WHO’S A TOUGH GUY? COME ON, WHO’S A TOUGH GUY?

Glenn Greenwald on the fetishization of violence that characterizes Right Bedwetterstan:

"Bombing and killing Muslims is the only path for avoiding the humiliating scenarios which our nation's war cheerleaders carry around obsessively in their heads, and which are currently filling my inbox. They're not going to be the ones on their knees, begging. They're not going to be the "faggots." Instead, they are going to send others off to fight and bomb and occupy and kill and thereby show who is strong and tough and feel protected.

[...]

That is a major reason why -- despite the endless debates and overwhelming public sentiment -- we stay in Iraq (because to leave would be to "lose," to suffer a "humiliating defeat" at the hands of a laughing Al Qaeda), and it is why war with Iran is so appetizing for so many -- we need to show the world who is boss. It is warped psychology masquerading as political belief. And that is why nothing triggers hysteria of the sort in the above-excerpted post more than challenging the notion that it may not actually be necessary to wage Permanent and Endless War on Muslims. Arguing that is virtually tantamount to advocating that our nation's vicarious war cheerleaders be deprived of food, water and oxygen."

Ian Buruma also covered this in his contemplation of Norman Podhoretz's priapic dementia:

"The most articulate analysis of the obsession with power and violence was actually written by Podhoretz himself, in 1963, in his famous essay "My Negro Problem—and Ours." Despite what the title might suggest, it is actually an argument against racism and in favor of miscegenation. When Podhoretz grew up in Brooklyn, the common assumption was that Jews were rich and Negroes were persecuted. This was not how things looked to Podhoretz on the playground of his local public school, where poor Jewish boys like him were regularly being beaten up by Negroes: "There is a fight, they win, and we retreat, half whimpering, half with bravado. My first experience of cowardice." Negroes, he goes on, "made one feel inadequate. But most important of all, they were tough, beautifully, enviably tough, not giving a damn for anyone or anything.... This is what I envied and feared in the Negro...." And then there were the effete snobs, "the writers and intellectuals and artists who romanticize the Negroes, and pander to them," and "all the white liberals who permit the Negroes to blackmail them into adopting a double standard of moral judgment...."

The key to Podhoretz's politics seems to me to lie right there: the longing for power, for toughness, for the Shtarker who doesn't give a damn about anyone or anything, and hatred of the contemptible, cowardly liberals with their pandering ways and their double standards. Since Podhoretz, himself a bookish man, can never be a Shtarker, his government must fill that role, and not give a damn about anyone or anything."

Yes, the war in Iraq, and the frantic need to avoid appearing "weak," can be attributed in large part to the fact that many of these guys were picked on as kids.

As Greenwald notes, for many of these Cheeto-stained webnerds and pundits, military violence serves as a form of self-actualization. In my view, their celebration of violence has nothing to do with whether its application will or won't effectively reduce terrorism, everything to do with the trauma that they experienced on 9/11, the confusion, fear and anger that they still feel about it, and their belief that these feelings can be salved through the punishment of random Arabs and Muslims.

--Matthew Duss

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