SHORT HISTORY OF SEDITION
isn't just foreign totalitarians who have made the show trial
a popular form of political entertainment, especially in wartime:
during both world wars, the US launched a campaign to target
and incarcerate American fifth
columnists, both real and imagined (mostly the latter):
the Great War saw the jailing
of Eugene Debs and vigilantes
roamed the countryside, trolling
for German-speakers to tar and feather. World War II saw
Sedition Trial of 1944, where the great "liberal"
Franklin Delano Roosevelt instructed his Attorney General
to round up a passel of antiwar dissidents from crackpot
right-wing pamphleteers to the entire leadership
of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, to the distinguished
writer and alleged "fascist" Lawrence
Dennis. The Vietnam era, too, saw more than its share
of political trials, the "conspiracy" charges against
Seven being only the most
trials all have two things in common: 1) They appear, at first,
to have all the elements necessary to convincing a propagandized
populace that the enemy lurks within their midst and must
be mercilessly smashed, and 2) In retrospect, they are always
revealed for what they really are: a clumsy attempt to divert
attention away from the failures of the regime. In the case
of John Walker Lindh, the pattern is running all too true
to capture or kill Osama, and having let
Mullah Omar speed away in a rickshaw, the administration
has settled on the next best thing: prosecuting the "American
Taliban." Indeed, having an American in the dock may
be a whole lot better for those who would love to imagine
(if not actually see) Susan
Chomsky, and Ted
Rall behind bars: it is prosecution by proxy, a subtle
way to vilify left-wing "anti-Americanism" without
a reprise of the Palmer
Raids. At a time when almost 60 percent of the American
people believe that high government officials of a Republican
something to hide stemming from the Enron case, can anyone
blame Attorney General John Ashcroft for taking full advantage
of what can only be described as a gift from Allah?
SHARKS IN THE WATER
you thought the O.
J. Simpson farce, or the JonBenet
murder case, was a circus, wait until you see the carnival
surrounding the Tali-boy on trial: with little or no action
to report on the Afghan front at the moment, and no "phase
two" more exciting than the dispatch of a relatively
small number of US troops to the Philippines, the mainstream
media is looking to the trial of John Walker Lindh to maintain
ratings, sell newspapers, and generate visits to their ill-designed
faltering online editions. Pundits, too, trolling for
material, are swooping down at the sight of the frail, pathetic
figure of John Walker Lindh, made aggressive by the prospect
of a fresh kill on which to feast.
but not all of these talking heads are of the conservative
persuasion, including a number of writers
at the Wall Street Journal and National
Review, who blame the Tali-boy's hapless
parents and, most of all, the liberal milieu of
Marin County and the touchy-feely
faux-spiritual "it's all good" atmosphere that
permeates Northern California. Joe
Farah, of WorldNetDaily, who is no conservative, nevertheless
sums up the complaints of traditionalists who point to the
parents as the chief culprits in what he describes as "a
sad commentary on the way Americans raise their children today."
His critique centers not only on the parents, but on the region
and the subculture in which the Tali-boy grew up:
moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, his parents placed him
of those 'alternative schools.' There, Walker was known
to his peers to be steeped in the sick culture of rap music.
So deep into the world of hip-hop did Walker plunge that he
actually sometimes pretended
to be black himself."
it a shame that the "gangsta" rap of "hip-hop"
is the only shred of authenticity
he could find, but, I wonder, can we blame the Tali-boy for
that? As for those dubious "alternative" schools
that supposedly poisoned young Walker-Lindh's mind
isn't home-schooling, a
favored cause of WND, also a form of "alternative"
education? Can anybody really be blamed for seeking an alternative
to mind-deadening and frequently dangerous public schools?
IT ON THE QUEERS
of this occurs to Farah, apparently, who continues with his
little morality tale:
other words, this kid wanted to be anyone other than who he
was. But it gets worse. About the same time, his father upped
and left his family and moved in with his homosexual lover.
If this kid wasn't having an identity crisis up until then,
this may have pushed him over the edge. Next, young Walker,
who stopped using his father's name, by the way, suddenly
got an interest in Islam – probably related to his immersion
into the black American Experience."
Goldberg, who seems have a bug up his I mean, seems
overly concerned about the Gay Question (he admits
to having a "very thick file on this subject") has
taken the same tack on this gay angle: Dr. Goldberg's
expert diagnosis is that the kid may have "flipped out"
when he discovered his father was gay. Goldberg, who
once wrote a column that brought up my own sexual orientation
in an inappropriate context, doesn't explain how or why
this fits in with the supposedly ultraliberal milieu in which
the Tali-boy was nurtured: if "do your own thing"
ultra-individualism is really such an intrinsic part of Marin
County culture, then why was young Walker-Lindh immune?
"he went nuts because his Dad's a faggot" scenario
fits in with Goldberg's prejudices, but not with the facts.
Like some nutball anti-Semite who is forever seeing the Elders
of Zion behind each and every disaster, Goldberg and his
ilk see the Elders
of Sodom as the secret masters of an insidious cabal,
one whose evil influence is practically omnipresent.
by the culture of permissiveness, and utterly without values
or direction, John Walker Lindh simply went stark staring
mad, and, before he knew it, found himself in Afghanistan
wearing a turban and fighting for the Taliban. There is a
major flaw in this otherwise neat and rather compact explanation
for the bizarre transformation of a privileged American teenager.
For if Farah and his fellow traditionalists would really look
at their arguments, and the trajectory of the Tali-boy's life,
they would see that the poor kid shared their critique of
the permissiveness of American culture: indeed, his whole
odyssey can be explained as a rebellion against social liberalism.
MSNBC put it in a news report:
teenagers, when they rebel, say they want more freedom. John
Walker Lindh rebelled against freedom. He did not demand to
express himself in different ways. Quite the opposite. He
wanted to be told precisely how to dress, to eat, to think,
to pray. He wanted a value system of absolutes, and he was
willing to go to extreme lengths to find it."
after all, is a young man who excoriates
another poster on a hip-hop newsgroup for writing that
drug use and hip-hip are practically synonymous:
when someone says something incredibly stupid, the people
around them will respond with remarks such as 'what are you
smoking?' and 'are you drunk?,' illustrating the obvious fact
that intoxicated people
do not think on the same level as normal humans. With this
in mind, are you then trying to say that you'd have to be
dwelling on a lower level of consciousness [sic] in order
to appreciate Hip-Hop music?"
sounds like they should've signed the Tali-boy up to be a
foot soldier in the war on drugs. Instead, he signed up to
fight in Afghanistan, where the Taliban were conducting a
growers of poppies as well as blowing
up ancient statues and cutting
kites loose from their strings.
suppose it's just by chance that a 16-year-old Johnny Walker
got caught up in the Koran, instead of the Bible or the writings
of the Reverend Sun
Myung Moon, but, in any case, can there be any doubt that,
instead of embracing the liberal values of his parents, the
Tali-boy was in full and open revolt against the permissive
society, a young ultraconservative whose disdain for the "do
your own thing" ethos of the sixties is shared by many
of the same people now calling for his blood? What better
way to express his disaffection from the woozy
Marinite "Buddhism" of Marilyn Walker, his mother,
than to join up with a group busily blowing up statues of
OF THE STONE AGE
Vanity Fair writer and left-wing war hawk Christopher
Hitchens exulted that the US has "bombed a country
out of the Stone Age," and this triumphalist war-cry
sums up the widespread idea that the "war on terrorism"
is a war for modernity. The streamlined fully-"globalized"
free-trading freewheeling world of the future-that-is-now,
where women are "liberated," and sexuality is unleashed
in all its various permutations, has triumphed in Afghanistan,
where burkas are being discarded and the warriors have gone
back to sodomizing
young boys. It won't be long before McDonalds
opens, or reopens, in Kabul, and already the marketplaces
at the seams with the American-made hip-hop
music that supposedly corrupted
the tender young mind of the Tali-boy.
YOUNG BILL BENNETT?
many American conservatives, John Walker Lindh is a rebel
against modernity. As he descries the facile hedonism of his
fellow hip-hoppers online, he sounds like a young Bill
Bennett denouncing the moral emptiness of American culture:
you finally given up on Hip-Hop? Are you ready to move on
to heavy metal this month, or is it back to alternative rock
like last month? Please keep rec.music.hip-hop
posted, we all love to hear your remarks and feelings on such
subjects as Foxxy
Brown's [under age] ass, rental cars, and which type of
soft drink is the coolest amoung [sic] those 'real heads'
against the Tali-boy could give him life in prison, and
include "engag[ing] in a conspiracy to kill nationals
of the United States while such nationals were outside the
United States," being a member of a designated terrorist
organization, and the relatively niggling count of contributing
"material support" to a terrorist organization (did
he give them his allowance?). Although it is far too early
to make any definitive judgment, the preliminaries already
indicate the weakness of the government's case.
begin with, the whole case could be thrown out of court on
the grounds that the young Taliban warrior wasn't given access
to a lawyer. Walker-Lindh's
lawyers are already claiming that the kid asked
for legal representation a few days after his capture,
and yet the government continued interrogating him. Ashcroft's
boys, for their part, insist he waived his rights and they
have a signed document to prove it. Yeah, but how did they
get him to sign it? Now, I'm sure we'll be seeing Alan Dershowitz,
libertarian, a whole lot during the upcoming trial,
and perhaps he would be willing to argue that we had the right
to torture the Tali-boy and to heck with a lawyer. But
I don't think any American judge is going to go for that line
of argument, and, if undue pressure is proven or even implied,
there is a real possibility that Ashcroft may not get his
show trial after all.
is, however, a great danger to the Tali-boy and his legal
team, and that is in the footage of him kneeling before Johnny
Michael Spann the CIA operative killed when captured
Al Qaeda fighters rebelled and not answering simple
inquiries, such as: who are you and how did you get here?
If Walker-Lindh was just a kid on a lark, one who, according
to his father and his lawyers, never made war on America and
"loves America," then how come he didn't jump for
joy at the sight of a fellow American? The Tali-boy's legal
team is bound to argue that, in fighting the Northern Alliance,
their client was not conspiring to kill American nationals.
But, if not, then why did he treat Spann like the enemy?
if the results
of interrogation are ruled inadmissible, this video footage
is powerful evidence that could lead to a conviction
especially if the government manages to successfully imply
or even prove that Walker-Lindh-"Suleyman" had anything
to do with Spann's death, either through an overt act or a
failure to act. Furthermore, if the results of the interrogation
aren't thrown out, and the government establishes that he
knew about the September 11 attacks, knew of bin Laden's responsibility
and still decided to stick
with his cause, then the Tali-boy had better kiss his
ass good-bye because, in that case, he is a perfect
sacrificial offering to the War God.
clueless, and thoroughly pathetic, they'll drag him to the
altar as the mob howls and hoots. Like Romans cheering the
most exquisite tortures of the arena, we'll look on the supine
and trembling Tali-boy as the knife is plunged into his youthful
flesh and roar with delight at this jolly entertainment, drowning
our sorrow and fear in an orgy of vengeance not against
Osama bin Laden, who is long gone, and by this time half-forgotten,
but against our own. The trial of John Walker Lindh will be
an act of vengeance turned inward: in the end, for Americans,
always all about them.
as the Justice Department mobilizes its apparently limitless
resources to prosecute a deluded nutball who's proved more
of a threat to himself than to anyone else, Ashcroft has issued
yet another security "alert" as if to
remind himself, as much as us, of the real danger.
Having focused the resources of his department on the Tali-boy,
I guess the long-promised
investigation into how US law enforcement and intelligence
agencies managed to miss a conspiracy that was at least five
years in the making will have to be delayed perhaps
indefinitely. Or, at least, until one day, years from now,
when we come upon an item buried in the back pages of the
Saturday paper, reporting that some obscure government commission
has just released a report "proving" that no one
was really culpable, and that the agencies involved need "reform."
KEEPING A STRAIGHT FACE
political uses of the Tali-boy's trial are too many and lucrative
to be passed up: Ashcroft and his journalistic
amen-corner are no doubt hoping for a long, drawn-out
affair, all the better to milk this to the max and achieve
the chief purpose of any show trial: to create an atmosphere
in which opposition to government policies is de-legitimized
and suspect. Oh, but how can you say that, why we live
in a free country, there's no such thing as censorship here.
Uh huh, and if you don't believe it, just
ask Matt Welch, the (pro-war)
"blogger" who informs us in the online edition
of Reason magazine that
hard to keep a straight face while crying 'censorship' in
21st century America with its cheap and widespread
Internet access, tiny percentage of state-owned media, and
hundreds of thousands of media jobs when you've met
people like Cuban baseball historian Severino Nieto. Nieto
has written more than a dozen important works of scholarship
since 1959, knowing full well that none will be published
in his lifetime unless Fidel Castro dies first. (El Jefe doesn't
like reminders that there were organized sports before the
course, not everyone is Susan Sontag: I'm sure that the Florida
being run out of his job, and the high
school teacher fired for his anti-war views, don't have
the clout of the "seven-figure role models" Welch
mocks. And certainly Welch doesn't contest what Sontag says,
since it's irrefutable: "It turns out, we have increasingly
become incredibly conformist, and very afraid of debate and
criticism." Yes, and even making a virtue out of it. As Welch
would say: "Too true! Pass the book deal!"
for those "hundreds of thousands of media jobs,"
a good many of them evaporated in the dot-com meltdown. I
suppose that, like Welch and his fellow "bloggers,"
they could all set up their own websites: indeed, it looks
to me like most of
them have. Good luck to them because if they think
they can make a living at it, they'll need all the luck they
hasten to add that this is a fact of life of which Welch and
and his fellow bloggers (pro-war and libertarian alike), are
all too painfully aware of; I also hasten to add that I am
not bewailing the "tyranny" of the market, or complaining
that antiwar or even cautionary opinions cannot get a proper
hearing on account of the capitalist system. I join with Welch
in celebrating the lack of government-owned media in the US.
it would be a mistake to infer, from this, that a party line
can't be enforced just as effectively in a market-driven system.
depend for their authority on the consent of the governed:
this was true even in totalitarian states such as the old
Soviet Union, and demonstrated beyond doubt in the collapse
of that empire: when popular consent was withdrawn, the whole
system came down with amazing rapidity.
same is true for our own system, and indeed for all governments
everywhere: their legitimacy is dependent on cheerleading
intellectuals who can manage to be convincing: academics,
"public intellectuals," and journalists who act
as a kind of chorus willing to shout "Amen!" whenever
some government official comes out with a policy pronouncement.
This cadre of court intellectuals is amply rewarded with emoluments
and various perks, and certainly the rest of Welch's tale
only confirms how this works. He starts out by telling us
how his last five or so articles were rejected since September
11, and concludes:
what do you know? I was able to find other editors from more
prominent, higher-paying publications who liked my rejected
columns just fine. Not only that, I can also publish anything
I want on my Web site, which costs $25 a month to maintain
and has more readers than Cuba has non-government Internet
users. It doesn't quite top Bill Maher's salary and sloe-eyed
perks, but at least I don't have to act like a moral jackass
in a comparatively free country."
we're free compared to Cuba: but do we really have John Ashcroft
to thank for that? Naturally, post-9/11, the pro-war Welch
has found more lucrative markets to mine: his "Wilsonian"
contempt for what
he calls "Consequentialist, Pacifist Chomskyite"
views is in the ascendant, and rising along with his
own career. Next month his screed pooh-poohing the human casualties
of the sanctions on Iraq is scheduled to appear in Reason,
a formerly libertarian magazine now run by someone who thinks
we can have liberty as long as we have the freedom to clone
and drug ourselves to death. (This is a magazine, by the way,
which tells us that Gulf War syndrome is a "myth,"
Accutane is harmless, and being a drug company means never
having to say you're sorry). The new, "hip" Gen-X
libertarians could care less if the US government rampages
halfway around the world: the only war they want to end is
the war on drugs. So much for "libertarianism" in
the post-9/11 world.
what you will about the Tali-boy, at least he aspired to something
higher than $200 sneakers and the "music" of Eminem
of the "new" Reason's cultural fixations).
As misguided, bizarre, and even downright evil as his cause
turned out to be, John Walker-Lindh believed in something
enough to actually fight for it unlike our young
laptop bombardiers, who are far too busy making good careers
out of this war to actually pick up a gun.
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