Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The New York Times vs the Faggy Dissident

The New York Times is running an odd homophobic puff piece about Glenn Greenwald.

RIO DE JANEIRO — On approaching Glenn Greenwald’s home office high in the jungle-encrusted mountains above Rio de Janeiro, all is tranquil, bucolic even. A gurgling stream at the entrance frames the idyll.

And then the dogs notice the incursion. They bark, yap and yowl, and while it’s less “Heart of Darkness” than “101 Dalmatians,” the sheer volume is mind-erasing.

Should we be surprised that the house of Mr. Greenwald, the legendarily combative privacy and national security reporter, is surrounded by loud, barking defenders — or that they are actually pussycats once you get to know them, as is their rescuer?

People on Twitter are mocking the focus on Glenn Greenwald's dogs. But inside of this story's posture of levity in the face of serious business is a subtle character assassination.

In 2009, writing about school bullying Judith Warner looked at what calling a person gay means:

Being called a “fag,” you see, actually has almost nothing to do with being gay.

It’s really about showing any perceived weakness or femininity – by being emotional, seeming incompetent, caring too much about clothing, liking to dance or even having an interest in literature.

 In addition to implying he's a "pussycat" the story clearly supports this idea:

On television and in print, he comes across as the ultimate alpha, ferocious and unbending, but here the dogs refuse to obey him, looking for guidance from his husband, David, instead. The guy who issues face-melting rebukes on cable and Twitter is also the softy who keeps a pack of hot dogs in his car’s glove box to throw to the dogs wandering the favelas.

Of course, you might say an offhand comment or two is a gentle poke. But seeing dissidents as ironic threats has always been both a way to gloat and highlight them as threats.

The story picks up several paragraphs later, happy to trope on his poor technical skills by painting him as a dangerous virus engaging in immature, childish pleasure:

“I went to Google and typed in ‘create a pie chart’ and I ended up with an online pie-chart maker probably intended for first graders,” he said.

True to his intent, Mr. Greenwald’s first-grade pie charts entered the bloodstream of the web, coursing around Twitter and various blogs. Nothing — other than yet another dog rescue — pleases Mr. Greenwald more than lobbing in something from a great distance and watching it detonate. He was doing that long before he ever wrote for The Intercept, the name of the site that he works with at First Look.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What is it good for?

 Israeli historian Yehuda Bauer:

DW: How has the current escalation in Gaza changed life in Israel?
Yehuda Bauer: It has changed it quite meaningfully, because over two-thirds of the country was under attack by rockets. Although the rockets have not caused a tremendous amount of damage, the whole country was decisively hampered in its economic, social, cultural and other activity.
Chinese intellectual Mozi from a little over 2,400 years ago:

When feudal lords entertain suspicion, enemies will be stirred up and cause anxiety, and the morale will be weakened. On the other hand, if every preparation is in good shape and the state goes out to engage in war, then the state will lose its men and the people will neglect their vocations. Have we not heard it said that, when a warring state goes on an expedition, of the officers there must be several hundred, of the common people there must be several thousand, and of the soldiers and prisoners there must be ten thousand, before the army can set out? It may last for several years, or, at the shortest, several months. So, the superior will have no time to attend to government, the officials will have no time to attend to their offices, the farmers will have no time to sow or reap, the women will have no time to weave or spin: that is, the state will lose its men and the people will neglect their vocations.

Human nature has changed so little that most of Mohist criticism of war still holds up today:

The rulers and lords of to-day are quite different. They all rank their warriors and arrange their boat and chariot forces; they make their armour strong and weapons sharp in order to attack some innocent state. Entering the state they cut down the grain fields and fell the trees and woods; they tear down the inner and outer walls of the city and fill up the ditches and ponds; they seize and kill the sacrificial animals and burn down the ancestral temple; they kill and murder the people and exterminate the aged and weak; they move away the treasures and valuables. The soldiers are encouraged to advance by being told: "To suffer death is the highest (service you can render), to kill many is the next, to be wounded is the lowest. But if you should drop out from your rank and attempt to sneak away, the penalty will be death without moderation." Thus the soldiers are put to fear. Now to capture a state and to destroy an army, to disturb and torture the people, and to set at naught the aspirations of the sages by confusion - is this intended to bless Heaven? But the people of Heaven are gathered together to besiege the towns belonging to Heaven. This is to murder men of Heaven and dispossess the spirits of their altars and to ruin the state and to kill the sacrificial animals. It is then not a blessing to Heaven on high. Is it intended to bless the spirits? But men of Heaven are murdered, spirits are deprived of their sacrifices, the earlier kings are neglected, the multitude are tortured and the people are scattered; it is then not a blessing to the spirits in the middle. Is it intended to bless the people? But the blessing of the people by killing them off must be very meagre. And when we calculate the expense, which is the root of the calamities to living, we find the property of innumerable people is exhausted. It is, then, not a blessing to the people below either.

On who is allowed to get rich

One way to know when people are corrupt is what kind of transportation they use. For example, the Sandanistas in Nicaragua who resisted US terrorism were easy to recognize as horrible people:

Most important, the U.S. is continuing to provide covert support to thousands of Nicaraguan insurgents, known as contras (counterrevolutionaries), whose hit-and-run attacks along Nicaragua's northern and southern borders have, according to the Sandinistas, claimed more than 700 lives. President Reagan has justified U.S. support for the contras by accusing the Sandinistas of having "betrayed" their countrymen, calling the junta members "counterfeit revolutionaries who wear fatigues and drive around in Mercedes sedans." (Source: Time.com subscription required)

But this doesn't just hold true for Hispanics. As Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post pointed out it generalizes to Arabs as well.

Hamas has hired more than 40,000 civil servants, and analysts say the top tiers are filled by loyalists. Members of the Hamas elite are widely thought to have enriched themselves through investment in the dusty labyrinth of smuggling tunnels beneath the border with Egypt and taxes on the imported goods. That money has been channeled into flashy cars and Hamas-owned businesses that only stalwarts get a stake in, critics say.

You can bring this up about US elites of course, but there's a very good answer "What is this Russia? We're not allowed to get rich anymore?" When Americans make money it's because of "the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work." Unfortunately, despite their flashy cars, we're still waiting for Arab creativity to solve the problem of decades of deliberate attacks on their infrastructure. Maybe it's time they upgraded to private jets that creative American businessmen use to visit tropical islands?