Sunday, January 29

What, That Old War Again?

Consider this the quick dump of a pilot before Sweeps Month starts Wednesday. I was struck with the idea that once I'd reached the fifth paragraph or 30 minute mark writing a reply on someone else's blog it may be time to post it on my own. And so it was as Daily Pepper covers the Joel Stein tsimmis.

In case you missed it, a quick rundown: Stein writes an opinion column in the LA Times in which he says he doesn't support the troops, because he's against the war; while he's got no problem with the war's supporters supporting the troops, for opponents it's "one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken..." Mount St. Malkins immediately erupts, assuming we can distinguish between activity and quiescence in that quarter. In a freak occurance, Al Franken and Atrios also take offense.

I happened to have read the thing the day it was published. It was strained, lazy, and to top it off, unfunny. As Pepper says, the VH-1 regular should stick to covering the Dancing With the Stars Master P controversy. Or I take her word for it, anyway, since I'm not quite sure what it is.

Still, Stein has a point. He mostly missed it himself, and he compounded the whiff by displaying his ignorance on a couple of levels. And I can't quite understand why Malkins would take offense rather than trumpet the thing, since Stein seems to be saying exactly what she/they imagine to be the case, but I leave that to her/them. Maybe there was some concern that newer readers thought she/they possess actual reading comprehension.

But as for Stein: "I support the troops but I don't support the war" is a fertile ground for some digging, but he just broadcasts a couple handfuls of seed in a strong breeze. In the first couple hundred words he's equated supporting the troops with bumperstickers and magnetic yellow ribbons, before equating opposition to the war with pacifism. Those are the sort of blasé mistakes that get you invited back to VH-1 for another round of ridiculing the crap commerical culture of your youth, and they might slide as a feature piece somewhere, assuming someone could have applied some genuine humor to the thing. But they shouldn't qualify as an Op-Ed piece in a major metropolitan daily, though god knows it hardly sinks below what else actually does these days.

There's no excuse for Stein not understanding he was shortchanging everyone he wrote about; this is the sorry state of editorial opinion writing in the heyday of Truthiness. Would that the Malkins take a lesson. But what's more interesting, I think, is the casual repetition of history as Dimly Remembered High School Filmstrip:
It's as if the one lesson they [the "pacifists"] took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

or:
I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea.

The spitting thing is just pure laziness; that sorry wad of phlegm has been as thoroughly debunked as is theoretically possible. And just the tiniest amount of interest in what the actual troops think about Iraq--here's a hint, Joel: it's roughly as diverse as the general population back home--might have served to open his eyes and maybe even shut his mouth. But so help me, I'm never going to get over the sheer laziness of so many of Stein's contemporaries when it comes to Vietnam. From the "Why are we still talking about that after thirty years?" in blog comments to the idea that an evil cabal of smelly hippies and the Librul Media kept us from winning, the astonishing lack of concern with one's own history, the easy dismissal of the war as something as relevant today as bell-bottoms and rotary phones, the sheer self-indulgence of, not just willful ignorance, but gleefully willful ignorance is just jaw-dropping. What Stein seems to "know" about Vietnam is largely a product of how the war's defenders marketed our defeat a decade after the fact. Which hardly explains his ignorance, since he obviously knows the war was controversial. How is it you come to trust what you're told?

The reason many people opposing the war now see fit to acknowledge their support for the troops is precisely the sort of historical rewrite Stein can't distinguish from the truth. It's precisely because of that spitting story. It's precisely because so many people are so lazy about facts and so easily hoodwinked by urban legends and bullshit on the LA Times editorial pages. You know, there are several people still alive today who lived through Vietnam, Joel. Maybe you could ask them. I think you'd probably find there's a lot more pissed off about the treatment they and their buddies received from the government during and after their service than you'll find pissed off because they didn't get to march through Manhattan. The only guys I know who ever hewed to that line were gung-ho officers and careerist noncoms. Of course their arguments found your ear somehow, while the guys who handled the Agent Orange never got the chance.

And just one more question, Joel. If you think only the war's supporters should display their support for the troops, how is it you now blame the anti-war faction for the lack of parades back then?

This might bring us to the case of one Dough E. Pantload and his vast knowledge of what some other guy told him about Sacco and Vanzetti. But then we already know why Jonah trusts what he's been told.

6 comments:

Gahrie said...

"in blog comments to the idea that an evil cabal of smelly hippies and the Librul Media kept us from winning, the astonishing lack of concern with one's own history, the easy dismissal of the war as something as relevant today as bell-bottoms and rotary phones, the sheer self-indulgence of, not just willful ignorance, but gleefully willful ignorance is just jaw-dropping. What Stein seems to "know" about Vietnam is largely a product of how the war's defenders marketed our defeat a decade after the fact. Which hardly explains his ignorance, since he obviously knows the war was controversial. How is it you come to trust what you're told?"

Well I trust the former generals of the North Vietnamese army, and the former North Viethamese communist officials who have all stated that they had lost the war militarily, and it was precisely the American peace movement (as sponsored by communist activists) and the American media that allowed them to win in Vietnam. There is a reason pictures of people like John Kerry and Jane Fonda are featured prominently in Vietnamese war museums.

D. Sidhe said...

You don't trust our own generals, who say it had nothing to do with the peace activists at home?

Thanks, Riley. Exactly right.
I'm not a pacifist by any means, but to me "supporting the troops" means not sending them into wars they can't win, depriving them of what they need to survive easily predictable circumstances, cutting their pay and their medical care after they get home. It also means we don't send them off to an unnecessary war. Hussein is a despicable human being, no question. But he was a largely contained one, and there were bigger problems we needed to solve.

Supporting the troops also means, for the record, not using them in presidential dog-and-pony shows, but actually listening to what they really are saying.
If that's wussy, too bad.

R.Porrofatto said...

So on target that the first commenter above just unintentionally illustrated what the phrase "case in point" means. I gather that neither he/she nor Mr. Stein are old enough to have lived through the time, and learned what little they know of it from repeated screenings of Forrest Gump. What always annoys more than their willful ignorance, is how bloody arrogant they are about being clueless.

I wasn't a pacifist back then, and I'm not now, but I opposed the Vietnam war and the Iraq debacle pretty much for the same reason: a pointless waste of human life for nothing more than dubious political gain soon to be followed by a criminally immoral lack of political courage to end it.

Gahrie said...

OK Guys, answer a couple of questions.

1) Name one battle we lost in the Vietnam war?

2) Why did it take until 1975 for North Vietnam to conquer South Vietnam when the U.S. had pulled its troops in 1973?

3) Why are pictures of John Kerry and Jane Fonda hanging in Vietnamese war museums?

4) Why do records of the former USSR talk about paying agitators within the US peace movement?

5) Why did the US media refer to battles such as the Tet Offensive as defeats when they were overwhelming US military victories?

R.Porrofatto said...

Since the troll already has a list of pro forma winger answers to its questions, they aren't worth responding to, but what the hell, the brandy hasn't kicked in yet.

1) Name one battle we lost in the Vietnam war?
The one that cost 58,000 American lives and millions of Vietnamese. It was a long one, too, lasting more than twice as long as WWII.

2) Why did it take until 1975 for North Vietnam to conquer South Vietnam when the U.S. had pulled its troops in 1973?
Transportation from Hanoi sucked—lotsa potholes and the bus drivers were on strike.

3) Why are pictures of John Kerry and Jane Fonda hanging in Vietnamese war museums?
I dunno. Maybe for the same reason that pictures of LBJ and Richard Nixon are hanging in Vietnamese war museums?

4) Why do records of the former USSR talk about paying agitators within the US peace movement?
This is a trick question. The Soviets had at least a 10-year jump on us in the development of talking records.

5) Why did the US media refer to battles such as the Tet Offensive as defeats when they were overwhelming US military victories?
What makes you think the US media referred to battles such as the Tet Offensive as defeats?

Vitamin J said...

Joel Stein is a real douchebag; a smarmy, smug little prick who has managed to turn a life that has consisted of nothing much more than going to college and watching a lot of crappy TV into a career as Generation X's go-to pundit.

Last year in the LA Weekly, Nikki Finke described Stein's TV presence thusly: "He’s the wire-rim-wearing, flop-haired smirker who looks amused by what he’s telling the camera even if the rest of us aren’t." That goes for his writing as well -- it's easy to imagine the little twerp chuckling to himself as he grinds out another batch of self-satisfied snark.