Monday, June 06, 2005

blame, etc.

back when i was in high school, we little ROTC-nazis had one of those freaky in-crowd in-joke sayings; it probably stemmed from some random incident that i can no longer recall, or maybe a movie. anyway, it was to jokingly admonish someone, usually for saying something outlandish or complaining or just plain stupid: "if this were wartime, you'd be shot!"

although i'm sure we never thought about it this way, the statement was a cross between that strange military category of breezily grim satirical banter and basic teenage weirdness -- a totally absurd and utterly illogical distortion of the concept of treason. a callow/callous mock-proclamation that was usually said with affection, sometimes exasperation. we probably never would've uttered it to anyone actually accused of treason. like, say ... bill maher or w. mark "deep throat" felt.

treason is the new black. yeah, sure, ann coulter and her ilk have already made the term fashionable by relentlessly linking it to liberals. but there's a certain facelessness to that -- such wide brushstrokes that the accusation scarcely rises above rhetoric. but this season, treason is not just a label wielded by blithering pundits or the babbling ex-stream of far-right blogs/websites (places that call NATO the "north atlantic treason organization" and say it is something called the "treason lobby" that supports (for example) drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants). it was all fairly ridiculous, until recently. when, about two weeks ago, alabama u.s. congressman spencer bachus claimed maher "bordered on treason" for making a stupid joke about military recruitment, it was like, yeah, whatever, this guy is a nut. although, still ... a member of the house of representatives flinging the word at a public figure (whose job is to make fun of shit, no less) wasn't exactly an attack from the fringe.

merriam-webster defines treason as

1 : the betrayal of a trust : TREACHERY;
2 : the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family

so i'm not sure to which "definition of treason" the esteemed congressman was referring in the above-linked article. again, accusing dissenters of treason has been a favorite amusement (lately, to say nothing of throughout history) since right after 9/11 and the start of the war (on terror, that is -- forever and ever, world without end); but making this charge of betrayal of one's country seems to be taking on extra dimensions.

after all, mr. bachus -- and how ironic that a man bearing the name of the roman god of wine and revelry should be such a buzzkill -- has, in his own lumpy way, lobbed salvos at two fronts. (a) if speech is treasonous, it is not protected by the first amendment. equating dissent and satire with treason, and targeting specific figures rather than generic antiwar protesters or "liberals," creates doubt in the public's lizard brain about what "should" be said, even by celebrities. (especially b/c the media lapdogs so obediently fetch the proper rhetorical question ... e.g., how quickly news outlets large and small began to ask, "is bill maher a traitor?" -- as if the decidedly un-dionysian spencer b.'s jab was worth real discussion.) concurrently, the more the accusation of treason is raised when pop folks ding the government (even with a lameass joke like maher's), the more potential impetus for the less politically minded and/or weaker-kneed in the public eye to watch their tongues. who needs the hassle? and (b) bill maher's show is on HBO, a pay-service television channel. not the public airwaves, and as such not subject to FCC prudishness. the forces of decency, however, would like to see this change. i just can't help feeling that this bill maher jest will eventually turn up on the FOD's list of cable "incidents" that prove pay TV is out of control and in need of gov't regulation.

it has only been two weeks since rep. bachus's ridiculous pronouncement, and now "deep throat," the unmasked FBI no. 2 who fed woodward & bernstein info to help bust open the watergate story, is somewhat more seriously accused of treason in some quarters. or at least it feels more serious. still, it's just as hard not to laugh. maybe felt is a traitor to such, ahem, disinterested parties as patrick j. buchanan (former nixon speechwriter). but the idea that this man should have gone through existing gov't channels to tell what he knew is fairy-tale thinking. besides, the press is (was?), after all, the fourth estate. it's interesting that someone like buchanan, who doesn't seem a moral relativist, should in his l.a. times op-ed i can't find a link to, equate the clinton/nixon cases by comparing felt -- treated as a hero -- and linda tripp -- treated as a scourge. he finds this discrepancy outrageous, and proof of a liberal media bias. (whatever. much more intriguing than this silliness is keith olbermann's postulation that felt had help.)

but nixon's crimes far outweighed clinton's. no matter how much gnarly sex bill lied about having or not having with monica, it doesn't compare to nixon's spying 'n' lying. felt -- supposedly spurred by resentment over his status, but even if that were his sole motivation, so what? -- ultimately served a higher truth, instead of the corruption-streaked gov't. again, interesting that his choice is reviled now by people who would claim that america serves a higher truth and as such is not answerable to any authority other than its own.

... which is why, some say, the bush administration is so relentlessly pushing democracy for the world. that is america's imperative now. eh, "spreading democracy" is just the flip side of "fighting terror" -- an open-ended, albeit more positive-sounding, mission that can be used as an excuse for just about anything we decide we wanna do. after all, as our action president has noted, those people over there in the middle east are scary barbarians whom we can barely even understand here in the civilized west. we can't reason with them; they are fanatics bent on our destruction. (wow, dubya really didn't misspeak when he called this war a crusade, huh?)

ack, but i question even the most obvious of battles these days. maybe this treason stuff is a macguffin, after all. america is divided along ultimately superficial lines -- while the divisions (and the dividers) of class and privilege remain undeclared and therefore unexplored ... and therefore unconquered. foamy-mouthed ranting about treasonous comedians is part of the diversion. (as is, arguably, this revelation in a great modern media mystery.) meanwhile, again with the irony, the bush adminstration understands that this squabbling amongst ourselves is hampering the hammerlike might of america, at least from a PR perspective. it seeks to take its message to a less us-vs.-them place (and more of a u.s.-vs.-them place, heh). look at the whole "people lost their lives b/c of the newsweek report" thing (and, hello, scott mcclellan? you did too say that, many times). even that obvious ploy of the liberal media agenda was given a partial pass -- before the declassifed FBI dox and whatnot came out -- by none other than first lady laura bush. while visiting the middle east recently, she noted that the riots in afghanistan weren't entirely newsweek's fault; after all, disturbing news gets printed in america all the time, she said, but people don't riot. now, why is that? well, it's b/c we, here in america, are not barbarians. are we?

1 comment:

Mick said...

"If this was wartime, you'd be shot." The ROTC goons might unknowingly be referencing Kent State, when, two/three wars ago, the Ohio National Guard finally got to bust caps on those fucking peacniks.