Tuesday, January 29, 2019

 

The Covington Catholic Rorschach Test

I haven't really followed the Covington Catholic school boys fiasco much since last Wednesday. Though, from what I've seen, even the few mainstream writers who've justly taken the media to task for aggressively pushing a false narrative can't quite resist the urge to still somehow find fault with the high school students who were demonized, on a national stage, by their colleagues at other media outlets.

For instance, Caitlin Flanagan's critique in The Atlantic is well worth reading but she just can't resist getting in some digs at the Covington students:
I have watched every bit of video I can find of the event, although more keep appearing. I have found several things that various of the boys did and said that are ugly, or rude, or racist. Some boys did a tomahawk chop when Phillips walked into their group. There is a short video of a group that seems to be from the high school verbally harassing two young women as the women walk past it. In terms of the school itself, Covington Catholic High School apparently has a game-day tradition of students painting their skin black for “black-out days,” but any attempt by the school to cast this as innocent fun is undercut by a photograph of a white kid in black body paint leering at a black player on an opposing team.
Flanagan faults "various of the boys" for unspecified "ugly, or rude, or racist" behavior. She says, "Some boys did a tomahawk chop". I'm not going to watch the videos again but the other accounts I've read say that one boy did a "tomahawk chop". I didn't notice the gesture(s) and I won't say it didn't happen.

However, here are a few questions: Who decided that a "tomahawk chop" is indisputably ugly, rude, or racist? How do these critics know that the gesture in question in the video actually was a "tomahawk chop" and not something that just looked like one? Does the kid's state of mind or intent matter? If so, how do you know what that was?

Flanagan writes: "There is a short video of a group that seems to be from the high school verbally harassing two young women as the women walk past it." After everything that Flanagan agrees went wrong with this story you'd think she'd stay away from bashing the kids over video that merely "seems" to show bad behavior. I've seen that video, too, and it's not clear those kids were Covington Catholic students, the same kids filmed at the Lincoln Memorial, or that they were harassing anyone.

Finally, I've seen the "black-out days" video, too. To start with I don't think that practice is necessarily, or even likely, racist although it certainly could be. Given the times in which we live might it be stupid and/or insensitive? Sure, but not every act or statement that offends someone is racist or motivated by racism. Surely, intent ought to count for something but I realize we abandoned that kind of fairness long ago.

In any case, the bigger problem is that the "black-out days" video, like the video initially used to indict the Covington boys, is ripped out of context. Caitlin Flanagan have you learned nothing? And "leering" is strange choice of words but that aside Flanagan is reading an awful lot into that image. Several kids, most of whom are not painted, are visibly jeering the player from the opposing team. So what?

The final, glaring issue is that most accounts admit that the "blackface" video was taken in 2012. So, using it to impugn kids who were at most 12 years old for something other kids at their school may have done is simply deceitful.

In addition to Flanagan's piece, here are a few more articles worth reading:
McArdle, author of the Post piece, also tweeted extensively on the affair.

As an aside, I want to be clear: The agenda-pushing revealed by the Covington Catholic media witch hunt is nothing new. Narrative-driven—as opposed to careful, truth-driven—reporting is the order of the day in the mainstream media. What is new is that the media got caught and called out so strongly.

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I've read George Orwell's 1984 at least three times and had forgotten about "facecrime" but not everyone has ...







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Sunday, January 20, 2019

 

Quotable: The Noblest of Human Traits


The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being. When he violates this sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult, but threatens the very fabric of international society. The traditions of fighting men are long and honorable. They are based upon the noblest of human traits—sacrifice.

Source: Gen. Douglas MacArthur, 1946, confirming the death sentence imposed by a United States military commission on General Tomoyuki Yamashita, as quoted in the epigraph to Telford Taylor's Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy (New York: Bantam, 1970 [1971]).

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A few years ago, just days after the Sandy Hook/Newtown massacre, I was involved in an email conversation with another veteran (whom I'll refer to "T." ). I've lightly edited the conversation as it appears below. T. started things off as follows:
Reportedly, bushmasters and high capacity handguns and magazines are flying off the shelf as the gun people anticipate new legislation.

If you're antiwar you've probably noticed who the war people are, who form the permanent political base in support of the military as an institution, and become hyper-activated to support every war as soon as the bugle blows. [emphasis in original]

By supporting gun control legislation, you can reduce the self-reinforcing group-think at work here.  They will come around, over decades.  They'll accept that guns are no good.

Liberals are notorious for not noticing their true allies, or the fact that we have a common moral and logical framework.
I replied:
Stereotype much, [T.]? I guess you never saw the GI Voice/Coffee Strong documentary, Grounds for Resistance. One of the opening vignettes is a bunch of the Coffee Strong guys firing a wide array of guns in a gravel pit near Olympia; you can see Seth Manzel firing an AK-47 in the trailer. My point is there is no neat relationship between being pro-gun rights and pro-war. Some of the most active, committed anti-war activists I know are "gun people".

I remember, too, that the President who signed the federal assault weapons ban in 1994 is the same guy who presided over US-enforced sanctions that led to the death of +500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five. On national television, his Secretary of State said of the dead Iraqi children: "We think the price is worth it." A year before he signed the federal assault weapons ban, Bill Clinton also presided over a siege in Waco, TX by the federal gun police that led to the death of 76 people, at least eleven of whom were under the age of five. Where was the liberal outpouring of grief and anger over the death of the Iraqi children or the children in Waco? No one was ever held accountable for any of those deaths. This is part and parcel of the strong pro-violent culture in the US, where, for example, Die Hard is seriously regarded as a Christmas movie.

Supporting gun control legislation in response to the Newtown shooting is a perfect example of "self-reinforcing group-think". And if Obama and the US Congress really care about saving children from violent deaths then they can start by ending US drone attacks on Pakistan. What thinking person in their right mind would trust US politicos on gun control or anything else? As Kevin Carson writes in CounterPunch:
"... what strict gun laws will do is take the level of police statism, lawlessness and general social pathology up a notch in the same way Prohibition and the Drug War have done. I'd expect a War on Guns to expand the volume of organized crime, and to empower criminal gangs fighting over control over the black market, in exactly the same way Prohibition did in the 1920s and strict drug laws have done since the 1980s. I'd expect it to lead to further erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, further militarization of local police via SWAT teams, and further expansion of the squalid empire of civil forfeiture, perjured jailhouse snitch testimony, entrapment, planted evidence, and plea deal blackmail."
T. responded:
1. this is a struggle over worldviews.  Whether guns, power and force are effective-- the efficacy of violence.

2. yes sadly, I'm aware many of our fellow veterans think guns are ok.  A lot of them think their military tour was honorable. It wasn't.  military veterans are among the most fucked up people in the country.  VFP are the best of the lot but they think they're smarter than simple indigenous people, women, people who didn't join the military.
In my final response, I said:
You're right about worldviews, [T.]. One worldview I don't understand is that of the peace activist who embraces the idea that empowering people with badges and guns to arrest or otherwise penalize other people for making, selling, owning, or lawfully using guns is consistent with an ethic of peace that eschews violence. Peace activists who support "gun control legislation" should at least have the integrity to admit they're not all that different from "our leaders," who think force violence is okay as long as it's used for some cause they or "the people" support. I fail to see how one can support gun control legislation (or any most any other type of legislation) without implicitly, at least, supporting the force or the threat of force used to enforce that legislation and the force or the threat of force used to collect the taxes to pay the folks with guns and badges who enforce the laws.

You've also answered my question about whether you "stereotype much". You clearly do, viz. your remarks on "fucked up" military veterans and VFP members who "think they're smarter than simple indigenous people, women, people who didn't join the military". The "simple indigenous people" in the US serve in the military in disproportionately higher numbers than just about any other demographic group. Swil Kanim, a Lummi US military veteran and violinist, explains the phenomenon this way: "We're not the enemy. We're not. We're on your side. We believe in America. That's why Indians have the highest percentage of service of any ethnic group in America." As for women, Adam Lanza's mother, Nancy, was reportedly a "gun enthusiast," which kind of smashes that stereotype. As for "people who didn't join the military"that group includes Barack Obama ... and any number of chicken hawks who never served in the military and lots of mothers who proudly send their children off to the military and to war. So, really, your juxtaposition of veterans and VFP members with "simple indigenous people, women, people who didn't join the military" just doesn't hold much water.

Finally, I submit that military service, even in the US military, can be honorable. Gen. Douglas MacArthur perhaps said it best (even if if he did not always live up to the standard he set): "The soldier, be he friend or foe, is charged with the protection of the weak and unarmed. It is the very essence and reason for his being. When he violates this sacred trust, he not only profanes his entire cult, but threatens the very fabric of international society. The traditions of fighting men are long and honorable. They are based upon the noblest of human traits—sacrifice." It is noteworthy that Telford Taylor chose this as the epigraph to Nuremberg and Vietnam: An American Tragedy. Those who do not knowingly and willingly violate this ethos serve honorably even if they later come to realize that they were misled and betrayed by their parents, teachers, clergy, elected officials, NCOs, officers, etc. The dishonor is to those who knew better and for venal reasons violated the "sacred trust" and deceived others. So maybe you think your military service was dishonorable and shamefulyour callbut I hope no one else will be convinced by you that military service is inherently dishonorable.
See also:

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Friday, January 18, 2019

 

US Troops Prepared to Die for the Jewish State


(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Less than a year ago Lt Gen Richard M. Clark, an American Air Force officer, spoke with a reporter from the Jerusalem Post during Juniper Cobra, a joint military exercise with Israeli forces. Clark's Israeli counterpart, Brig Gen Zvika Haimovitch, told the Post: "While 'the exercise demonstrates the close and strategic cooperation between the IDF and the US armed forces,' Haimovitch continued, Israel has the capabilities to protect the country from threats posed by its enemies."

To reiterate, according to Haimovitch, Israel can take care of its own military needs. Nevertheless, later in the article, the remarks of Clark, the ostensibly American military officer, are reported as follows:
According to Clark, the US and Israeli troops will work side-by-side under each other’s relevant chain of command.
“As far as decision-making, it is a partnership,” he continued, stressing nonetheless that “at the end of the day it is about the protection of Israel – and if there is a question in regards to how we will operate, the last vote will probably go to Zvika [Haimovitch].”
Washington and Israel have signed an agreement which would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war and, according to Haimovitch, “I am sure once the order comes we will find here US troops on the ground to be part of our deployment and team to defend the State of Israel.”
And those US troops who would be deployed to Israel, are prepared to die for the Jewish state, Clark said. [emphasis added][1]
This is amazing for two reasons. First, the command authority for the American military forces is invested in the President of the United States, who is designated in Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution as the "Commander in Chief". Transferring operational control of US troops to a foreign commander is a controversial matter and not a decision for Air Force officers, not even generals. Here is what current US military doctrine says on the matter:
Operational Control. While the President cannot relinquish command authority, in some multinational environments it might be prudent or advantageous to place appropriate US forces under the OPCON [operational control] of an MNFC [multinational force commander] to achieve specified military objectives. In making this decision, the President carefully considers such factors as mission, size of the proposed US force, risks involved, anticipated duration, and ROE [rules of engagement]. Normally, OPCON of US forces is assigned only for a specific timeframe or mission and includes the authority to assign tasks to US forces already deployed by the President and to US units led by US officers. US commanders will maintain the capability to report to higher US military authorities in addition to MNFCs. For matters perceived as illegal under US or international law, or outside the mandate of the mission to which the President has agreed, US commanders will first attempt resolution with the appropriate foreign MNFC. If issues remain unresolved, the US commanders refer the matters to higher US authorities.[emphasis added][2]
One wonders if Lt Gen Clark was speaking out-of-turn or on the basis of knowledge that the existing agreement he referenced proactively relinquishes the operational control of US forces to Israel.

Second, I took the US military oath of enlistment twice and I just don't remember the part about being willing to die for Israel or any other foreign country. Of course, every member of the US military, hopefully, understands that they may be required to put their life at risk while abroad in fulfilling their oath "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic". But they would be putting their lives at risk, at least ostensibly, to defend the United States and its vital interests. I wonder what the troops would say if they knew the commander of the US 3rd Air Force was telling Israelis that they—US troops—were willing "to die for the Jewish state". I think I know what the survivors of the USS Liberty would say.

In writing this I was momentarily tempted to say that it is surprising that Clark's comments were not more widely reported in the US media. In fact, I am unaware that they were reported by even a single US mainstream media outlet. However, over the years I have come to realize that, for the most part, the US media is a propaganda mill that actively and/or passively works to keep the American public misled or uninformed about many or most important aspects of the US-Israel relationship.

Notes
1. Anna Ahronheim, "U.S. and IDF troops, in major joint drill, simulating battle on 3 fronts", Jerusalem Post, March 8, 2018.
2. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States (PDF), March 25, 2013 (incorporating Change 1 of 12 July 2017).

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