Friday, October 19, 2007

Blog Watch: Digby's Hullabaloo

With this entry, the "Blog Watch" series comes to American Power. As regular readers may recall, the original goal of Blog Watch was to comment on political blogs that raised:

...significant questions involving style, analysis, and ideological orientation. I'm particularly interested in dissecting and challenging radical, antiwar bloggers.
So far, as things have developed, I've challenged not just antiwar ideology, but the whole mindless nihilism associated with the endless hard-left attacks on the Bush administration and all things Republican (my earlier entries in the series are here, here, and here).

That effort continues with today's dissection and rebuttal of
Digby's Hullabaloo. Hullabaloo's a vile yet influential leftist blog (Digby's posts are regularly cited by some of the top Bush-bashers of the left-blogosphere). I have on occassion waded into the dark comment threads there, which feature all of the classic characteristics familiar to the paranoid hate-addled hordes of the radical set. Most of Hullabaloo's posts are written by Digby, whose biography at The Huffington Post notes:

"Digby" has been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a writer whose political and cultural observations have entertained and informed the blogosphere since 2002. They can currently be found at and

(Yawn here.)

Hullabaloo's a group blog, however. That slippery wannabe international relations blogger Glenn Greenwald did a guest gig at Hullabaloo some time back (my jaws clench and hackles rise at the mere mention of Greenwald, but I've made mincemeat of him elsewhere). One current Hullabaloo co-blogger is Tristero, which is the pseudonym for Richard Einhorn, a modern classical composer by profession. Tristero should probably stick to music, as his foreign policy analysis is nothing more than boilerplate antiwar hatred of the Bush adminstration's forward international policy.

In one of his recent posts Tristero claims Turkey was readying an incursion into Northern Iraq, despite news reports indicating that Turkish plans were merely preliminary, against the wishes of the United States government, and that strikes against Kurdish rebels in Iraq were nowhere near forthcoming. But such facts didn't stop Tristero from launching this outlandish diatribe against the administration:

As far as I can tell, this article contains no information to support the assertion that "a Turkish military offensive into northern Iraq" is unlikely and plenty of reasons to worry about the opposite. Anyone familiar with the situation care to explain? Juan Cole mentions it, with a slightly less optimistic take on the situation than the Times provides, but does not offer an opinion as to how likely it or unlikely a military incursion by Turkey could be.

A personal note: Once, I had a long private talk with an American deputy ambassador who had been stationed in Iraq during 2004. I brought up my concerns about Turkey and the Kurds and, with the kind of flattery ambassadors learn to dispense on a moment's notice, he expressed surprise that I, a mere musician, knew enough to ask questions about it. I, too, was surprised, but I was surprised that he thought the questions were that esoteric.

The unpredictable effects - except that I knew they would be the bad kind of unpredictable - of destabilizing Iraq on its neighbors were among the many reasons I thought the Bush/Iraq invasion was major league cuckoo. By 2004, however, I had come to the genuinely terrifying conclusion that I, a mere musician, and my colleagues for the past year, a bunch of loudmouth bloggers who refused to accord any respect to those who believed in "the triumph of hope over experience," understood the world far better than America's political and media leaders. That may sound like a boast but really it's not. It highlights how profoundly incompetent, claustrophobic, and twisted American political discourse had become, and still is.

It chills me to the bone to realize that Walter Russell Mead, an old friend who has since gone on to acquire an enormous reputation in international affairs, got Bush/Iraq wrong and I got it right. There is something profoundly out of whack in this country for something like that to be true. But it is. And it wasn't just a lucky guess on my part; I wasn't guessing. Nor was it an excusable mistake on Walter's part, not only because it wasn't simply one mistake, but because it was an inexcusable cluster of serious mistakes for anyone to make who claims expertise in foreign policy.

The citation of Juan Cole is odd, since Cole fails to support Tristero's main point. Perhaps Tristero thought that bandying about Cole's name would lend some credence to his argument, although Cole's radical views have long been marginalized (Cole's reputation in the historical profession is controversal, and his application for a post at Yale University was rejected on the grounds of anti-Americanism and shoddy scholarship). But what's more interesting is all of Tristero's unwarranted assertions of superior foreign policy knowledge. Tristero's post is dated October 10, and this is just weeks after General David Petraeus testified to Congress on America's military success in Iraq, a performance that has been greeted by a growing sense that events in Iraq have improved dramatically.

But such views are par for the course over at Hullabaloo. In a characteristic post, Digby dismisses mainstream policy discourse as mere "incoherence" :

Something very disconcerting has been happening in our discourse for some time, even worse than the up-is-downism that has characterized the most unctuously presumptuous members of the Cheney administration. It's no longer just Bush who is blatantly dumb on TV. A lot of public figures these days adopt all the poses and cadence of ordinary conversation, but actually speak in some sort of gibberish language that makes no sense.

As an example of this, Digby attacks Mitt Romney, and she cites his (objectively sensible) views in this YouTube as "complete nonsense":

Also, after the recent commanding debate performances by Rudy Giuliani, Digby pulls up some partisan hack piece at Slate calling Rudy a liar, and then argues:

I don't think Rudy cares about facts any more than George W. Bush does, and undoubtedly doesn't know them in the first place. After all, Bush lied repeatedly during both of his presidential campaigns, just as he's doing now when he claims that SCHIP will allow rich people to steal from the taxpayers. (Like he thinks that's a bad thing.) They just make things up because they don't care to know the truth ... and it doesn't matter....

In any case, the bar has been set very low for GOP presidents. Yet they seem to be able to set it lower each time. If Giuliani wins we will not only have an idiot for president we will have a dangerously unstable idiot for president who is even more arrogant and malevolent than the one we have now. I have a sneaking feeling "competence" is going to be the least of our problems.
That's it? A couple of factual discrepancies over New York City tax policies during the 1990s and you have the basis for a complete smear of the entire GOP establishment as a bunch of liars! "Bush lied, people died!" Haven't we heard that before? It's so simplistic, and it would be just a matter of odd fascination if it weren't for the fact that these innacuracies go over as mainstream analysis in contemporary left-wing policy circles.

But I truly understood the true nature of Digby's hard-left ideological project after reading
her denunciation of Bill Cosby's appearance last weekend on Meet the Press. Digby mounts her attack on Cosby with another volley of the "gibberish" line, laced with extreme exaggeration for effect:

I just suffered through one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. I watched Bill Cosby ramble on like he was drunk, dominating the conversation, for nearly an hour on Meet The Press, most of the time speaking pure gibberish.

(Imagine him doing it in his patented Fat Albert voice as well...)
The context for Cosby's Meet the Press appearance is the release of his new book, Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, which is coauthored by Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a well-respected child psychiatrist who specializes in African American issues. The book argues for a closer look at black American culture in an effort to find solutions to the current African American crisis.

Now, I watched the show, so I can attest to the real reason Digby attacks Cosby as incoherent: Cosby argues that the contemporary black family is dysfunctional - especially families of lower socioeconomic attainment - and these families have failed to provide the model of stability and responsibility that is the necessary prerequisite for success in life, educationally, professionally, and socially. Digby cites this passage from the
interview transcripts to illustrate Cosby's alleged gibberish:

MR. COSBY: “Somewhere in my life a person called my father has not shown up, and I feel very sad about this because I don’t know if I’m ugly, I don’t know what the reason is.” And so there’s a great deal that a person has to put up with.[...]

MR. COSBY: times of need, etc., etc. So when you look at education, it is my belief that it is there with a very ugly head. However, it is also my belief that this is not the first time my race has seen systemic or institutional racism. There were times, even worse times, when lynchings were acceptable. Sure, the newspapers wrote about it, but it happened. Juries were set and freed the, people who did the, the lynching. Therefore, we knew how to fight, we knew how to protect our children, protect our women. Today, in lower, lower economic areas, some people—not all—some people are not contributing to that protection. Therefore, when you see these numbers, you see, you see numbers and the character correction has not happened. Many times it’s the TV set, a BET or, or videos played, kids look at it and they admire it. It’s the proliferation of drugs into the neighborhood.
Cosby's been been at the forefront of a recent movement to pinpoint the causes of the contemporary African American crisis at the level of the family. His speech at the NAACP's 50th commemoration of the Brown v. Board of Education decision sparked a vigorous debate in the black community over institutional versus individual factors in the crisis of poverty and crime among black youth today.

Cosby wasn't speaking gibberish last Sunday on Meet the Press. Indeed, his comments were far from incoherent. A written transript - like that provided by Meet the Press - can't do justice to the syncopated down-home patterns of Cosby's speech.

I listened with ease as Cosby spoke truth to the pathologies of contemporary black America. He speaks with the voice of the traditional black elder sage who's been down with the brothers in the 'hood and knows "what dey got t'do" to rise up from the depths of danger and despair. Cosby's voice is the powerful trumpet of contemporary black conservatism, a movement which doesn't discount America's history of institution racism. Instead, black conservatives focus on educational excellence as a means of advancement within the society. They stress neighborhood safety and security, and most of all they denounce the endless cries of "racism" which cast blacks as the "victims" of an irredeemable racial caste system that locks them in the dire straights of socioeconomic inferiority. Black conservatives look within, to the heart and soul of the indiviual, for answers to the problem of black uplift.

And this is why Cosby's attacked mercilessly by Digby ("it's all gibberish"), as well as the entire class of left-wing victimologists. The conservative position on individual responsibility challenges the enduring shibboleths of the radical sociology on race. This nihilist ideology (which inherently offers no compelling policy alternatives) is anathema to the future chances of America's black youth, and the entire anti-Bush, anti-traditionalist project mounted at Digby's Hullaballoo holds disastrous implications for the future of American public policy.

So, as we see here and elsewhere, conservatives have a continuing interest and responsibility to challenge and rebut this radical left-wing dogma. The stakes are incrediby high: For although the radicals propose absolutely nothing of reason and hope, such "discourse" is becoming all too common within the broader tide of leftism that gaining traction in the poltical system. All conservatives need to join together to beat back this antiwar, multicultural, statist onslaught chipping away at our common political decency and vitality.

See also the previous entries from Blog Watch: The Blue Voice, Firedoglake, and Glenn Greenwald.


jh said...

if that's what making "mincemeat" of someone looks like I'm surprised. I would have likened it more to being flogged by a piece of wet lettuce.

Pete Muldoon said...

i looked for the mincemeat too, and all I could find was a dismissal of an argument by calling it a "wimpfactor" theory.