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Torture As A Sort Of Metaphor

Something very strange is happening. Usually I find Andrew Sullivan to be strident and unpersuasive – or rather, only persuasive when I already agree with him to begin with, as with gay marriage. But this is entirely on point. Good job, that interestingly-bearded expat.

Maybe he just seems muted in comparison to the Susan Sontag essay he’s critiquing:

It is hard to measure the increasing acceptance of brutality in American life, but its evidence is everywhere, starting with the games of killing that are the principal entertainment of young males to the violence that has become endemic in the group rites of youth on an exuberant kick. From the harsh torments inflicted on incoming students in many American suburban high schools–depicted in Richard Linklater’s film Dazed and Confused (1993)–to the rituals of physical brutality and sexual humiliation to be found in working-class bar culture, and institutionalised in our colleges and universities as hazing–America has become a country in which the fantasies and the practice of violence are, increasingly, seen as good entertainment, fun.

Jesus. Sullivan’s response to this paragraph is about as charitable as it could possibly be:

The leaps of logic here are unfathomable… Why not [blame] Eminem, while we’re at it?

Sontag’s piece, like the Robert Reich piece Tim linked to yesterday, starts off by assuming the absolute worst of as many people as possible, then wrings its hands over their various iniquities:

It’s likely that quite a large number of Americans would rather think that it is all right to torture and humiliate other human beings–who, as our putative or suspected enemies, have forfeited all their rights–than to acknowledge the folly and ineptitude and fraud of the American venture in Iraq.

Ah, scaremongering. There’ll be a lot more of this to come (from the right, too, God knows) this year.

(And Sullivan’s last paragraph is right on.)

  1. Timothy says:

    I’m not at all conflicted about gay marriage and I find Sullivan fairly annoying on the subject these days. I also have to tune out when he talks about how increasing gas taxes will be good for the economy (both short and long run) or any of the other junk economics he tosses around. I think y’all are right, he’s just not persuasive and on some topics he’s completely uninformed.

  2. WWB says:

    Fair point on Sullivan not being too persuasive. When he starts flirting with Kerry (and I don’t mean it like that) I roll my eyes and move to the next post. When he goes off on gay marriage (which I’m pretty conflicted about) I read a bit, then keep scrolling. (Some days I only scroll — when he covers gay marriage only, I tune out.) When he talks about Iraq or moral bankruptcy on the left, that gets my attention.

    But is he not persuasive or am I just reading the stuff that backs up my pre-conceived notions? Probably some of both. You’re right on the “strident” charge.

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