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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Conservative Blog Telephone Game

by folkbum

Over the weekend, Keith Schmitz wrote a long post that started in a great restaurant and ended with a cogent analysis of where Rudy Giuliani's campaign for president has gone off the rails. Well, not so much as gone off the rails as stalled in its tracks: Whatever actual success Rudy has had over the years has been subsumed in his insistence that his ability not to freak out in front of a camera on 9/11 makes him some kind of American hero.

Reality, of course, is not Rudy's friend: It is now clear that dozens, if not hundreds, of firefighters died becuase of Rudy's incompetence. Rudy credits 9/11 for his use of a treacly cell phone gag. Rudy supporters are doing "911" fundraisers (donations from which, to his credit, Rudy's trying to return). Rudy's made 9/11 his brand, which is offensive and denigrating to the day and the memory of those who died (including those who died because of his office's ineptitude).

Rudy is doing this not (solely) because Rudy is a bit of a tone-deaf idiot. He's doing this because the base that will be voting in the Republican primary eats it up--which is why, nationally, Rudy is leading big in the polls.

However, this post is not about Rudy, or even Republicans. This post is about right-wing bloggers, and what is clearly the bigger insult to 9/11 in their minds: A math error.

Here's how it went down. Keith's post included this:
[Rudy's] speeches have been diagnosed with being afflicted with 9/11 Tourette Syndrome, though lately Hillary Clinton Tourette Syndrome has crept into the spiel.

The answer in part lies in the fact that Rudy is desperate to become president, and he has to appeal to the base of the Republican base to get to the nomination.

In part this impugns on the people who are active in the Republican party who want to be treated like rubes. Yes, 9/11 was terrible, but 5,000 planes went up that day and 4997 planes landed, as have pretty much all the planes since 9/11.

Yes, there are people who want to kill around the world but there always have been people around the world who are so motivated. But it does us no good to be as irrational as they are. That to these old eyes looks like winning for the other side. [. . .]

This country is hungry for positive leadership, for vision and for our cities to be rebuilt. This is the type of boldness many of our Democratic leaders sad to say lack.

This is the type of leadership that a great country has, and Rudy could run on that if he didn’t have to cater to those in his party who spout macho but who cower in fear when they see someone in a turban get on their plane. Rudy could do this but his die has been cast and it would be tough to shift gears at this point.

This fear that politicians have ginned up through this decade has cost us and squandered opportunity in ways we have yet to appreciate.
You probably saw it right away, too, and the response in comments was quick: "4997? You count United 93 as a landing?" Keith, pretty quickly, responded with an "oops" and corrected himself. From there, it just got worse.

Aaron, whose comment that was, above, was first out of the gate with a lament that mostly mirrored--and preceded--the comment (thus preceding Keith's correction, too). But Aaron added, "In the effort to whitewash 9/11, do we really need to forget what actually happened?" I'm not convinced that there is anything in Keith's post to whitewash anything; I think his 5000 planes sentence was a bit clumsy, but if you kept reading, you could easily see that trying to forget or ignore (or "whitewash," even) what really happened on 9/11/01 was the last thing Keith was up to.

I made a comment to precisely that effect at Wiggy's place, when the Wigmaster joined the fray:
I remember when Jay Bullock thought it was unfair that I linked his blog with Cindy Sheehan and the Fighting Bob fest types. You're right Jay. You've got people writing on your blog right now that are writing things far wackier than anything Cindy Sheehan has said or done. No wonder Jay's fleeing to the Journal Sentinel.

Even more amazing, Schmitz must really think 9/11 wasn't a big deal because he can't even remember the number of planes.
The Wiggy Wiggy One is referring, I think, to this lovely moment, when he noted that I was depressed over thousands of war dead and that Cindy Sheehan was depressed because no one was paying attention to her anymore. You tell me if I was right to question that association. You can also tell me whether His Wigness is right to think that Keith feels that 9/11 "wasn't a big deal" based on What Keith Actually Wrote.

But Aaron and Jimmy the Wig are generally good-natured folk, and below the concern in Jim's post, there's an off-hand tone. But this is the Conservative Blog Telephone Game, remember. So the next post to pop up with outrage is from John McAdams, in a post titled Folkbum: 9/11 No Big Deal. Now, I can't prove that McAdams came to Keith's post from Wigderson's. But note that the post title "9/11 No Big Deal" plays on Wiggy's "wasn't a big deal" line. Also note that McAdams has responded to this blog only one other time ever, when he went after guest-poster Bryan Kennedy--after being alerted to Kennedy's post via Owen at Boots and Sabers. This suggests that McAdams doesn't really read this blog unless appropriately directed here first. Wigderson is on McAdams's blogroll; Aaron's Subject 2 Change is not. Anyway, here's McAdams:
That’s what being a liberal does to your mind. You not only label as “rubes” those people who care about 9/11, you assert that the murder of 3,000 Americans is no big deal! [. . .] And it can’t be that there is a real terrorist threat, or people who really want to kill Americans (an odd notion coming from folks who are constantly touting the death toll of American soldiers in Iraq). It’s all just the invention of those evil politicians.
In the process, McAdams quotes almost as much of Keith's post as I did--except for the paragraph where Keith explains that he thinks terrorism is a big deal! (The "people who want to kill us" one.) And McAdams seems to miss Rudy's creative campaigning:
Giuliani said the United States has disrupted 23 terrorist attacks against the United States since Sept. 11, 2001. That number seems high. Even if you count attacks that were disrupted in their infancy, there have not been more than a dozen that were targeting the United States. [. . .] A quick check of homeland security experts found some bafflement at the 23 number. Maybe Giuliani knows some things we don't, which would be surprising considering he has not held a public sector job since 2001. [...]

Another terrorism expert, speaking on anonymity, also said he was not confident in the idea of 23 thwarted terrorist attacks. He points out that President Bush declassified aspects of several thwarted terrorist plots in May, but mentioned only about a dozen. He notes that it would have been in the White House's best interest to discuss more if there were so many others.
No . . . no "invention" of "evil politicians" there! (There are more Giuliani falsehoods for your reading pleasure at that link.)

So the story so far: Keith complains that Giuliani can't talk about his real successes because he has to pander to a base than thrives on FUD. In the process, Keith misses a number, and, when caught, corrects himself. Wigderson uses it to take a good-natured potshot at me, and then McAdams is aghast! that Keith doesn't think 9/11 and terrorism is a big deal.

Enter the 800-pound gorilla:
John McAdams points out a local liberal blogger who seems to think that 911 was no big deal. [. . .] Read the whole thing. And the left still wonders why some of us don't think they take the threat of terrorism seriously enough.
Sykes clearly didn't read What Keith Actually Wrote, missing the whole "fear [. . .] has cost us and squandered opportunity" line, which suggests Keith wants to take terrorism more seriously than Rudy's attack-inflation (not to mention radio-non-replacement) business. The title of Sykes's post? "NO BIG DEAL?"

It wasn't long until 9/11 NO BIG DEAL? was showing up elsewhere, from people back to knocking the error that Keith had long before corrected--which should not be all that surprising from someone who thinks we need another 9/11 anyway.

Oh, and not a one of them addressed the substance of Keith's post. Purple monkey dishwasher.

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