• Random Quote

    The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has
    killed a great many philosophers.

    — Denis Diderot

Triumph of the Shrill – Christopher Hitchens vs. Michael Moore on 9/11

Hitchens has promoted the neologism ‘Islamo-fascism’, an abuse of the word fascism that has little merit over, say, Islamo-varmints. As Orwell wrote, “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’” Stalinists, for instance, employed the phrase ‘Trotsky-fascist’, and you may want to invent your own fascist hyphenates. A painful root canal could inspire ‘dental-fascist’ and a parking ticket ‘meter maid-fascist.” Al Qaeda members, in short, are religious fundamentalists who believe that God has commissioned them to murder people to promote their political and religious agenda.

Now who else do we know who claims God has instructed them to smite religious and political foes, even if it results in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people? (I’ll give you a hint–when he was Governor of Texas he thought it was funny to mock people that he was executing.) If al Qaeda represents Islamo-fascism did the Inquisition embody Catholo-fascism? (Certainly, the Catholic Church has embraced fascists on many occasions.) Are George Bush’s evangelical supporters Christo-fascists? They are certainly fanatic, intolerant, anti-secular, and perfectly content seeing thousands of innocents killed to further their political/religious goals. They’d be delighted, apparently, to install a Christian version of the Iranian theocracy in the U.S.

Fascism, in any sort of meaningful usage, refers to a coalition of autocratic state power, corporate capitalism, and extreme nationalism. So what is the appeal of the dubious phrase ‘Islamo-fascism’? It emboldens advocates to pretend that they are standing arm in arm with Orwell and Churchill fighting Nazis, rather than supporting neo-imperialism in a stealth war for global domination.

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.”

‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’, ‘Enduring Freedom’, ‘liberation’, ‘bringing freedom to Iraq’, ‘democracy’—all part of the nebulous shining language used to justify slaughtering tens of thousands of people to seize a country and its resources, creating social chaos and rage in its wake. (Phrases such as ‘shock and awe’, more tellingly, betray a mindset similar to those that coined the word blitzkrieg.) Saddam is gone but another CIA asset, Alawi, is in ‘charge’. He talks of crushing opponents, suspending elections, and declaring martial law. The installed ‘government’ has reinstated capital punishment and shut down al Jeezera for straying from acceptable news. Supposedly, Alawi will step down for democratic elections; stories now circulate, officially denied, that he personally shot half a dozen ‘terrorists’ in the head in impromptu executions, a very Saddamesque touch indeed. (The U.S. will not risk losing control to nationalists in fair elections; the vote will be a façade to create the mirage of legitimacy in Iraq.) Negroponte, the man who formerly orchestrated death squads in Central America, backed by the largest embassy in the world, stands behind the quislings. They rule from the ‘Green Zone’, a militarized fortress of walls and barbwire that protect them from the grateful Iraqi people outside.19. Viceroy Bremer, before his malfeasant reign ended, illegally privatized the Iraqi economy, opening it up to profitable looting by favored corporations, at least if the insurgency can be crushed. The ‘reconstruction’, a miserable farce, has done nothing for most Iraqis; basic needs such as electricity, clean water, and waste treatment go unfulfilled while insider companies rip off American taxpayers and Iraqi oil revenues alike. The crimes and stupidities of the occupation will reverberate for years to come. Still the ideologues rule unrepentant.

Hands with Swords form a victory arch. Note Helmets of the fallen Enemy.

Iraq War Monument – ‘Victory’ over Iran

“A short word of advice: In general, it’s highly unwise to quote Orwell if you are already way out of your depth on the question of moral equivalence. It’s also incautious to remind people of Orwell if you are engaged in a sophomoric celluloid rewriting of recent history.”

“Moore concludes with a sonorous reading of some words from George Orwell. The words are taken from 1984 and consist of a third-person analysis of a hypothetical, endless, and contrived war between three superpowers. The clear intention, as clumsily excerpted like this (…) is to suggest that there is no moral distinction between the United States, the Taliban, and the Baath Party and that the war against jihad is about nothing.”

Hitchens assumes a rather proprietary tone, as if he owns the Orwell franchise. Consider though his analysis of Orwell’s comments versus the actual quote:

NARRATOR: George Orwell once wrote, that it’s not a matter “if the war is not real, or if it is. Victory is not possible. The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous. A hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle, the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia but to keep the very structure of society in tact.”

It is ironic that Hitchens, a self-proclaimed disciple of Orwell, would offer such an enfeebled interpretation of this powerful passage. Hitchens’ reading of Moore’s “clear intention” is risible. The gist of the text, and I presume Moore’s argument, is that war is waged by the ruling group to cement the social and economic hierarchy, to perpetuate “poverty and ignorance.” This is precisely what F. 9/11 repeatedly demonstrates.

Moore never asserts that the United States, Taliban, and Baath Party are moral equivalents—that’s crude sophistry. He continually professes an admiration for Americans such as the Lipscomb family, most of the soldiers, and the public. Hitchens, like most of his neo-con friends, apparently cannot (or rather will not) distinguish the Bush kleptocracy from the people of the United States. In regard to America, Moore says, “It’s a great country, isn’t it?” He avers nothing but respect for the Bill of Rights and our finest political traditions, and I can’t say I’ve ever heard Moore out stumping for either the Taliban or the Baath Party, but perhaps Hitchens can manufacture an incident. Moreover, the war is certainly about something, just not what the Bushites and their apologists claim.

F. 9/11 probes the class structure behind a political system that sends the poor off to kill and die as cannon fodder in imperial wars. Moore contends that the Patriot Act is an attack on the Bill of Rights and democracy, not a legitimate way to counter terrorism. Al Qaeda certainly doesn’t regret our loss of freedoms. Moore discloses our manipulations by candy-colored terror alerts; he demonstrates the absurdities and inconsistencies of the alleged Homeland Defense apparatus. Our political system, now governed by corporate interests, squeezes the middle-class and poor downward as wealth bubbles upward, concentrating in fewer and fewer hands. Moore argues that the war is not really about neutralizing Osama or countering terrorism: it is about controlling strategic resources such as oil and gas, establishing an imperial dominance around the globe, and terrifying an American population into submission.

The U.S. military-industrial complex is the largest planned economy in the world, but it needs threats to justify its preeminence and cost. With the crumbling of the Soviet Union, the system desperately needed a new enemy. The war against terrorism, our new Forever War, compels those outside the political and economic elite to accept regimentation and the present order in fear and silence. The ‘war on terror’ is a war on freedom and democracy, a war on economic and political reform, and a war on the environment. Why worry about Enron and Halliburton, or deforestation and global warming, or erosion of civil liberties if we must hunker down in fear of Osama and his swarthy legions as they assault our citadel of light and goodness on the hill. The Orwell passage crowns the film’s argument. Orwell spent much of his life defending freedom and economic equality–noble goals still worth struggling for, even if Hitchens has abandoned them.

“The contemporary United States expresses the greatest of all paradoxes. It is at one and the same time a democracy—at any rate a pluralist open society—and an empire. No other country has ever been, or had, both things at once. Or not for long. And there must be some question about the durability of this present coexistence, too.” 20

Yes, that’s the old ‘not-fit-for-primetime’ Hitchens before he became a Bush groupie. Although he denounces Moore for alleged inconsistencies and contradictions, he is himself the essence of political paradox. Hitchens, for a start, is a socialist who no longer believes in socialism, although he still professes to believe in materialism and class conflict as key agents in history. Yet he treats Moore, who actually raises financial and class questions about the Bush dynasty, economic ties, and war profits, with contempt. And what exactly does Hitchens think of the godly?

“I just think that all religious belief is sinister and infantile and belongs to the backward childhood of the race and that the great thing about the United States is that it’s a secular country with a godless Constitution.” 21

Hitchens has apparently napped through the religious fulminations of Ashcroft, Bush, Delay, and Scalia—to skim true believers from all three branches of government. Hitchens adds, “I don’t trust anyone who believes in religion,” but apparently, he makes exemptions for war giddy Bible boosters such as Bush and Blair. He is a proud ‘contrarian’ who has become a lapdog for the most powerful military force in world history as it bombs and crushes weak nations. He is a champion of liberty and Orwell’s legacy who is unfazed by illegal invasions, violations of the Geneva Conventions, and lawless detentions, torture, and murder in the gulags of Guantanamo and Abu Graib. (Momentarily distraught over the unseemliness at Abu Graib, he attributes it all to bored trailer trash with too much time on their hands.)

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