I Don’t Believe It!

I Don’t Believe It!

In a staggering example of the ignorance and idiocy that seems to define modem conservatism, a Mr. David T. Lindsay professes his “Belief” in the June issue of Ink 19. While several comments in his column indicate that this may be some attempt at satire, I wanted to address a handful of the many outrageous claims offered in Mr. Lindsay’s piece just in case his “Belief(s)” happen to be sincere.

Wittingly or otherwise, Mr. Lindsay has chosen the perfect framing device for his column. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king condemned to Tartarus for overwhelming pride and deceit. After tricking the gods on numerous occasions (including obtaining a “Get Out of Death Free” card from Hades), he was condemned to roll his stone forever and ever and ever. So, too, do certain “conservatives” tell the same lies again and again and again.

I believe Mr. Lindsay intended to use Sisyphus as a metaphor for North American culture. It’s pretty appropriate; like Sisyphus, we think we’re so clever (up to and including our attempts to cheat mortality) that we rarely see the greater implications of our actions. Like that Greek king, we fight an endless battle with ourselves, wherein the gravity of our efforts increases until the “stone” threatens to crush us. Every so often, we reach a summit, than exhaust ourselves, dodge out of the stone’s way and repeat the journey.

Unlike Sisyphus, Mr. Lindsay is not especially clever. His “beliefs” are parroted from talk-show pundits, and are as historically inaccurate as they are screamingly illogical. It would take more time, space and patience than I care to expend on this (Sisyphusian) task to refute all of the misstatements in Mr. Lindsay’s column. Many of them are so subjective that trying to counter them would be like rolling the proverbial boulder uphill (and about as useful). Still, there are a few howlers that I can’t help but comment upon….

In what must be the single stupidest statement in the history of ink, Mr. Lindsay asserts that “…it’s the Democratic Party who (sic.) has started every war in the 20th century. The Republicans ended their wars.” One wonders which planet Mr. Lindsay has been living on. First of all, comparatively few of the 20th century’s several hundred wars featured any U. S. involvement whatsoever. Secondly, those that have spilled American blood nearly always began overseas; Vietnam, Korea, the Balkan War, the Lebanese War, the Somalian Conflict, and World Wars I and II raged for months or even years before the U.S. government stepped in.

Next, Mr. Lindsay’s assertion also ignores the military adventures (or misadventures) conducted under Ronald Reagan, which included “small” wars in Granada, El Salvador, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf, Panama, Nicaragua, and Hollywood (the Rambo Wars of the 1980s). Several of these wars were conducted in direct violation of U.S. law, and their true costs in men and money were frequently lost in reams of “plausible deniability.” (Does anyone out there still remember Iran/Contra and the presidential fibbing that accompanied that fiasco?)

Mr. Lindsay also ignores what may have been the greatest military triumph of his beloved Republican Party: the Gulf War, instigated under Reagan (who financed Saddam Hussain’s arsenal in hopes that Saddam would whup Iranian ass with it), waged under Bush, and left hanging in an unfinished state for Clinton, who has managed to contain Saddam with minimal bloodshed since 1992.

Finally, I have to ask Mr. Lindsay exactly which wars were “started” by a Democratic president and “ended” by a Republican. Aside from Korea (inspired by the same anti-Communist sentiment that Mr. Lindsay later defends) and Vietnam (which was vigorously protested by liberals long before conservatives joined in), I confess my mind is blank. The wars that occurred just prior to this past century — the Spanish-American War and some military “excursions” in the Philippines were conducted under Republican presidents. U.S. involvement in WWI began and ended under Democrat Wilson. Democrat FDR (elected after Republicans Coolidge and Hoover trashed the U.S. economy) entered WWII after an attack on a U.S. military base. He remained President until his death in 1945, after which Democrat, Truman, “finished” the war. All other U.S. wars fought in the last century occurred under the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations; it could even be argued that Democrat Clinton “finished” wars begun by his Republican predecessors (the Gulf War, Somalia, and the Balkan Conflict).

And this is just the first and second sentences of the fourth paragraph of Mr. Lindsay’s article! That paragraph, and the one before it, go on to make some rather heavy-handed generalizations about education and the environment, too. In the interest of brevity I’ll leave the education thing alone; the “environment” remark, though, screams for an answer later in this letter.

After a few wildly solipsistic statements slamming Democrats for protesting the stars-and-bars and supporting affirmative action, Mr. Lindsay goes on to state “that blacklisted screenwriters (in the 1950s)… got exactly what they deserved.” Setting aside the simple argument that many of those accused and prosecuted may not have been Communists at all, we still find broad historical inaccuracies and bent logic. First, he states that “these men were communists [sic.], have never denied being communists [sic.]”; um, wrong. Quite a few of them did just that, but were not believed. Later in the same sentence, he says “as such they took their directions from a foreign government that sometimes ordered acts of criminal sabotage and treason.” While I cannot deny that the Russian government probably did have spies in other nations (as every world government, including our own, does), and probably did order some of them to perform treasonous acts (likewise), I can’t recall any specific “acts of criminal violence” that Hollywood screenwriters could – or were supposed to have – perpetrated. The blacklist “trials” were motivated by politics and fear, not by exploding buildings on Sunset Boulevard.

Whew! In a tangled paragraph so filled with illogic that it’s impossible to address in brief, Mr. Lindsay goes on to:

• confuse the Hollywood blacklist with the Army-McCarthy hearings;

• compare the two of them to the hunt for Nazi war criminals, and the Klan-battling of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations;

• state that the Hollywood screenwriters “hid behind” the international pursuit of Nazi war criminals;

• claim that McCarthy used those same “existing laws” to track down the elusive Hollywood terrorists (he didn’t – in fact, he used very few “existing laws” at all, he just waved around a list and made unsupported accusations);

• then wrap the whole thing up in a non sequitur attributed to the American Communist Party. Supposedly, this quote reflects the Communist indifference to the Poles during Hitler’s invasion, “because these fellow travelers were completely behind Hitler until he turned on Stalin.”

In the process of crafting the gross generalization and bent logic that links blacklisted screenwriters (and by extension Democrats) with Hitlerian sympathizers, Mr. Lindsay misses the crowning irony of his thesis: Joe McCarthy and many other “red-blooded Americans” also opposed U.S. involvement in WWII until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Some, like Charles Lindbergh, even expressed popular support for Hitler.

(After the war, “Tailgunner Joe” falsified his military history to bolster his public credibility; that hoax was partially responsible for McCarthy’s subsequent destruction.)

The irony bell reverberates throughout Mr. Lindsay’s conclusion: “The only recourse… against the spread of totalitarian ideals is to deny treasonous individuals their livelihood and make them suffer the shame… of being labeled guilty by suspicion.” Uh, right. And this process differs from “totalitarian ideals” exactly how?

Mr. Lindsay then goes on to commit his own “treasonous acts” by stating “I believe Bill Clinton hates Christians enough to murder 80 of them at Waco….” Oh, boy. Good thing Mr. Lindsay and his fellow conspiracy buffs have eluded Janet Reno’s hit squads so far! Like Mr. Lindsay’s later assertion about trees in America, this statement is so full of crap it’s probably not worth dismantling. However, my Evil Godless Communist Masters demand I point out that the Waco massacre originated as a showdown between Federal agents and a heavily armed separatist group. As one who actually remembers the day-to-day updates of that standoff (as opposed to one who swallows talk-radio eulogies to the “Waco martyrs”), I can vouch that many Republican leaders and conservative pundits not only supported the raid initially, but heckled new President Clinton and new Attorney General Reno for “being soft” during their 50 days of negotiations with “terrorists.” (A sentiment Mr. Lindsay echoes in the previous paragraph.) The ordeal ended in a full-on invasion when Reno tried to show how tough she could be; the subsequent botched cover-up demonstrated what an idiot she could be.

I do not in any way defend “Quick Draw Reno;” her solutions to difficult situations too often involve overwhelming force. (Not so different, though less subtle, than the terrorist tactics occasionally employed by conservative justice leaders like Edwin Meese and J. Edgar Hoover.) But jumping from the Waco debacle to an image of Clinton-as-Nero is a bit of a stretch. Clinton is every bit as Christian as his fellow lying philanderers Newt Gingrich and Jimmy Swaggart, and has displayed far more Christian charity than both of them combined. If indeed Clinton was out to purge the country of Christian dissidents, then Jerry Falwell (who made the Nero claim “official” with his slanderous series of taped allegations) would have been at the top of the list.

After a long, twisted tirade in which Mr. Lindsay turns the Elian Gonzalez mess (fanned by conservatives who’d apparently forgotten that “family values” extend to families who aren’t U.S. citizens) into a bizarre assault on Christianity in general, Mr. Lindsay expands his horizons. In another jaw-dropping display of intellectual homicide, he asserts that “the American people,” the most culturally and ethnically diverse population in human history, “are conservative.” As evidence, he cites “every election for President since 1948” (halfway through the last century – guess the others didn’t count). Beginning with the narrow election of Truman (who had just lost a great deal of support due to his racial integration of the U.S. Army and his opposition to lynching), he refutes every Democratic victory since WWII as the results of “voting fraud,” slander, and “only a few thousand votes.” Just for good measure, he slams Jimmy Carter – the eternal right-wing punching bag, who is possibly the most honest, Christian man to inhabit the White House – in passing. I have to wonder how many of Ink 19’s readers and staff (Mr. Lindsay included) were of voting age when Carter was elected… or even alive at all. Is this 1976 election, which was tainted by a decade of social and economic upheaval, a fair assessment of the electorate today? Personally, I doubt it. And even if it is, Carter still won. As did Clinton. Twice.

For those keeping score, the post-WWII presidential elections stand even at six wins per party. Ford was not elected, and Johnson was elected only once. You were saying, Mr. Lindsay?

Following a long list of subjective and unrelated snippets, some of which I could argue with forever (“feminism has ended…”) and others of which I agree with (“fashion models are icy, sexless and disproportionate…”), we come to the crowning glories of Mr. Lindsay’s rant: “I believe global warming is a fraud since we are coming out of an ice age, “we have more trouble with environmentalists than we do with the destruction of the environment,” and “there are more trees today in the year 2000 than there were in the year 1900…”. This is where I drew the line, warmed up my computer, and prepared to roll that boulder up that goddamned hill.

Why? Because I am so bloody sick of seeing bald-faced ignorance paraded around as “the right thing to do” (literally). Because I am so fed up with dittoheads who can’t be bothered to check their facts before spouting off, and who trumpet their stupidity from the hilltops as if it were some sort of virtue. Because people so criminally stupid have brought us to an environmental precipice, and now urge us to fling ourselves off it in some bizarre act of populist defiance.

If Mr. Lindsay had bothered to examine any source more sophisticated than talk radio, he might have learned that the last “ice age” ended some 10,000 years ago, thus allowing for the evolution of human society. While it’s true that some scientists support an exceedingly controversial theory stating that we’re in the tail end of the Quaternary Ice Age, this climate has created the world as we know it. Any form of global warming would threaten our species in ways we cannot predict. Thus, it’s something to worry about whether it comes from human pollution or not. Presuming that Mr. Lindsay has even heard of the Quaternary Ice Age, he’s still wrong. Trading theories about a documented phenomenon does not make that phenomenon a “fraud.”

And global warming is a documented phenomenon. Geological and archeological records indicate that temperatures have been fluctuating up and down throughout human history. The current warming trend, however, is more severe (in many scientists’ opinion) than any other climate change in human history. Whether the increase comes from a gradual environmental shift, human pollutants, or both, it’s still a heavily documented fact. As for that cause: A 1992 Gallup poll found that 66% of scientists polled believed global warming was caused by human pollution; 10% disagreed and the rest were undecided. Sounds pretty convincing to me…

When you actually think about it, environmental responsibility is hard to dismiss. Common sense (that thing conservatives are supposed to value so highly) maintains that if you use a thing, it is gone. If you use it quickly, it is gone quickly. If you throw it on the floor, it stays on the floor until you clean it up. The core ideas behind environmentalism insist that we use as little as we can, replace what we use, and clean up our mess when we’re done using something. How simple. How sensible. And yet the very idea inspires apoplexy in many “conservatives.” Odd — the American Heritage Dictionary defines “conservative” as a derivative of “conserve.” What does “conserve” mean? “To protect from loss or depletion: preserve… from Latin conservare: com (intensive) + servare (to keep).” Does anyone in the known universe know how this word came to represent people who want to waste natural resources just because they can? Seems like the opposite of “conservatism” to me. And the opposite of common sense, too, especially if you’re facing some sort of drastic climate change.

And yet environmentalists “cause more trouble than the destruction of the environment.” Exactly how? If you destroy your environment, you have nowhere to live. Sounds like “trouble” to me. Stating that people who want to preserve the environment are more of a threat than the destruction of that same environment is mislogic that would make even the Mad Hatter’s head explode.

Oh, yeah, I did say I’d get back to the tree thing. Paraphrasing Rush Limbaugh (without credit, I might add), Mr. Lindsay follows an unprovable yet improbable statement (“more trees… than 1900”) with a direct contradiction of his statement about environmentalists. Obviously, we cannot accurately measure the tree cover of 100 years ago; we can, however, cite the Encyclopedia of American Forest and Conservation History, which approximates the turn-of-last-century tree density to be roughly 930 million acres. The same source places the current forest density at roughly 730 million acres, a fair share of which has come from reforestation efforts over the last 40 years.

Who led those efforts? Environmentalists.

Over whose objections? The conservatives.

Mr. Lindsay justifies his view by saying that we used more trees 100 years ago because “our entire economy was based on wood back then.” But of course, a nation whose total population was less than 1/10 the size of our current one cut down more wood without help from 20th~century machinery, and consumed more forestry than our home-obsessed, paper-glutted, post-industrial selves.

Right. When Mr. Lindsay finds the figures that support the idea, I’d be interested to see them. As it stands, the image of mad lumberjacks chopping down whole forests in a single day makes me laugh – ruefully.

Mr. Lindsay’s “logic” also completely ignores the effects of 40 years of environmental conservation and renewal programs – programs instigated by those pesky environmentalists. Without those programs, we can be sure that our resources would be even more polluted and depleted than they already are.

Of course, Mr. Lindsay can hold whatever “Beliefs” he wants, even when what he believes is probably wrong. As for myself, I believe Mr. Lindsay should stay away from newspaper writing until he knows what the fuck he’s talking about.

• •

Julio Diaz responds: Thanks for your extensive and passionate rebuttal. This is probably a good time to remind our readers that opinions expressed in Ink 19 are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect those of the staff and management of Ink 19. In this case, the opinions are wholly David T. Lindsay’s, and in point of fact, several of our staffers vehemently disagreed with much of the essay, myself included. However, Ink 19 believes in providing an uncensored forum for our staff, both in music reviews and in op-ed pieces. I may no more agree with the beliefs of some of our writers than I do with some of their musical tastes, but who am I to say that their opinion is any less valid than mine is?

I would like to say that I am personally thrilled that the essay moved you to such a rebuttal — in print, no less. It pleases me no end to know that folks are not only reading the stuff we print, but THINKING about it. That was part of the reason we ran David’s essay in the first place — we hoped it would get a response, and yours was beyond our grandest hopes. It makes the job worth doing to know that folks like you are paying attention.

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