January 29, 2008


I did not watch Bush last night. I just can't. Listening to him talk is just more than I can take. Watching him talk is even worse--with the smirk, and the silent laugh, and the shoulder shake. Sigh.

But this is an interesting trend. Actual media fact checking! Who would have thought about something this radical. At least NPR fact checked the speech and suggested that the President was not being honest when he said this about the FISA law:
"Unfortunately, the Congress set the legislation to expire on Feb. 1. This means that if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. The Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America."
The NPR blog disagrees with how the President defines what will expire, but I was most taken with how he described (again) telecom immunity. "The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America." Believed? Doesn't he know? Doesn't anyone know? And if they didn't do anything, why give them immunity? And if they did nothing wrong, why give them immunity?

Speaking of that FISA vote, yesterday Democrats were able to defeat a Republican move that would have guaranteed telecom immunity and all sorts of other hideous provisions. We aren't out of the woods yet, but we have more time, as the blog Obsidian Wings puts it: to fight another day. So if you are inclined to make a phone call, now is the time. But speaking of this train wreck of a bill, our great leader has threatened to veto if congress were to simply pass a one month extension. Glenn Greenwald points out just what that means:
This veto threat is one of the President's most brazen acts ever, so nakedly exposing the fun and games he routinely plays with National Security Threats. After sending Mike McConnell out last August to warn that we will all die without the PAA, Bush now says that he would rather let it expire than give Congress another 30 days. He just comes right out and announces, then, that he will leave us all vulnerable to a Terrorist Attack unless he not only gets everything he wants from Congress -- all his new warrantless eavesdropping powers made permanent plus full immunity for his lawbreaking telecom partners -- but also gets it exactly when he wants it (i.e., now -- not 30 days from now).


I am reading more of the Faludi book. It relates so well to several of the conversations we have had on this blog. She contends that immediately after 9-11, people (and especially conservative commentators) started talking about how needless and even harmful feminism was to our culture. Faced with terrorism, they argued, nurturing little boys or trying to teach healthy conflict resolution was national suicide. Of course we had Falwell's rant that feminism and their "fellow travelers" allowed 9-11 to happen (which he still argued right before his death). The National Review accused feminists of taking the side of terrorists, and another suggested that American multi-culturalism was actually encouraging the spread of radical extremism in the Muslim world. Others charged that feminism had undermined us by making the men more like women--almost indistinguishable. Faludi noted the parallel statement by the Taliban attorney general Maulvi Jalilullah Maulvizada, "who had earlier told a journalist that when women are given freedom, 'men become like women.'" (23-24) Bill Bennett said that feminism had infected generations of men teaching them that violence was "always wrong." Mark Steyn made fun of Oprah and any women calling for peace. Susan Sontag and Barbara Kingsolver were pilloried and hated for suggesting some reasoned response to 9-11--some measure of introspection. Fallwell did it by blaming gays and feminists, and he was chided. Sontag and Kingsolver got death threats. Katha Pollitt was told to "go back to Afghanistan, you bitch."

What was most interesting to me was her contention that in this post 9-11 world, the contributions of women outside the home became almost invisible. Even those women who participated in the rescue effort, or who lost their lives trying to rescue people in the World Trade towers were ignored. Instead, the male fireman was elevated to a superman-like status. The heroes of flight 93 were assumed to be the men, not the women flight attendants or passengers. Police and fire departments across the country started hiring women less and less, because the political climate had changed. The Bush admin no longer even participated in gender discrimination employment suits. The message was clear--you women don't belong out here with the men.

It is that context, I think, that is the backdrop of both Al Mohler's concern about "women graduates" and groups like the Godmen's concern about "wussified men."
Faludi contends that our response to 9-11 was not to look at our culture, our foreign policy, our consumption, etc., but to simply go back to previous narratives to help us. In this case, the dominant narrative was the heroic masculine man and the helpless female. Even when that didn't fit. Not only in the case of those female responders at the WTC, but also in the narrative. The most telling detail, at least for me, was when the Bush people organized a PR film with some people from Hollywood to spin the GWOT. This film (which I completely missed) was called "The Spirit of America" and evidently played in thousands of theaters across the country. A montage of scenes from American cinema celebrating the male hero--and bookended with the opening and closing scenes from the Searchers. For these people, the American hero was Ethan Edwards, a racist killer who rescued his own niece, true, but after he attempted to kill her himself.



Mary said...

I thought it was really disorienting to hear NPR's announcers describe their upcoming broadcast of the SOTU as "live coverage and fact-checking". Am I the only one whose jaw dropped? An overt admission by a mainstream news source that we can't believe a word this man says to us? Has any other president's SOTU had to be fact-checked? I am so ready for this interminable Twilight Zone episode to be over.

steves said...

I thought that the Searchers was a good movie. Ford intended that the character of Ethan Edwards to be a driven, vengeful, racist to show how this contributed to the genocide of the native people.

ubub said...

"She's gone Comanch!"

Clearly Ford intended Ethan to be an anti-hero, but I am much less certain that your average John Wayne fan grasped that aspect of the film. Ethan and his ethos seem to be celebrated rather than villified.

As far as NPR, if they continue to act like responsible journalists, they cannot be surprised when their federal support is yanked. They need to be more fair and balanced in order to enjoy the public largesse.

Streak said...

Absolutely Ford intended the film to communicate that Ethan was the anti-hero. I am convinced of that. But as Ubub says, he played it so close to the line that many people have read it as an endorsement of racism. I would expect film people to understand a little more than that. And how someone could read the rescue of the girl (after trying to kill her) as the main point of the film is beyond me. But then again, that explains a lot of what Faludi is suggesting here.

I think we can agree that NPR should be rewarded for this. So pick up your damn phones and pledge now.

steves said...

Maybe, but I saw it when I was 13 or 14 and seemed to figure it out, and I certainly miss plenty of stuff. I don't think it is fair to Ford to judge him on what some people misinterpret as the point.

This was a good essay.

steves said...

I agree that many people at that time probably didn't get it. Not that they were stupid, but rather they would have bought into the myth that Ford was trying to address.

Streak said...

Yeah, and Steve, you would be amazed at how many people today do the same thing. These mythic narratives cast a long shadow.