Sunday, May 29, 2005

Don't Tell Me The Truth, Tell Me What I Want to Hear

From Fark, I saw this column from Orson Scott Card. Read it.


Orson Scott Card's a big supporter of the Iraq war and has written several columns where he takes to tasks negativity, stars who criticize the war, and the like. Here he attacks the media.

You'll note he recommends that organizations that run a story that would "provoke outrage in Muslim lands, without first making sure it was true" should be frozen out of press conferences and the like - go on the outside to look in. It's an interesting idea - but there's several problems with it. Abu Gharib was widely derided as exaggerated for some time before the pictures came out - where would this fall under Card's system, when the media ran stories about it? What value of "true" do we use - one source, two sources? Would there have to be total confirmation for a story to run, and if so, how does the notorious Bush Admin's massaging of the news and reluctance to talk to the press lend itself to confirmation? And aren't you basically asking the government to admit it's done wrong in this case, something which seems beyond naive to think will happen willingly and easily?

He calls the Koran story "false" and "obviously a lie". This is a drastic interpretation, at least on the "obvious" line - there have been several allegations, from multiple sources, of mistreatment of the Koran, some incidents of which have been having it flushed down a toilet. "Obviously a lie" seems to be a far cry from what it was - "multiply claimed yet unconfirmed." An obvious lie would be "I was shot to death by a guard," say, or "I was raped by a guard" when you weren't. The Koran story, though, wasn't obviously a lie - unless Mr. Card is privy to some information we're not, in which case it would have been nice had he mentioned it.

I love the snide shot about "So Newsweek kills people with a false story that is actually a lie (unlike anything President Bush ever said about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction), and nothing happens to the perpetrators." Excuse me while I chuckle. Let's see, substitute what really happened for "false story that is actually a lie", which is "story that has bad sources", and it seems like damn near a carbon copy of what President Bush et al did. Right down to nothing happening to the perpetrators - it came out that people involved in the intelliegence debacle have gotten bonuses for their work. Akin to Jeffery Skilling getting "Employee of the Month" from Enron. Glass houses, stones, have you met?

Up until now, Orson Scott Card has been "just" partisan - by which I mean willing to overlook facts to smear something he doesn't agree with since it makes his side look bad. A failing, yes, but the things he says next makes this failing seem as innocent as dandruff.

He argues that we are in a war, and the media shouldn't publish information that will make it seem like we're in a war against Islam, not just terrorists. He gets quite colorfully hyperbolic about it, accusing the media of living in "Smartland" (zipcode IQ180, I guess) and having an agenda to bring down President Bush. Then he says radical Islam hates us so much mainly b/c of the citizens of Smartland - who apparently dumped their trash in the Islamist's yard. He also says the Smarties jeer at the values Heartland people hold dear, one of the prime ones being Adam Sandler movies. (I jeer at Adam Sandler movies, by the way. Nice to know that a matter of taste determines whether or not you're essentially a traitor.)

Here's a quote: "From Hollywood to newspeople to the soft-subject professors in our universities, the culture that makes people like Osama bin Laden want to blow us up or crush us into dust is the culture of the R-rated movie, the anti-religion intellectual, the glorified abortionist, the babies-without-marriage crowd, and the what-me-worry media elite."

The Passion - an R-rated movie that, I would wager money on, bin Laden hated.

The anti-religion intellectual - like that Baptist church which put up a sign saying, "The Koran needs to be flushed"? (*)

The glorified abortionist - I'd like to where he gets that one from. I know of few abortionists who are "glorified". Defended, yes, but glorified?

And then he gets into la-la land, when he claims: "No they won't. Whom do I think I'm kidding? They'll still blame it on Bush or the Christian right or the oil companies, because the central tenet of their belief is that their side can do no wrong. " Which appears to be close to what he's advocating for his side, in essence - "we" may do wrong, but it shouldn't be reported. It seems, in his mind, to be a difference of refusing to admit you're wrong vs. refusing to let people say you're wrong.

His next section, for a while, isn't so bad. He brings up the fact that, hey, the people who rioted are wrong, shockingly placing blame on the people who did the rioting rather than Newsweek - must have been a slip. He brings up his Mormon beliefs and how they were "attacked" on Cold Case Files, which I don't watch so I can't comment yea or nay. (Of course, he has no problems attacking the beliefs of "Smarties" - or their beliefs as he sees them, which I'm sure is what Cold Case did. Pot, kettle, have you met?) But there's a disconnect again - he rails against Cold Case but says that's okay, because the Mormons didn't riot in protest. When the Muslims riot b/c of what was though to be desecration, that's wasn't okay, it was childish and a temper tantrum. Does this excuse the rioters? Not at all - but for Mr. Card to compare a shot from Cold Case Files to desecration of the Koran smacks of the infantile and condescending. Which, I guess, means if the Mormon Church ever views a central tenet of its faith attacked in such an indignity as flushing the Koran is to Muslims, they won't do anything in protest but grumble and mumble.

His next section is okay, although I would argue that while we do TRY to wage a humane war, things go wrong, and that should be noted and dealt with. Perhaps if we had looked into the abuse allegations from the start and punished some higher-ups instead of the rank-and-file...well, the idiots would still have rioted, yes. But the rest of the Arab world may not have been wondering if the reports could be true, given our past behavior.

In the next area, he shows he's been too busy writing books to see the current political climate when he says: "It's the fact that the West is deeply divided, as a new religious movement -- politically correct Puritanism -- is perilously close to seizing control of the governments of most of the major nations of the West." He's got the right description of the movement, but the wrong people behind that movement. Dobson et al seem to be much more in control of the government that any p.c. people right now.

He then mentions the "Taliban of Smartland", just in case you still had any respect for his political thinkings.

I would hope this essay was written in the heat of the moment and posted before he thought about it. There seems to be a lot of venom and hypocrisy in it, and some statements which are close to the outright pathologically partisan. I don't know, but it seems like the essay is something which, if someone on the other side had written it, he would have stridently condemned as un-American, unpatriotic, and just plain wrong. So he fails my honesty test I mentioned below - not that he cares, I'm sure, but I do.

LATER THOUGHTS: Mr. Card also seems to make the assumption that's it's only the media who ever portrays this war as being against Islam in toto - ignoring images like this pic. Add to that Boykin's moronic statements about, among others, "I knew my God was a real God, and his was an idol," regarding his killing of a Muslim, and it seems that for some people this IS a war against Islam. But this is the media's fault, surely.

(*) - This is a late update to that story - ever since I got so sick I've been behind on magazines and papers, and I didn't see this on the Internet (which has become my day-to-day news source) - the minister who put up that sign has taken it down, and has also apologized for it. Kudos.

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