Apologia pro dronis suis

I was a little surprised by Obie’s Drone Speech. I had expected something more political, but what we got was the real Obama, couched in leaden Powerpointese — ‘transnational threats’, for example. A bureaucrat’s speech, a technocrat’s speech, a professor’s speech, in which all the important and interesting questions are ruled out of order and the conclusion is therefore thoroughly foregone. The Summa Stultitiae of crackpot realism.

Just about every sentence is a lie — except for Obie’s rather self-congratulatory observation that Obama bin Laden, like the great god Pan, is dead. That much, at least, I am prepared to believe — once I’ve seen the death certificate.

Little joke there.

Interestingly, Obie seemed to prefer the term ‘extremists’ to ‘terrorists’. Being an extremist myself, by any reasonable standard, this has me casting nervous glances over my shoulder and out the window. Of course I won’t see the drone coming. I know that. But it’s a reflex.

One of the reasons for this choice of words — ‘extremists’ — is to include Timothy MvVeigh and the Boston bomberini and maybe, for all I know, Ted Kaczinsky and Sacco and Vanzetti and Gavrilo Prinzip and the Defenestrators Of Prague and the Gracchi in the list. Munging several different phenomena together under one rubric is a very good way to darken counsel and promote a single solution to a ginned-up imaginary problem. Do you have cancer? Male pattern baldness? Anorexia nervosa? They’re all the same thing, and I have the answer!

Its a very dull, boring, predictable speech — though it’s also a classic exercise in the rhetoric of instutional self-justification, and perhaps worth reading on that account. Go through it and keep a tally: sentence count, X; flat-out, palpable lies, Y. In my case Y/X came out to around 0.99. Your mileage may of course vary, but I bet it won’t vary much.

Among the slight literary ornaments that Obie saw fit to hang on this crudely-fashioned artificial tree was a reference to good old Mattress Jack Kennedy: “the long, twilight struggle of the Cold War”. This is mentioned along with the Civil War and the “struggle against Fascism”(*). So presumably Obie agrees with the cold war liberal consensus on this topic, namely that the Cold War was a righteous struggle and it’s a very good thing that ‘we’ won it. (From my own point of view, life was much better as long as there was a Soviet threat, and I miss it badly.)

All of us — even those who, younger than me, weren’t around for the event — have a kind of vague brainstem memory of Jack’s oratory. Memory tends to flatter it. Here’s the original:

“Now the trumpet summons us again, not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle…”

Oh boy oh boy. For tinselly, tin-eared, grandiose rodomontade, this is hard to beat. “Arms we need”! “Embattled we are!”

One can’t help thinking of Yoda.

(*) Other peoples’ Fascism, that is. Our own — quite another matter.

15 thoughts on “Apologia pro dronis suis

  1. I, too, miss the Soviet threat. Ours was a far more decent society (relatively speaking, of course) when it loomed.

    Meanwhile, locally, the War on Terror continues with relentless force. Just yesterday, I witnessed a very loud, fat, thuggish cop loudly and threateningly hassling a mild-mannered, middle-aged gentleman for the crime of having photographed with his iPhone a graffitied police booth in a Brooklyn subway station. The gent tried to explain that he had an “interest” in graffiti,” which inspired mockery from the thug. It was an absurd display, though mild of course compared to what young people experience hourly in our fair city.

    • We had a bad example to avoid following. With the loss of the USSR, we ARE the bad example for the rest of the world to avoid.

      So much for a shining city on a hill. Now it’s a whited sepulchre.

    • I’d be more than willing to reassess my opinion of Obie if I had video evidence that he was able to subdue and engage in coitus with a buffalo.

  2. Sometime after September 11, 2001, I occasionally verbalized the opinion that the premature dissolution of the Soviet Union was a tragic mistake. I pretty much assumed it was a lonely opinion and I’m relieved and gratified to see I’m not alone. Thank you, Mr. Smith.

    • I’ve brought many a conversation to a dead halt with the suggestion that the Rosenbergs ought to be posthumously awarded some important civilian decoration — the Medal Of Freedom, say. Stalin getting the Bomb was the only thing that saved the world from indiscriminate nuclear incineration.

      Can you even imagine, do you even want to imagine, what the last half-century would have been like if the US had somehow retained a monopoly on nuclear weapons?

      I daresay the planet would be nearly uninhabitable, and babies would routinely be born with tentacles and a single eye in their foreheads.

      • “Translators too often look for the so-called Russian sensibility, and, lo and behold, they find it: the darkness, the obsessiveness, the mystic genius. All of that is there, of course. But there is also a lightness, a joyful Christian lightness, too. There are deaths, suicide, the death of a child, Ivan goes mad, Mitya goes to prison—and yet the book ends with joy.”

        Dostoyevsky’s detractors have faulted him for erratic, even sloppy, prose and what Nabokov, the most famous of the un-fans, calls his “gothic rodomontade.”

        “Dostoyevsky did write in a hurry,” Pevear said. “He had terrible deadlines to meet. He wrote ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘The Gambler’ simultaneously. He knew that if he didn’t finish ‘The Gambler’ on time he would lose the rights to all his future books for the next nine years.”

        But there it is, my new word, ‘rodomontade’ – and a thanks.

        ‘Cold War’ – ‘War on Terror’ – but all ‘n all, Global Class War with financial frosting.

  3. MJS, you had me rolling with this little ditty:
    “Being an extremist myself, by any reasonable standard, this has me casting nervous glances over my shoulder and out the window. Of course I won’t see the drone coming. I know that. But it’s a reflex.”

    I’m glad to see you posting so often and so energetically! Seems like a lot of the other blogs I would read have given up the ghost, including mine.

  4. I just found you, thanks to Naked Capitalism. I don’t know who you are, and if I cross-posted your post to Democratic Underground, they’d ban me for life,


    this Manchurian Candidate is the most diabolical one yet: W with some social skills. His only saving grace is his color, which keeps him from being universally fawned over, since the racists in this nation would rather die first.

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