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Exit ArchiveArchive for August 22nd, 2006

What a busy day for posts. And though this will once again preempt the hilarious OK Go treadmill video, I have to say something.

I’ve taken Bruce Tinsley to task before regarding his inability to be funny. For a comic strip writer, that’s what I would call a huge liability. And though he’s extremely conservative, and extreme conservatives simply don’t have it in them to be humorous (so goes my theory), he’s not alone in his poor humor on the funny pages. Hell, that stupid La Cucaracha comic is atrocious—head-banging-on-the-table atrocious—and it’s very liberal.

But I digress.

Here, look at the Mallard Fillmore from this Monday:

Mallard Fillmore Shoot the Baby

Yes, as you can see, not funny. But it’s also a bit infuriating, because that’s what happens when conservatives get a hold of anything complicated: They take a simplistic detail and use it as their talking point.

Of course Hezbollah, a terrorist, guerrilla operation, hides among the civilians of Lebanon. That’s how rats live. When you are fighting a huge power, like Israel or the U.S., and those huge powers have absolutely nothing in their hearts for you but, at the very best, dismissiveness, you really have no choice. If the U.S. got somehow taken over by, oh, I don’t know, an evil oligarchical government run by large companies and their friends, and that evil government began to, oh, I don’t know, chip away at the freedoms of its citizens until that government became, in the end, no better than the dictators and kings it still purported to loathe, and such events led to, oh, I don’t know, more subversive or violent oppression of the people… well, I imagine all patriotic countrymen who wanted to fight for the freedom that they were being denied would become, in effect, a terrorist, guerrilla operation. The oligarchy itself would waste no breath without calling the freedom fighters terrorists.

What’s so ignorant and ridiculous about the cartoon is that, were muggers to pull such a stunt with babies and other innocent people, the cops would not shoot at him. Or, rather, they should not shoot at him. Sure, that means the mugger has, for now, outsmarted the cops. But taking hostages is not anything new. It’s not like no mugger has ever hidden behind an innocent before.

Without being able to simply shoot the mugger, which is an extreme solution to begin with, the cops would have to rely on other means. Negotiation, perhaps. Or, as the movies like to show us, negotiation to buy time until another solution could be found. Suppose negotiation or another more covert way of apprehending the mugger were to fail and the mugger killed the baby before either killing himself or then being caught or shot by the cops… Who’s at fault for killing the baby? The mugger. If, while the mugger holds the child, the cops go in regardless, guns blazing, with the excuse that it is the only way to get this rat, then it is more likely the baby will die at their hands. In that scenario, who’s the one at fault? Law enforcement wold be at fault.

Those who choose to attack the mugger with the baby at risk and those who support people who make such violent decisions would claim it was the fault of the mugger for putting the baby in harm’s way in the first place. That kind of reasoning is slow-witted at best, calculatingly cruel at the worst. That sort of propaganda is no better than the mugger claiming that the police shooting at him were targeting the child.

In the Lebanon–Israel conflict, which still seems to be on hold, thank God, Israel was making the simplistic, inhumane, inelegant, cruel, and foolhardy choice in dealing with the rockets Hezbollah was firing into their country. They invaded a sovereign nation (the same thing we did in Iraq) to get at a military group that was, as anyone could have told them, not able to be destroyed with military might. If Israel really wants to destroy Hezbollah, they have to make measured, thoughtful, political choices. Hezbollah did not mainly arise out of brute force. It arose out of political and social circumstance. The only way to come close to destroying them militarily would be to nuke the entire region, and even then the annihilation of Hezbollah would not be assured.

The news is riddled now with stories of Hezbollah providing large cash payouts to people who suffered losses in the Israel attack. Harry Shearer, on Le Show, made an aside about how curious it was that Hezbollah was helping to repair the damage of the war while, in the U.S., our government isn’t doing anything tangible for the victims of hurricane Katrina. The point is that Hezbollah wins the hearts and minds of the people with a mix of propaganda and truly helpful financial and infrastructure contributions.

Israel gained nothing by destroying southern Lebanon for a month, and in fact will suffer political fallout from their foolishness. Just as the U.S. has gained nothing and lost much by having destroyed Iraq. Imagine how much more potent a non-military solution would have been in both Lebanon and Iraq. Were the U.S. to have worked for Saddam’s ouster through various well-placed and useful outlays of money and humanitarian aid, just think how much stronger our image would be. Such “soft power” solutions would not completely eradicate terrorism or resistance to the U.S., but it would lessen it and its attractiveness.

The trouble with such plans is that they take many, many years or even decades to bear fruit. Hawks don’t have any patience. Not until a war has begun, the justification for their existence is finally playing out, and all the friends of the government are raking in the cash from the building and selling of arms, are the hawks patient. Why should we accept that the military “war on terror” is going to be a long and hard one when it is unlikely to produce any good result? Why is it not more desirable to wage that long war with the morals and intelligence that are supposed to be the hallmarks of an advanced democratic civilization?

In the end, though Israel can claim they were not targeting innocent children, they certainly were. They knew that they would be killing many a civilian to get at the few rats that were hiding in their midst. Hezbollah can claim that Israel was purposefully targeting innocent children, even though they knew that, by being a target, they were in fact taking those innocent children hostage.

Who should have killed the children? Israel? Hezbollah? Should Israel have killed an exponentially larger number of civilians in a month than Hezbollah killed by launching the occasional, random rocket into Israel? Hezbollah’s rockets before the conflict were designed to kill civilians, but this is no excuse for Israel to retaliate in the same manner. In war, a baby killer is still a baby killer, no matter what the excuse.

To boil this all down to a mugger with a baby strapped to his front does nothing to enlighten, inform, or engage. It is not a sad truth or factoid, it is not a clever way to prove how evil Hezbollah is. It’s merely stupid. And it’s not even funny.

Therefore, I can only conclude what the headline here states: That Bruce Tinsley is an idiot.

Thank you, and good night!

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You may have noticed a new clump of little icons at the bottom of each post. These, in case you are unaware, are links to various social bookmarking and content websites. What the hell is that? Let me tell you, in as brief a way as possible.

Digg and reddit are sites that accept links to content on the Web. As you browse Digg or reddit, you vote on which articles you like. The more votes, the higher up the list it goes. Many items have gained a new Net-based notoriety this way, especially on Digg. and Furl are public bookmark sites. Here, you add bookmarks from any website to your account and share them with the universe. Then you can see how many other people like the same sites you do.

Technorati is like blog central. You can keep track of your favorite blogs, who’s linking to what, which topics are most popular, and any number of other interesting things.

Because it’s not in very good taste to promote your own work on these sites, I’m providing the links so that readers can more easily share the humor, passion, and drama of The Wren Forum. It’s a kind of passive–aggressive self-promotion, you see. Because there are too many of these new social sharing websites, I had to choose the ones I thought were most used. If you feel I should add one, let me know and I’ll check into it.

Enough of that, then. Since I seem to have preempted my previous post, which was much more amusing and worthwhile, I shall send you there now. Go! Go to my previous post!

I must be the last person in the universe to have seen this, but in case I’m not, and you are, here’s OK Go’s excellent video for their really catchy song, “Here It Goes Again.”

If you enjoyed that—how could you have not?—you can see some other videos at the OK Go site. The one for “A Million Ways” is another extremely fun dance vid.