Posted by Audiegrl
Perfecting the Paranoid Style in 500 BC and 2009 by Peter Struck
From Buckley to Beck
by Peter Struck Back in 1996, I had a correspondence with William F. Buckley, Jr., who, like many of those on the Right at the time, had a habit of claiming ownership over the ideas and spirit of the classical past. So it wasn’t altogether surprising to see him on television aligning himself with Socrates and pressing for the triumph of absolutes over relativism. What did catch my ear was that Buckley was arguing in favor of the death penalty, and was using Socrates to make his case. I couldn’t resist writing the man about the cruel irony of holding up as a poster boy for the death penalty the Western Tradition’s most famous victim of it. Buckley responded promptly, but never really engaged the most challenging issue: that Socrates, the paragon of classical rationalism, was deeply suspicious of that other signature legacy of his countrymen, democracy. He saw it as a system of government whose weakness was precisely that it rewarded those who could most artfully whip up a bunch of hot-headed boobs with the power to kill whoever displeased them. At its worst, it was rule by mob.
It Was Cleon Who Shouted the Loudest
The archetype for Glenn Beck is a fifth century B.C. Athenian figure named Cleon, our first well-documented populist. Cleon represented a new class, made possible for the first time in democratic Athens. The notion that the whole people of Athens should participate in decisions collectively allowed for the rise of figures who presumed to speak for them. Cleon became wildly famous and successful not by coming from a powerful family, or by serving in regular office, but by delivering fiery speeches to thousands of Athenians in public. The Greek sources leave behind an unsparing portrait of an impulsive, histrionic bully. Aristotle tells us that “he was the first to use unseemly shouting and abusive language in the public assembly; and while it was customary to speak politely, he addressed the assembly with his cloak lifted up.” In Thucydides’ version, Cleon’s own lack of a pedigree provided him a plentiful source of resentment against those that had one, and he cast every self-aggrandizing gesture as a motivated by a love of the people over the aristocrats. He flattered his audience as being more capable of governing than the supposed experts in power. He personalized politics and under his influence those who disagreed with the state were referred to, for the first time in ancient Greece, as “haters of the people.” The comic playwright Aristophanes vividly portrayed him on stage as a man in a constant state of anger, his voice resembling the squeal of a scalded pig.
The 2,400-year-old temple of Ifestos, which sits in the ancient Agora of Athens, where ancient Athenian statesman Cleon placed shields captured in a victory over Sparta
From Beck to Buckley
In the line from Cleon to Beck there is hardly a wiggle. Less obvious but telling is the connection between both these figures and Buckley. Driven by an unyielding sense of their own correctness, all three are experts in the trade of absolutes, always pressing toward a higher-contrast world of black and white. While it has become utterly common to see people in the public sphere assume such a posture, it does not stand to reason that they must. Among Republicans, for example, one used to see a strain based on intellectual modesty, of resistance to grand theories and attempts to explain everything. Eisenhower built a coalition around such principles that held up for decades. Obama may well be up to doing the same. In order to get on with fixing what it was possible to fix, they recognized the usefulness of an ability to live with a degree of uncertainty, a quality that Goldwater, and later George Bush and Karl Rove, vanquished from the Republican Party.
William F. Buckley, Jr. and Glenn Beck
This Republicanism of certainty has had a good run, but it has likely reached the end of its appeal. David Brooks, whose sympathies attune with refinement to Eisenhower Republicanism, sounded its death knell in a recent column in the New York Times. If Beck’s days as the center of attention are numbered, as Brooks claims they are, it will not be because of his coarseness or his rejectionism, but because of his imperviousness to doubt. Intellectual hubris is tiresome in any case, but it is an especially odd standard to use to rally people who understand themselves as conservatives. Certainties are what one needs to upend things, and at a some point conservatives grow uncomfortable with that sort of thing. Cleon, that ancient voice of certainty, was not among the conservative lot at all, but a radical through-and-through.
Tea Party Protesters in Washington,DC
While Buckley was of course right to point to Socrates as someone who endorsed the idea that there are absolutes, he missed the most important part of the story. The Greek philosopher was equally convinced that only a fool and a demagogue would claim to know them. If only Buckley were around to teach this lesson too.
Founded and edited by Lewis H. Lapham, Lapham’s Quarterly is a New York-based journal of history that seeks to revitalize both our excitement and familiarity with the past. History, as Mark Twain supposedly said, may not repeat itself—but it does rhyme.
Mocking Politicians Has An Ancient History
Posted by Audiegrl
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Daily Kos/Senator Kirsten Gillibrand—Since 1994, almost 13,000 gay servicemen and women have been discharged from the military based not on their performance but on their sexual orientation. In 2009 alone, we’ve had more than 400 of our brave men and women leave the military under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. This is simply unacceptable. It is time to repeal this outdated and immoral policy once and for all and end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly and honestly in our armed forces.
To that end, I’ve secured the commitment from Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the Armed Services Committee, to hold the first hearing on the policy since it began 16 years ago. Chairman Levin expects to hold the hearing soon and it’s my hope that it will be instrumental in demonstrating the level of support that exists for repeal not only throughout the country — where polls consistently indicate that solid majorities oppose the policy — but within the military itself.
I’m happy to see that, as the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing approaches, there are signs of momentum building toward repeal.
On September 24, Majority Leader Harry Reid sent letters to the President and Secretary Gates reiterating his support for repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and requesting their recommendations to Congress on the policy. I agree with Senator Reid. I know the President opposes DADT, and I am confident he and his Administration will work to engage Congressional and military leaders in this debate.
Then, just last week, an article was published in the Joint Force Quarterly — a publication considered to be the scholarly journal of the Pentagon and released by the Joint Chiefs — that goes beyond addressing just Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but overtly calls for a repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the US military. In the article, Air Force Colonel Om Prakash writes:
After a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly. Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban.
It’s heartening to see such a strong statement coming from the top levels of the military. Not only did this article appear in a publication published by the Pentagon, but it was written by a man currently working under Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and was reviewed by the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen. Supporters of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell often cite the lack of support for repeal among the top levels of the military. With this article, those leaders are sending a clear signal that that’s simply not the case.
Then, yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial in which they cited the Joint Force Quarterly article and called for a reversal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Read more of the diary @
Pentagon Airs Criticism of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ in Journal Article: Backs Gay Troops, May Signal Brass Open to Debate
Posted by TheLCster
Boston Globe/Bryan Bender—An article in the Pentagon’s top scholarly journal calls in unambiguous terms for lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, arguing that the military is essentially forcing thousands of gay men and women to lead dishonest lives in an organization that emphasizes integrity as a fundamental tenet.
Joint Force Quarterly Magazine, Issue 55, 4th Quarter
The article in the upcoming issue of Joint Force Quarterly, which is published for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was written by an Air Force colonel who studied the issue for months while a student at the National Defense University in Washington and who concludes that having openly gay troops in the ranks will not hurt combat readiness.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of Pentagon leaders, but their appearance in a publication billed as the Joint Chiefs’ “flagship’’ security studies journal signals that the top brass now welcomes a debate in the military over repealing the 1993 law that requires gays to hide their sexual orientation, according to several longtime observers of the charged debate over gays in the military.
While decisions on which articles to publish are made by the journal’s editorial board, located at the defense university, a senior military official said yesterday that the office of Admiral Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs chairman who is the nation’s top military officer, reviewed the article before it was published.
“After a careful examination, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that unit cohesion will be negatively affected if homosexuals serve openly,’’ writes Colonel Om Prakash, who is now working in the office of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. “Based on this research, it is not time for the administration to reexamine the issue; rather it is time for the administration to examine how to implement the repeal of the ban.’’
related story: Sen. Reid Letter Appeals Directly To Obama: “Help Us Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Full Text here:: Sen. Reid’s Letter to President Obama