Monday, March 10, 2008

Pleasure Of Pain

The Clintons are despicable, yet I'm happy that Hillary has extended the primary season for another few rounds of internecine fighting. And if the moon and stars align, and the pixies sprinkle us with glittering dust, the political bloodshed will spill into Denver, sending the Dem convention into some kind of controlled chaos. I doubt it'll be another '68 Chicago (we should be so lucky), but hopefully something that mucks up the corporate gears in full public view.

Of course, a side benefit to all this will be the twitching and bitching among online libs as they comically try to adapt to shifting Dem realities. Scanning the liblogs over the past week has been a delight, as a growing number of liberals, sickened by Hillary's hubris, are seeing the system for what is actually is. If their comments are genuine, then progress is being made. Still, a greater number of libs continue to believe in the system, clinging to its tattered ends while clicking their heels in space. It's a bit touching, if painful, to watch liberals trying to convince themselves that either Hillary or Obama actually care about their concerns. That beyond simple Party ratification, there exists in each a genuine desire to heal America, or at least set matters right again, whatever that might be. Back and forth they spit and scratch, Hillary-haters and Obamaphobes, locked in pointless struggle as large sections of the wider world burn and bleed. Hey, beats "America's Next Top Model."

The Saint's backers and staffers are still recovering from Hillary's recent victories and GOP-style assaults on their candidate. Clearly, they didn't see this coming. But when running against a Clinton, you must be prepared for concentrated fecal attacks. It's like entering a mixed martial arts ring and not expecting a knee to the face. I don't know what Obamaites were thinking, but a first-term Senator does not embarrass an empress like Hillary in 11 straight contests and walk away unscathed. Hillary believes that the Democratic nomination is her personal property, and no one, especially a superior communicator and crowd-pleaser like Obama, will be allowed to fuck with that. As we can see, Hillary would rather destroy the Party's chances in the general election before giving in to the Saint. Whether she actually achieves this or not remains to be seen. Me, I'm just enjoying the show.

Part of Obama's effort to counter Hillary's shit storm was to jettison Samantha Power, who had the temerity to tell the truth about Clinton. Given all the crap that Hillary's gang has thrown his way, the Saint should've simply apologized for Power's remarks, chalked it up to campaign pressure, retained Power's services and moved on. If Hillary continued to make noise about it, there's plenty of comparable quotes coming from her corner, for which to date no one of any consequence has been reprimanded or sacrificed. True, this tactic puts one in the slime with Hillary, where she enjoys a considerable advantage; but the Saint is running for imperial manager, and if he refuses to get shit or blood on his shirt, then he's not qualified to move up and send arms to the IDF or Colombian death squads. On this front, Hillary has him beat.

As for Power, well, I'm sure her career will not be seriously damaged. You'll never go broke praising the uniqueness of American violence, especially when you've cornered the "humanitarian" market. Power's not alone in playing to this demographic: Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff, and Victor Davis Hanson also toss holy water at cruise missiles and cluster bombs, but few imperial enthusiasts find them physically alluring. That's Samantha Power's trump card, and she plays it knowingly and effectively. Witness all the liberal boys bellowing on her behalf, offering to carry her books to chemistry class, showering her with giddy praise.

In the days following Power's dismissal, numerous lib lads took up her cause, each topping the other with glowing statements about Power's "brilliance" and "dazzling" humanitarian insight. After reading several apologias, I tapped out a little vaudeville bit in response, as you by now have probably seen. There were many Power defenders to choose from, but I settled on Bob Herbert and Marc Cooper as my main examples. Now, I knew that by sending up Coop, he'd respond in his typical manner, mounting his high horse -- in his case, using a tall ladder to reach the saddle -- and disparaging me from above, being a J-School prof who understands how the game is really played, and who the real players are. Sadly, I'm not among them. As Coop told a reader who linked to my post:

"Glad u linked to Dennis Perrin’s pathetic post. I was going to but decided there was no good reason to further display this guy’s really perverse political neuroses. But you’ve gone ahead and done it.

"In the past, Perrin has rankled and irritated me. But on this one, as I said, I just find him to be pathetic, bitter and irrelevant. I find his remarks about Power to be frankly disgusting and reeking of a juvenile sexism.

"If he had half the moral depth of Samantha he’d be worth taking seriously. Instead, he becomes one more exhibit in the pathological decline of the marginal left."

Then, responding again to the same reader, Coop added (typos and strange syntax uncorrected):

"I think lots of things about Samantha but not that she’s a hypocrite. You may very well disagree with her but her writing shows an enormous compassion and humanity. You seem to have a very narrow ideological window through which your approvzl must always fit/ That’s quite a silly way to evaluate people and quite naive as well.

"I repeat: Perrin’s post reeks with petty envy, peevishness and bitterness/

"His bit about chewing on Power’s panties tells us everything we need to know about him. Pathetic.

"Would u like to compare Perrin’s boks to Power’s? Not so much apples to oranges than sirloin to dog food."

Perhaps. But my work is only the finest dog food, without a speck of cereal or artificial ingredients. Nine out of ten canines agree.

Coop didn't like the image of him wanting to chew Power's panties. You can't please everyone. But after reading his panting piece defending Power's honor, all I could see was his stubby little frame crawling up Power's legs, straining for a mouthful of heaven. Then again, I'm pathetic, bitter, jealous, neurotic and perverse. Maybe I'm the one who wants to chew on Power's undies. I've nibbled worse.

Beyond his personal gripes with me, Coop's fawning at Power's feet is what's truly hilarious. This cardboard curmudgeon who affects a no-prisoners pose dissolves to damp pulp at the mere mention of Power's name. We all have our weaknesses, and I'm certainly not immune to romantic delusion from time to time (less so over the years, I hope). But for a guy who claims to "tell it like it is," ideology be damned, Coop's glossing over Power's glaring double standards and general hypocrisy is, to borrow his word, pathetic. Yet that's what one must do in order to be "relevant" to the right people. Power understands this all too well, as does Coop, though I doubt he looks quite as fetching in a cocktail party dress. Depends on one's taste.

To get a better sense of Coop's dizzy "humanitarian" standards, one can simply compare his veneration of Power to his vilification of Amy Goodman, the host of "Democracy Now." A few years ago at his blog, Coop referred to Goodman as a "quasi-cult figure . . . St. Amy of the Oppressed Masses" who is "behind-the-scenes, a brass-knuckles, hardball, ruthless player in the demi-demi-world of alternative radio." Goodman's "also a lousy 'journalist' — as she is principally a propagandist. A lot of people like that. Good for them. A lot of people also like Billy Graham."

Now, I used to work with Amy at WBAI in New York, and while we weren't the closest of pals, we were on very friendly terms, and if she was a brass-knuckled, ruthless player, I sure as hell didn't see it. Maybe she was and I missed it, or maybe she became that way after I left. Anyone is capable of anything. But when it comes to human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the U.S. and its allies, Amy is much more direct and candid than the euphemistic, cherry-picking Samantha Power. Indeed, Power displayed this recently on Amy's show, attempting to dodge and downplay Jeremy Scahill's sharp critiques. And unlike Power, Amy Goodman has not only written at length about American complicity in the Timorese genocide, she put her life on the line (alongside partner Alan Nairn) to get the full story. Here's her chilling eyewitness account of the Dili massacre:

"Then we saw an Indonesian truck pull up with about 50 soldiers and they got out and that didn’t look very good. We were asking people, why are you here? why are you doing this? And everyone said, well, we’ll risk anything for our freedom. Just over and over they would say that. And then from the direction that the Timorese procession had come, came hundreds of Indonesian soldiers marching up, weapons in the ready possession. The weapons being U.S. M-16s. Hundreds of them marching up and full uniform, marching up about 12 to 14 abreast.

"Alan and I were standing in the middle of the crowd talking to people and when we saw that very ominous sight I took out my headphones and put them on and I held up my microphone like a flag and I took my tape recorder out. And Alan put the camera above his head. We never brought our equipment out in East Timor because of how dangerous it would be for those who we were talking to. But this time we wanted to make it very clear who we were because we thought somehow maybe we could overt an attack just by our presence by being Western journalists. We knew they had committed many massacres in the past but never in front of Western journalists . . .

"And we felt that as U.S. journalists, the Indonesians would be less likely to do something if they saw that we were there. We started to walk to the front of the crowd. There was a young man behind me named Kamahl Madhadj from New Zealand and he was working with an Australian aid organization doing some translation and we had just met briefly the day before and I said, do you want to come forward with us because I felt the greater the Western presence the better. He had a camera. But he chose to step back. So, we went to the front of the crowd. The Indonesian military were marching up. It got very, very quiet because no one could run away. People in the very back thousands back could run but right now in the front thousands of people were trapped by the high walls of the cemetery. So it got very quiet. We could just hear the beat of the boots as they walked in unison toward the people and the whispering of the kids behind us. Alan and I stood there I was holding out my mic and recording.

"The Indonesian military marched up again 12 to 14 abreast. Marched up, turned around the corner and without any warning, without any hesitation or provocation open fired on the crowd. Gunning people down from right to left. We were in front of the crowd. They went right through us. A group of them enveloped us, took me. They started to shake my mic in my face as if to say this is what we don’t want. And slammed me to the ground with their rifle butts and their boots and started to kick me. At that point Alan had gotten a photograph of them open firing on the crowd but he threw himself on top of me to protect me from further injury. And they took their U.S. M-16s like baseball bats and they slammed them against his head until they fractured his skull.

"As we were lying on the road everyone around us was being killed. About 12 of them were lined up, took the U.S. M-16s and put them to our head and they were screaming, 'politic, politic' saying we were political. Because, of course, anyone - any Westerner who was witness to something like this and any journalist to them was political. Alan was covered in blood. His whole body was in spasm, and he couldn’t protect himself anymore because he had been beaten so badly. All I could say was 'we’re from America ... we’re from America'. And as each person joined in this firing line when we said 'we were from America' to make it very clear who we were. They would say, 'Australian? Australia?' We knew what happened to the Australian journalists and we said, 'no, America.' They stripped us of everything but I still had my passport. I threw it at them and they saw we were from the U.S. They still screamed and held the guns to our heads but then eventually they decided to pull the guns away. And we think that it was because we were from the same country their weapons were from. They would have to pay a price for killing us that they had never had to pay for killing the Timorese."

Try to find that kind of passage in Power's book about America and genocide. Oh right -- you won't, since Power devoted about a half page to East Timor, stating falsely, but profitably, that the U.S. looked the other way as the Indonesian army continued its mass murder. The same goes for Vietnam, Iraq under the sanctions, and Turkish Kurdistan. If this is the type of "humanitarian" that Coop looks up to, that's his party. He certainly won't be alone, clamoring for Power's precious attention while reaching for a touch of "brillance."