Monday, March 16, 2009

Why We Fight

A couple weeks ago, I posted a rebuttal to Captain "Mike" Caldwell's latest guest editorial in the Newport Daily News, in which, among other things, I alluded to Eileen's questions about whether Cap'n "Mike" was a real person. In comments, Eileen pointed out that Cap'n "Mike" is actually named Warren, which was why she couldn't find any public information about him before.

Also in comments was one by Bill Gauch of the Rhode Island Review Blog. Along with the standard right-wing talking points about the ARRA, Bill asked an interesting question: "If you know (or strongly believe) that this guy is either a crack-pot or make believe, why bother to respond here or in the paper?" That question, at least, merited a reasoned response, so this is it.

The answer is that even if Cap'n "Mike" wasn't a real person, the opinions he expresses are shared by a lot of people (including Bill Gauch). That makes it worth my while to respond, because right-wing talking points should never be allowed to go unanswered, no matter the source.

For instance, take my response to last year's Cap'n "Mike" two-part epic, in which Our Captain bashes Anderson Cooper for playing a videotape of Iraqi insurgents killing American troops. The roots of Cap'n "Mike"s fauxtrage go back to the 1960s, when another president from Texas got the United States stuck in another overseas military quagmire through another act of blatant dishonesty. Back then, it was LBJ using the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to justify sending American combat troops into South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was a bit of Cold War madness that was marked by nonstop misinformation and disinformation by the Johnson administration and the Pentagon, so it's no surprise that there was a lot of opposition to the war, especially as American casualties mounted and it became clear that the government was lying its collective ass off about the whole thing.

However, what conservatives like Cap'n "Mike" took from the Vietnam War was the odd conviction that if the TV networks hadn't broadcast images of the fighting, and of American casualties, everything would have been all right. They decided that the only way to prevent the public from opposing military action was to keep the public as ignorant as possible. That was the rationale behind the Poppy administration's tight control over information during the Noriega takedown and the Persian Gulf War, and the Dubya administration's equally tight restrictions on media coverage of the Iraq War (such as the policy prohibiting the display of images of flag-draped coffins). This is also the reason why Cap'n "Mike" and his fellow conservatives scream like angry babies whenever the media manages to show the public things like dead bodies, especially dead American bodies. And this is the reason Cap'n "Mike" accused Anderson Cooper of destroying America's cultural soul.

It would have been irresponsible of me to let Cap'n "Mike"s ridiculous and ahistorial World War 2 analogy to go unanswered, and it would have been equally irresponsible to let him get away with pretending that his own fake outrage over realistic war coverage was shared by the general public.

Finally, I would be remiss if I failed to point out to Cap'n "Mike" and his fellow conservatives that the Iraq War disproves their thesis that "negative" (ie realistic) media converage of combat drives public disapproval. The media has largely (and cravenly) knuckled under to government pressure to whitewash the Iraq War, but the public turned against the war anyway. And the reason they turned against the Iraq War was the real reason they turned against the Vietnam War: because it was an unnecessary war based on lies, and people naturally dislike that sort of thing.

Anyway, I hope this answers Bill Gauch's question about why I bother to respond to a possibly imaginary right-wing-talking-point-spewing person. However imaginary the person, the talking points are very real and malignant, and must be countered.
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