Friday, February 16, 2007

References taken up

Malcolm has been cresting the wave this week. He found himself "in the money" at the celebrated Tuesday-evening
Prince of Wales, Highgate, pub quiz; and has been singularly chuffed ever since. So, watch out for squalls.

Here comes a small one now...

Look at this, says Malcolm, and tell me what's wrong:

Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.
President Abraham Lincoln

It is, of course, unimaginable that the penalties proposed by one of our most admired presidents for the crime of dividing America in the face of the enemy would be contemplated — let alone applied — today.
That's the Frank J. Gaffney Jr, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC. There's more, much more, on Gaffney at Rightweb:
Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official who cut his teeth working under Richard Perle when the “prince of darkness” was an adviser to Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in the 1970s, is one of the key heavy-lifters of the neoconservative-hawk policy institute world. From his perch at the Center for Security Policy (CSP), Gaffney routinely excoriates any and all arms control agreements, stridently defends U.S. intervention in places such as Iraq, and routinely defends the agenda of the right-wing Zionists in the United States and Israel.
So, say the assembled elves after suitable textual analysis and brain-bashing, what's wrong with the Washington Times clip?

A lesser elf is nominated to bring forth the Oxford English Dictionary (in this respect, Malcolm still abides by the hard-copy). Only in the First Supplement can the words sabotage and saboteur be located. The citations for saboteur are a 1921 translation of Walter Rathenau and The Observer of 11th January 1931.

What's afoot (implied pun there), Malcolm? Can Lincoln have been responsible for a nealogism? [The elf who thus suggests that the OED would need correction retreats with a severely-cauliflowered ear.]

Further investigation is undertaken. It quickly becomes apparent that the quotation is widely circulated and accepted by the US militant Right (try freerepublic for a taste). It has even been used by a Congressman:
Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) cited the quote on the floor of the House on Thursday in the debate over the Iraq war "surge" ... Rep. Young added, referring to Lincoln: "He had the same problem this President has, with an unpopular war. The same problem with people trying to redirect the commander in chief."
By now most of the elves have, and now Malcolm's readers will have worked out there is some dirty work going on at the crossroads.

In point of fact, the speciousness of the "quotation" was exposed as long ago as August 25, 2006, by the laudable

Supporters of President Bush and the war in Iraq often quote Abraham Lincoln as saying members of Congress who act to damage military morale in wartime "are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged."

Republican candidate Diana Irey used the "quote" recently in her campaign against Democratic Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, and it has appeared thousands of times on the Internet, in newspaper articles and letters to the editor, and in Republican speeches.

But Lincoln never said that. The conservative author who touched off the misquotation frenzy, J. Michael Waller, concedes that the words are his, not Lincoln's. Waller says he never meant to put quote marks around them, and blames an editor for the mistake and the failure to correct it.
The ur-reference, then, is J. Michael Waller in an Insight article, Democrats Usher in An Age of Treason, 23rd December, 2003. By a coincidence that is hardly curious, Insight Magazine is a Conservative current events magazine (in 2003 printed, now only on-line) published by the Washington Times. And, the cherry on the cake is this:
Insight is owned by News World Communications, a property of the Unification Church headed by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a convicted felon and self-proclaimed "messiah".
The true shame of all this, Malcolm maintains, is that neither Gaffney nor Congressman Young have fully renounced the use of the quotation. Young is supremely mealy-mouthed about it:
His spokeswoman, Meredith Kenny, says the congressman took the quote from an article he read in the Washington Times on Tuesday.

"Now that he's been informed these are not the actual words of Lincoln, he will discontinue attributing the words to Lincoln. However, he continues to totally agree with the message of the statement," Kenny said. "Americans, especially America's elected leaders, should not take actions during a time of war that damage the morale of our soldiers and military -- and that is exactly what this nonbinding resolution does."

And no, Kenny said, Young was "not advocating the hanging of Democrats."

And from Gaffney, wilful ignorance:

that hasn't stopped the newspaper, and Gaffney, from refusing to correct the record -- as of Friday morning -- or remove the quote from the top of his column.
Indeed, today's main editorial in the Washington Times repeats and extends the essential calumny:

In the wake of September 11, McGovernism -- that is, the reflexive opposition to the use of force by the United States against foreign enemies that has dogged the Democratic Party since Richard Nixon's time -- became more of a liability than ever. At least, it appeared that way judging from the 2002 and 2004 election results. But in last year's congressional elections, the Democrats came up with a shrewd, cynical new P.R. strategy that has until now served them well: saying lots of nice things about American soldiers fighting in Iraq while simultaneously advancing resolutions that denigrate their mission.

That is headlined as Murtha's plan for defeat. Lest anyone now question that the Washington Times exists on the same planet as the rest of us, Malcolm advises taking heart from another of today's op-ed pieces, Global warming is our friend.

So, what do we conclude from all this, Malcolm?

Malcolm would start from the prefatory quotation of his recent bedside book, All Governments Lie! the Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I.F.Stone:

All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

And here's the theme-tune for chapter 20: A Guerrilla Warrior During the Fifties Fetish:

Since the press is largely Republican and this is a Republican administration, there is little "market" for exposing the government ... the average Washington correspondent is content to write what he is spoon-fed by the government's press officers.

That chapter 20 seems like Back to the Future:

[Stone] had been preoccupied with the Cold War's twin terrors: dangerous foreign policies and suppression of dissent at home ... The basic philosophy of revolutionary America, including "the separation of Church and State and respect for individual belief and conscience" became witch-hunt casualties. Stone was disgusted with false piety: "politicians and generals were constantly invoking God" but "the young were taught to distrust ideas which had been the gospel of the Founding Fathers".

[Thanks, John, for the pressy, adds Malcolm. You know who you are.]

Too much journalism amounts to "All the news that fits, we print": nowhere more so than the neocon shriek-sheets like the Washington Times. And George Orwell, a parallel case to Izzy Stone, would have quoted Humbert Wolfe (or, possibly and seemingly erroneously, Hilaire Belloc):

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
Thank God! the British journalist
But being what the man will do
Unbribed, there is no reason to.

And, at, Malcolm points to a certain symmetry of two successive quotations:
Military glory — that attractive rainbow, that rises in showers of blood — that serpent's eye, that charms to destroy [Abraham Lincoln]
Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. [Hugo Black, Supreme Court Justice]

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