/2003 6:57:13 AM PDT by tuna_battle_slight_return
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To: xsysmgr
Benevolent only if you completely ignore politics. Politics dictates who gets bombed when. examples abound from the Clinton years. I don't remember the word benevolence being used as an excuse to attack Iraq, that's being added now since defense against WMD seems to be moot.
24 posted on 04/23/2003 6:59:20 AM PDT by palmer (ohmygod this bulldozer is like, really heavy?)
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To: driftless
Envy and Guilt.
25 posted on 04/23/2003 6:59:38 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: xsysmgr
Someone should present the evidence for this and put it in a book.

Even school textbooks have been rewritten to fit the trendy "America is evil" theory.

I know it's self-evident, but the left is too busy worshipping Castro and Daniel Ortega to notice.

The only cure to this is to actually go to Cuba or Nicauragua and talk to the people. I went to Cuba and found it to be a real eye-opener. Go to a restaurant with your Cuban girlfriend (very easy to obtain) and you'll be hushed; the waiters are agents of the State. Eat the food; it's vile, because the State buys it from farmers at the lowest prices. Look around; the beautiful old housing is collapsing before your eyes, and the ugly Soviet-style housing isn't far behind.

The problem is most of those on the left who go to Cuba or North Korea go on a guided tour, meet Castro or Kim in person, and leave feeling they've just visited God. Isn't it ironic? They say they're interested in the common people, but they're really more interested in rubbing noses with Castro and pals.

D
26 posted on 04/23/2003 7:15:39 AM PDT by daviddennis (Visit amazing.com for protest accounts, video & more!)
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To: marktwain
Well said, regarding the Left's need to deny reality. Doing otherwise does wreck their belief structure.

It also explains why Leftist states control reality (media, education, etc.)-- to do otherwise would sow the seeds of self-destruction.
27 posted on 04/23/2003 7:17:06 AM PDT by steveyp
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To: Celtjew Libertarian
"Even if Hillary becomes President, she will do so in a rightward shifted paradigm. It still wouldn't be good, but it should limit the damage she can do."

Perish the thought! Remember, you get a two-fer here. Just think of it, Bill lurking around the White House for interns. And Queen Hillary with her FBI files.


28 posted on 04/23/2003 7:29:56 AM PDT by rightazrain
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To: Balding_Eagle
When I started lurking at Leftist boards like FreeDem and DU a few years ago, I was taken aback at the willful ignorance of the posters there.

I used to be taken aback - I couldn't believe what I was reading. Now I occasionally drop in for a hearty gloat and a laugh. I look forward to visiting these websites on Election Night '04. It will be the Super Bowl of Schadenfreude.

29 posted on 04/23/2003 9:02:46 AM PDT by slane
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