Friday, September 08, 2006

Thinking in Similes

It is a fundamental human failing that people seem to think that likening one thing T to another P will somehow explain or account for properties of P, such is the power of the simile. The most annoying use of this mode of "explanation" occurs in sports when one finds sports talking heads saying things like, "Joe Jones reminds me of Bill Bones." About 99.99 per cent of the time, the race of Joe Jones will be the same as the race of Bill Bones. On Saturday night, if you listen to the Ohio State vs. Texas football game, you will hear that Ohio State QB Troy Smith reminds someone of former Texas QB Vince Young but then they will go on to say that Vince was a better runner than Troy but not as good a passer. Of course, they are both Black. Ohio State fans will rest their hopes on the truth of this simile for that allows them to think that Troy will lead their team to victory.

I am drawn to blog on this because an old reliable, Victor Davis Hanson, has decided to criticize the critics of the Bush Administration's claim that Islamic extremists are Islamic fascists. The first time I heard Bush refer to "Islamic Fascism" I did a mental double take -- "Say what?" I said to myself. It is clear, of course, that Bush and Hanson want to tar Islamic fundamentalists with a Nazi brush. This is designed, I gather, to cause us to think that Islamic Extremists are not only as bad as they have proved themselves to be but also are as bad as Hitler, and, as Hanson would have it, of Italy's Mussolini and Japan's Tojo. That makes them double plus bad.

Hanson tosses al-Qaida (is there some official spelling of this name?), the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other extremist groups together in the same Islamic fascist salad. Iran's President is added to the mix but as we all know, he is The Talker in Iran, not The Decider. And he also tosses in the Wahhabis, whose setting up of fundamentalist schools in various Muslim countries is funded by Bush's good friends, the Saudis. One wonders how the Bali terrorists that bombed a tourist hotel containing a lot of Australians got left out of this mix.

Hanson's list of properties shared by Islamic bad guys and WWII era fascists consists of their being authoritarian, their being anti-democratic, the fact that "Mein Kampf" sells well under the title "Jihadi," their brooking no dissent, their being whiners (I'm not kidding), their being anti-Semitic, their revering a past mythic period of greatness,

The fact is that all I need to know about Muslim extremists is that they bombed two American embassies in neighboring countries in Africa without regard for who would be dying, bombed a Marine barracks in Beirut, which Marines were peace keepers, not war makers, hijacked various planes in an attempt to kill whomever they could in New York City and Washington, bombed transportation systems in London and Madrid, a hotel in Bali, various buildings in India, and so on and so forth. I would add the terrorist attacks against Israel but that's a different sort of situation.

Against "Liberal" European complaints against Bush's use of the term "Islamic fascism" as being misleading (Euros being, of course, the actual experts on what is and is not fascism), Hanson sayss:
In contrast, the fuzzy "war on terror" is the real inexact usage. The United States has never fought against an enemy’s tools, such as German submarines or the Soviet KGB, but only against those who employ them.
Uh, Victor, Bush cointed the term "war on terror" in this or very similar language.

Adding to this litany of crimes against humanity that the killers are also fascists sounds like a linguistic ploy by someone who is losing an argument and wants to up the rhetoric a bit to increase the fear factor. And that is precisely what it is. George Bush is going about the country talking to very safe audiences like American Legion groups drumming up support for his war on terrorism -- whoops, war on Islamic fascism. He's doing this because he knows that if the American people put Democrats in power in the House and Senate the first thing they will do is impeach him. That is, at least, the first thing they ought to do for he has indeed committed high crimes and treason by acting in ways he had to know were unconstitutional (both a high crime and treason), lying to the American people as to why we should go to war in Iraq, thereby putting us in an illegal war (War Crime), caused Americans to use extra-legal methods of questioning captured combatants (War Crime) etc. He was the first to use the phrase "Islamic fascism" in my hearing though he isn't clever enough to have created it. His boy, Hanson, is out pushing this idiotic simile to a degree that it is an auto-reductio argument. The point is to escalate the fear of the American people to get them not to vote for Bush's real enemies, the Democrats.

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Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

That was quick! Bye-bye, "Russ". :)

I was going to say that

The above [now deleted] comment "sounds like a...ploy by someone who is losing an argument and wants to"...derail yet another comment thread!

Re the post, all I can say is that if the American people fall for it, they get what they deserve.

I am not optimistic about the outcome, personally.

8:24 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

Saying that the Democrats are Bush's real enemies when terrorists may be about is like saying that the Roman Senate is the emperor's real enemy when Huns may be about.

1:40 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

You are aware that it was Senators who killed Caesar, not the Huns.

Anyway, I was making the point that the Bush adminstration is the most political in history. Why do you think he has been giving all these speeches? And tonight he will do a nationwide one.

2:51 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I wasn't trying to make any kind of a statement about politics there, although the analogy is possible. I was mostly trying to think in terms of similes.

3:07 PM

Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

I was too busy finishing up proofing some galleys for a journal over here (one of the papers referenced something you wrote with Arnold back in '71, LG) to pay much attention to the commemorations; missed the speech as well. I was afraid with this being the fifth anniversary and all, things might go a bit...overboard, shall we say? How'd it all turn out?

Jesus wept. (NT)
Bush shed a tear or two. (CNN)
Ron smirked.

In a bit of a mood today...

3:52 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

Soon I hope to have that paper up on the blog for downloading.

8:52 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made up my mind when Bush took his second term not to listen to a thing he has to say whether it's a speech or whatnot. I just total ignore him and his administration as if they don't even exist. He is nothing but the butt end of my political jokes and that's all. I am a happier man today because of that decision.

12:47 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

I have to say, LG, that I expected to see a criticism of his speech last night when I logged on to your blog today.

I did notice at least one problem with the first ten minutes of it (which is all I saw). He said the people being held in Guantanamo Bay were to be held responsible for their actions. I wonder when that will happen. As far as it seems, they're all being detained indefinitely, last I checked.

1:29 PM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

I haven't listed to George since he invaded Iraq. I have taken something like the head in the sand approach to him. Can't see him and so he isn't there. I sometimes read a speech.

5:09 PM


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