The Jane Fonda Myth

by Henry on November 15, 2005

Rick Perlstein “writes”:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v27/n22/perl01_.html in the _London Review of Books_ about how the American right constructed a mythology around Jane Fonda in order to delegitimize opposition to the Vietnam war. As Perlstein says, Fonda wasn’t a saint, and indeed represented a particular form of starry-eyed liberal masochism. But that isn’t the point – the Nixon administration and its supporters engaged in a systematic campaign of misinformation to make Fonda and anti-war veterans into hate-figures.

bq. The urinal stickers would not be far behind. Every time Nixon ratcheted down the US commitment to the war, he launched an attack on the people who called on him to ratchet down the commitment. Che Guevara spoke of creating a New Socialist Man. The president’s upright vanguardists in the Operation Homecoming travelling circus did a much more effective job of inventing a new sort of capitalist subject: New Republican Man, willing to believe anything to preserve some semblance of faith in American innocence.

While Perlstein doesn’t draw an explicit parallel with what’s happening today, it’s lurking just beneath the surface of his argument. The current efforts of “various right wing propagandists”:https://crookedtimber.org/2005/08/16/witchfinders-general/ to tar the anti-war left as traitors smack of Nixon’s smear campaign in the 1970’s. Perlstein’s account is also an important cautionary tale for the left. Then, as now, there was a widespread perception on left and right that the war was a disaster. Nonetheless, Nixon succeeded in using it as a wedge issue to split voters from the Democratic party, and to generate a set of pernicious myths that last to this day (not only Hanoi Jane’s treachery, but bogus stories about “anti-war protesters spitting on veterans”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?link_code=ur2&tag=henryfarrell-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&path=tg/detail/-/0814751474?v=glance). While the public is beginning to accept that the Iraq war was a disaster, few people want to acknowledge that the US has been responsible, as it has been, for systematic abuse of prisoners and civilians, for outsourcing torture to its allies, and for itself directly engaging in torture. People are going to be looking to create scapegoats to preserve the image of American innocence, and to turn this to political gain. It’s important that they’re not allowed to get away with it.

Abortion and the EU

by Chris Bertram on November 15, 2005

I’ve been meaning to post on the issue of abortion and the European Union. Not to discuss the substantive merits of the case — I’m pro-choice, since you ask — but, rather, to get some reactions. The Portuguese constitutional court has now decided to “block a referendum”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4387406.stm to liberalize the law until September 2006. Naturally, I hope that the referendum, when it is eventually held, produces a majority in favour of reform. But I got to thinking about how outrageous it would be if the EU centrally, or the ECHR, decided what the law in Portugal should be rather than the Portuguese people themselves. It seems, though, that “not everyone agrees with me”:http://217.145.4.56/ind/news.asp?newsitemid=23897 :

bq. Finding ways to force countries such as Ireland, Portugal and Malta to liberalise their abortion laws was the focus of a meeting of 17 members of the European Parliament and representatives of various NGOs who gathered in Brussels on 18 October, LifeSiteNews reported.

bq. At a conference entitled, Abortion – Making it a right for all women in the EU, attendees heard testimony from abortion advocates from countries with restrictive abortion laws.

bq. Held at the European Parliament building, participants strategised about ways to make a right to abortion mandatory for all member states of the European Union. They discussed ways of arguing that guaranteeing the right to abortion falls under the European Union’s mandate because it is a human rights and public health issue.

The EU isn’t structually similar to the US (despite what some commenters at CT appear to believe), but there are obvious parallels here to the Roe v. Wade issue. Personally, I think that the right of a demos to decide these things after intelligent public debate should not be sacrificed lightly in favour of empowering a bunch of (foreign) judges, just to get the substantive result one likes. I would also imagine that if the EU starts to impose a view then that will have very damaging effects on the cohesion of the Union. But I’d be interested to get the views of others.

Pajamarama

by Kieran Healy on November 15, 2005

When I read a while ago that “Judith Miller”:http://www.buzzmachine.com/index.php/2005/10/31/i-dont-wear-pjs/ was set to give the keynote speech at the launch party of “Pajamas Media”:http://pajamasmedia.com/, I honestly thought it was a joke. (Pajamas Media is soon to be renamed, is set to launch tomorrow, and is kind of holding company for a “large and somewhat varied collection”:http://pajamasmedia.com/pj-profiles.php of mostly conservative bloggers.) But now one of their recruits, Dan Drezner, “confirms that it’s true”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/002417.html. He seems a little queasy about it, and I don’t blame him. I’m not sure what Pajamas Media is supposed to be all about (and I’m “not the”:http://rogerailes.blogspot.com/2005_11_13_rogerailes_archive.html#113206774093987333 “only one”:http://www.thepoorman.net/2005/11/14/bunched-pjs/). It might be meant as a conservative “Huffington Post”:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/, binding its generally conservative contributors into a common online outlet. Or it might be a looser association of independent sites — some sort of syndication network meant to generate advertising revenue. In either case, I don’t quite see where the money is going to be raked in from an initiative like this, but what do I know? I have to say, though, that if I were in Dan’s shoes I think I’d have said no to the invitation, and certainly have hit the eject button by now. They have some smart people on board (like Dan himself), but seeing as Charles Johnson (of Little Green Footballs) is running the show and the likes of “Michelle Malkin”:http://pajamasmedia.com/pj-profiles.php?p=2005/11/michellemalkincom_michelle_mal.php have joined the “Editorial Board,” the whole thing reminds me of an apparently lavish buffet at a dodgy restaurant: there’s plenty on offer, and maybe some of it looks good, but there’s also a rancid smell in the air that won’t go away.