The bubble

by Ted on May 21, 2004

Check out Sgt. Stryker on the bubble that some right-wingers are making for themselves regarding bad news from Iraq (via Gary Farber). He sees this as a mirror image of a left-wing bubble that has existed since September 11th.

Stryker is a likable, moderate right-winger, whom I greatly respect. I have no doubt that he’s calling it like he sees it. Here’s my attempt to call it like I see it:

I don’t think that it’s the same thing. Left-wingers spend a lot of time just talking to each other. That’s one kind of bubble. And, there’s no doubt that movement left-wingers and movement right-wingers have a tendency to trumpet news that’s congruent with their political attitudes, and a tendency to scrutinize contrary news more carefully. And, I have no doubt that, for all of us, the other side’s tendency is much, much more frustrating than our own. This leads to the totally, totally awesome posts wherein someone discovers that those treacherous Elses haven’t made enough noise about X, proving that their alleged belief in equality/liberty/ lies in tattered rags.* But it’s inevitable.

What isn’t

Finally, if you haven’t heard the Sgt. Stryker’s piece about the bubble that some right-wingers are making for themselves regarding bad news from Iraq (via Gary Farber). He sees this as a mirror image of a bubble that the left has been in.

Stryker is a likable, pro-war moderate right-winger, and I have no doubt that he’s calling it like he sees it. Here’s me calling it like I see it, in brief:

I don’t think that it’s the same thing. There’s no doubt that movement left-wingers and movement right-wingers have a tendency to embrace news that’scongruent with their political attitudes, and a tendency to scrutinize contrary evidence more carefully. This opens us all up for totally, totally awesome posts wherein someone discovers that those treacherous Elses haven’t paid enough attention to our favorite story, proving that they hate America/freedom/minorities/whatever. But, it’s probably inevitable.

However. Left-wingers haven’t put the loathing and rejection of the mainstream media close to the center of their intellectual movement.

I can have an intelligent discussion with someone who argues that (say) the biases of reporters lead them to unconsciously slant the news toward liberal points of view. I generally don’t, because I’m sick of it, but sometimes they’ve got some reasonable points.

What I’ve seen recently is different. I’m seeing a number of conservatives who seem to think that the media is deliberately doing what it can to lose the war in Iraq in order to discredit Bush. Matthew Yglesias puts it well:

Flip over to, say, Instapundit and you’ll see that Baudrillard simply spoke of the wrong Gulf War when he said it didn’t really happen. Over there, it appears, the second Gulf War is just a social construction of the virulently anti-Bush US news media. Nevermind that the foreign news media paints a distinctly bleaker picture. Nevermind that some of the voices of bleakness (Bill Kristol, George Will, etc.) can hardly be said to be virulently anti-Bush or liberal. Just nevermind. Bad news can be dismissed because the media is biased, and you can tell the media is biased because they keep reporting so much bad news!

Here’s Roger Simon: “In a world where people’s heads are being lopped off and others are being castrated live these sleazy careerists (the media) are hellbent on winning an election over all.” He simply refuses to believe any negative story from Seymour Hersh. Instapundit sees pictures of vandalized New York Times newboxes and asks for more. One of his readers emails “I’ve tuned out the MSM (mainstream media) and rely on the ‘Net — bloggers,, etc. — to keep me informed, which it does quite well. That way I get all the info but don’t have to endure Dan, Tom and Peter, Wolf, etc. I miss nothing that’s happening but I gain all the stories that the mainstream media simply ignore.”, for Christ’s sake. Ralph Peters writes about “journalists sympathetic to terrorists and murderers” and says that in Falujah, “The media weren’t reporting. They were taking sides. With our enemies. And our enemies won. Because, under media assault, we lost our will to fight on.” (The pen is that much mightier that the sword, apparently.) The President himself “to see his news reading largely, if not entirely, as an exercise in detecting liberal media bias,” in Josh Marshall’s words, and prides himself on avoiding opposing viewpoints. Mort Kondracke writes that “The American establishment, led by the media and politicians, is in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq.” (It’s funny; Republicans control all three branches of the federal government, have a loud, loyal media megaphone, and control a political machine that would make Lyndon Johnson weep with envy. And yet, many still see themselves as being under the boot of “the establishment”, and think that they can pawn off responsibility for their failures on a handful of critics. It reminds me of one of my favorite Digby posts. Anyway…)

I’m coming to believe that the incredible popularity of the “blame the liberal media first” mindset is going to be pretty bad for the country.



by Jon Mandle on May 21, 2004

A review of Michael Ignatieff’s The Lesser Evil below the fold.

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Design for Kerry

by Eszter Hargittai on May 21, 2004

A propos election designs, check out Designs on the White House. Their goal is to generate great T-shirt designs for the Kerry campaign and then sell them to support the campaign. There will be some public voting and then voting by a list of judges (which for some curious reason does not include any Timberites;). They have sevaral themes: Best Pro-Kerry Shirt (positive spin, no mention of Bush), Best Anti-Bush Shirt (negative spin, must mention Bush), Best Issue Shirt – Domestic, Best Issue Shirt – Foreign, Funniest Shirt, Best Retro Shirt, Best Get Out The Vote Shirt and Most stylish. Be sure to check it out and also get those creative juices flowing and submit your own designs/quotes!!

I noticed the W has made it on to their list. Great minds think alike. (Hey, I can say that, it wasn’t my idea, it was a friend’s.) Oh, and for those interested in some W wearables immediately, here they are. I have added some circular Ws and some baby options in response to commentators’ requests.

UPDATE: As expected, others had thought of and implemented the W design a while ago. Take your pick: one, two, three, four. Thanks to a reader for pointing me to these sites.

Phone numbers

by Eszter Hargittai on May 21, 2004

Obviously there are tons of ways in which one can study memory and recall from the trivial to the immensely important. This morning I was wondering about a tiny corner of this area: how do people remember numbers, and in particular, phone numbers? I wish I had a better reason than the following for bothering with all this. I was woken up, for the nth time, by a phone call from a number that looked much like mine. What gives?

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Whisperers are communists

by Maria on May 21, 2004

The New America Foundation has put together a Cartoon Guide to Federal Spectrum Policy. It is very amusing and quite compelling, though more technically minded people than me can assess the argument made there; that industry lobbyists are using meaningless technical mumbo jumbo to avoid sharing radio spectrum, and that licensing of spectrum is increasingly a barrier to entry and innovation. Well worth a look.

More on Darfur

by Chris Bertram on May 21, 2004

The Scotsman has a cluster of reports on Darfur, “starting here”: , which also contains many links to other reports including the one from “Human Rights Watch”: .

bq. “The aim is to kill as many people as possible and drive the remainder from their lands, destroying the fabric of rural society,” reports the specialist journal Africa Confidential. “Proxy militias torch villages and exterminate villagers, slaughtering livestock and poisoning wells with corpses to prevent residents returning. Gang rape of women (often branded afterwards) and children reinforces the terror and helps to produce an ‘Arab’ next generation. Abduction is widespread in Darfur, with groups of women flown away by helicopter.”

The corrosiveness of war

by Chris Bertram on May 21, 2004

Staff Sgt. Camilo Mejia is facing a court martial for refusing to go back to Iraq. His case is described in “Bob Herbert’s column in the NYT”: . His testimony about the morally corrosive circumstances in which soldiers find themselves in wars of this kind is eloquent. The situation is underdescribed, but it sounds as if his friend was legally justified in shooting the child he shot. That doesn’t seem to have made things any easier.

bq. “Imagine being in the infantry in Ramadi, like we were,” he said, “where you get shot at every day and you get mortared where you live, [and attacked] with R.P.G.’s [rocket-propelled grenades], and people are dying and getting wounded and maimed every day. A lot of horrible things become acceptable.”

bq. He spoke about a friend of his, a sniper, who he said had shot a child about 10 years old who was carrying an automatic weapon. “He realized it was a kid,” said Sergeant Mejia. “The kid tried to get up. He shot him again.”

bq. The child died.

bq. All you really want to do in such an environment, said Sergeant Mejia, is “get out of there alive.” So soldiers will do things under that kind of extreme stress that they wouldn’t do otherwise.

bq. “You just sort of try to block out the fact that they’re human beings and see them as enemies,” he said. “You call them hajis, you know? You do all the things that make it easier to deal with killing them and mistreating them.”

bq. When there is time later to reflect on what has happened, said Sergeant Mejia, “you come face to face with your emotions and your feelings and you try to tell yourself that you did it for a good reason. And if you don’t find it, if you don’t believe you did it for a good reason, then, you know, it becomes pretty tough to accept it — to willingly be a part of the war.”

Timber & Twigs in Singapore

by John Holbo on May 21, 2004

Kieran and co. came to visit. Pictures here.

The Corner

by Belle Waring on May 21, 2004

Some really inspiring poetry from the National Review Online. Sample:

We face scheming murderers with calm defiance.
They have soulless evil, we have self-reliance.
They butcher civilians, their cruelty shows.
Our steel, true steel, is tempered by blows.

Let them come and dare face us, or run, if they choose.
In battle or treachery, the wicked shall lose.
For the acts of their madness are in truth their death throes.
They’ll die on our steel that they’ve tempered, with blows.

Isn’t rhyme great? I think it’s clear that only soulless lefties could be moved by the blank free verse (thanks Rachel) so popular with all the modernist kids these last 80 years or so. Give me good, old-fashioned rhyme any day! And moral clarity! The author, one Rob S. Rice, is a classicist, and on behalf of classicists everywhere I’d like to offer a remorseful apology. Sorry about the whole Victor Davis Hanson thing, too. In fact, I’m going to step up to the plate and take full responsibility for both men (N.B. no actual consequences follow from this.)

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by Eszter Hargittai on May 21, 2004

We’ve discussed bumper stickers here before. A friend of mine recently said she’d like to find a sticker that is simply a W crossed out. I picture one of those country letter stickers, but with a strikethrough. By the way, no need to search aimlessly for your preferred fender decoration, there are services that allow you to make customized ones. I used one such service to create a Crooked Timber sticker:) and was happy with the outcome.

UPDATE: I couldn’t resist. Get your W oval bumper sticker, T-shirt, baseball cap and many other goodies here.