Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Keep Watching the Lies. posted by Richard SeymourA guest post from Justin Horton:
One of the more trivial consequences of the current war - the Israeli adaptation of the British and American series still running on all Middle Eastern channels - is that I stopped being angry about Harry's Place. It has ceased to bother me. It makes me laugh.
What joy! Previously, in the normal course of events, I could only stomach logging on to their site once every two or three months or so, and, when I did so, not for very long. Well, you may say, why log on? Because it's there, as was said, by Mallory, of Mount Everest. Though the distinction of Mount Everest is that it's the highest point there is. While Harry's Place is the lowest you can go.
HP's writers are, briefly, McCarthyites. Their practice and purpose is to support the Iraq War, Israel, and general warmongering, by throwing mud at their opponents: by slandering those who oppose them as terrorists and anti-Semites. Their squalid means of achieving this squalid goal, I'd narrow down to two: a game called We Are Fighting Terrorists, Therefore You Are One and a slightly different one called Links.
In Links, or Two Degrees of Separation, you say this: because X is connected with Y who is connected with Z - who is apparently an anti-Semite - therefore X is an anti-Semite too. It is an easy game, because nearly everybody is connected with nearly everybody else, especially in a broad movement (the movement against the war being, as it goes, pretty broad, encompassing as it does most of the population of the world). Curiously, though, it is never played with the war's proponents: we do not say, for instance, "Tony Blair is best mates with George Bush whose best mate was Ken Lay who was a prodigious crook". Nor do we go via Lord Levy, or via Tessa Jowell's husband, or straight to Silvio Berlusconi.
You Are A Terrorist bids us trace a similar connection: because some of the people fighting the US in Iraq are terrorists, you are one with them. (It has a corollary, roughly stated "because the enemy are bad, that means that we are good": it is the same Certificate of Perpetual Immunity that Israel is awarded by its admirers and which is currently being used to justify the slaughter of civilians in Beirut.) It is, quite simply, traitor-hunting. It sniffs out and identifies fifth columnists, complicit with the enemy and acting on the enemy's behalf. And this is, pretty much, what Harry's Place is there to do. It smears the opponents of the war. To read, takes a strong stomach: to agree, takes an absent sense of right and wrong. Its arguments could not be more ad hominem: except that the objects of their attack are imaginary, devils of their own devise.
I hated them on sight, and, having a care for my blood pressure and general health, kept that sight to a minimum, allowing myself only the occasional glance motivated by fascination: how low will they stoop? And then, just a couple of days ago, they stooped so low that I forgot to be disgusted and began to laugh. No slander, no nastiness can survive the ordeal of laughter. ("Why is the goose-step", Orwell asked, "not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh.") I laughed and I laughed and I laughed. Brilliant! Why do people march against war? Because they're actually pro-fascist! Ha ha ha! Marvellous. Magnificent. You're right! You're so right, Harry's Place. And that's not all. I voted for the Green Party at the last election because I'm in favour of environmental destruction and I wash because I'm in favour disease. It's a brilliant game. Why doesn't everybody have a go!
Had I not been laughing so hard I might have noted that calling one's supporters "fascists" is a piece of intellectual thuggery not unknown to HP's antecedents, which are in the old Communist Party who, when it suited, called their leftwing opponents Trotsky-fascists and their more moderate rivals social fascists and so on. But that observation derives from the realm of serious commentary. We're not dealing with serious commentary. We're dealing with a B-movie.
McCarthyites? That they are, but the thing about Joe McCarthy is that people listened to him. Harry's Place are McCarthyites all right, but it's Kevin McCarthy that they resemble. Because nobody is listening. Like Kevin, they are convinced that their community is being overrun by secret supporters of the enemy, infiltrators, bent on destroying civilisation. There are clues everywhere, can't we see, look, look, there's another one! That's not a pacifist, it's an Islamofascist! I saw it come out of the pod! Help! Help!
But nobody is listening. Which is, I understand - I finally understand - the whole reason why they have such a hysterical tone. What tone do you adopt when people believe you and your cause appears to be prevailing? Dismissive, perhaps. Triumphant. Perhaps most common, smug. But this sort of hysteria? It's true, it can belong to triumph, or at least to the temporary triumph of the witch-hunt, the search for traitors, Joe McCarthy's America, Stalin's Soviet Union, Torquemada's Spain. But this is not the hysteria of those who persecute the Unbelievers. This is the hysteria of the Unbelieved.
They know the truth, on Harry's Place. Why can't everybody just see? Of course the antiwar people are fascist. They just won't admit it. They're hiding the truth until it's far too late. They're all working together. (Look, look at their Links!) There are so few of us, so few of us left, oh Christ another pundit's changed their mind and come out against the war, they're at the window now, run, run, and there they are, out on the freeway with Kevin McCarthy trying to flag down cars. They're coming! You're next!