Andy? Is That You?
Michelle Malkin has a secret...
This article is divided into nine sections:
I. Back From the Grave
II. Attack Poodle Extraordinaire
III. Explosive Anger
IV. Take My Rights... Please
V. War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Inconsistency Is Consistency.
VI. Names We Dare Not Speak
VII. They're Liberals, Not Humans... Fetch the Torch!
VIII. The Chamberlain Principle
IX. Acknowledgments and References
I. Back From the Grave
Depending on who you ask, Andy Kaufman was either one of the twentieth century's most innovative comedians, or just a guy with a talent for pissing people off. Kaufman made a career out of confusing people. The public was never quite sure what was real, and what was an act. He didn't tell jokes, he played them. And he played them on his audience.
According to popular belief, Kaufman became ill with cancer and died in 1984.
Ever see the body? Didn't think so.
Kaufman, it turns out, is alive and well... and not only that, he's still in the public eye, hiding in plain sight. He has adopted a new persona.
It was a subtle transformation: a little extra padding here and there, a little collagen in the lips, and presto: Kaufman's new character was born. In the end, however, he played it too deadpan, for too long. His routine became so outrageous, we finally realized that it was all a joke, and we recognized him.
Yes, it's true: Michelle Malkin is actually Andy Kaufman.
Andy, if you are reading this, my hat is off to you. I never thought you were very funny, but I have to admit: the Malkin thing was a masterful performance.
Don't believe me? Fine... for a few moments, let's pretend that we're taking Michelle Malkin seriously. The best way to show that it's all a joke is to treat it as if it weren't: to examine it soberly, and to keep a straight face as long as possible.
Who is Michelle Malkin? If you don't watch Fox News or read right-wing blogs, you might not have heard of her. In a nutshell (an appropriate container, in this case), she's Ann Coulter, but without the sense of humor. Or at least, you might think she has no sense of humor. But remember... it's Andy Kaufman under that wig.
What are a few of Malkin's favorite talking points? Liberals hate America. Illegal immigrants are destroying us. Invading Iraq was the right thing to do. The blabbermouth press threatens the War on Terror. Oh, and throwing Japanese-Americans into internment camps during World War II? That was a good thing.See, for example, http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000171.htm re liberal hate; http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000694.htm re illegal immigrants; http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004104.htm re the invasion of Iraq; http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005790.htm re the press; and see Malkin's book In Defense of Internment re the internment of Japanese-Americans.
Malkin's beliefs are certainly to the right of mainstream American, and for that matter, they're to the right of the Right. But the mere fact that a viewpoint is outside the mainstream does not necessarily mean that it's wrong, or that it isn't worth reading. Popular commentators on either side of the political spectrum can serve as a barometer of liberal or conservative opinion. Reading Malkin, however, one quickly realizes: her columns are not really a barometer of the Right. They're more like a rectal thermometer.
II. Attack Poodle Extraordinaire
James Wolcott of Vanity Fair once described Michelle Malkin as "attack poodle."http://dir.salon.com/story/books/int/2004/09/28/wolcott/index.html?pn=4
It's a fairly apt description of her role within the context of contemporary punditry. She avoids in-depth analysis, favoring instead wide-ranging denunciations of liberals.
She is surprisingly prolific, having produced a trio of books in the last three years, while writing almost daily on her blog and making frequent appearances on Fox News.
The problem with being a prolific neocon, however, is that neocon diatribes do not fare well in hindsight.
Back in April 2003, for example, Malkin was gloating at those who had predicted problems in Iraq: "The antiwar grouches, naysayers and quagmirists in the mainstream media were so, so sure there would be no jubilation at the Iraqi liberation." Eric Alterman, Nicholas Kristof, Andrew Stephen, Diane Sawyer... grouches and naysayers, all. "This week, as all the world has now seen, the flowers were in full bloom. Jubilation rocked the streets. Coalition troops were showered with petals, kisses and hugs from Basra in the south to central Baghdad to the northern-most cities of Iraq."http://www.townhall.com/columnists/MichelleMalkin/2003/04/11/persistent_pockets_of_liberal_media_resistance
Yet in spite of this allegedly wild jubilation, "pockets of liberal media resistance persist." A case in point, according to Malkin, was ABC's Peter Jennings. When Jennings described the group of people who watched Saddam Hussein's statue being pulled down as "a small crowd," Malkin sniped that the phrase was "better applied to the dwindling audience for Jennings' phenomenally biased nightly news broadcasts."
"The surly opponents of Operation Iraqi Freedom can spin," Malkin wrote, "but they can't hide the simple, Kodachrome-colored truth: Tyranny brings only misery. Liberation kindles joy."
Malkin's skills as a war cheerleader, and her ability to catalog dumb behavior by the Left, quickly made her a darling of the far Right. Still, there were a few bumps along the way: in September 2004, for example, Malkin's speech to a group of College Republicans at American University was abruptly cancelled. Why? Malkin's book-length apologia for the incarceration of Japanese-Americans (subtlety titled In Defense of Internment) was making some Republicans a little squeamish. The president of the campus Republicans summed it up in an email to Malkin: "Our first priority for the next two months is ensuring President Bush be re-elected. Staff members for the Bush campaign have frowned on us for having an event centered on the internment of Japanese Americans." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A15622-2004Sep12.html
This, it would seem, answers the question many have pondered over the last six years: exactly how far to the right do you have to get before even the Bush administration starts to distance itself?
Even at arm's length, however, Malkin found ways to make herself useful to the Bush campaign. One way to do this was to slander John Kerry's war record. In a memorable appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Malkin decided to parrot the nonsense of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." Adopting the artful dodge of the demagogues everywhere, Malkin wanted to maintain plausible denial: she was happy to repeat scurrilous charges, but if confronted, would claim that she never said any such thing. Matthews, however, was having none of it. Another guest on the program, former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, noted the absurdity of questioning Kerry's service. "He volunteered twice in Vietnam. He literally got shot. There's no question about any of those things. So what else is there to discuss? How much he got shot, how deep, how much shrapnel?"
Cue Ms. Malkin.
"Well, yes," Malkin replied. Her inflection implied that this was not so much a "Well, yes," as a "Well, DUH!" She continued. "Why don't people ask him more specific questions about the shrapnel in his leg? There are legitimate questions about whether or not it was a self-inflicted wound."http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoM90bAsr1M; a not-quite-accurate transcript is at
Matthews immediately jumped in. "What do you mean by self-inflicted? Are you saying he shot himself on purpose? Is that what you're saying?"
To be fair to Malkin, that was not quite what she had said; a self-inflicted wound would not necessarily mean that he had Kerry had deliberately shot himself. The ensuing exchange, however, demonstrated that Malkin's real goal was to sow doubt. She pressed Matthews on whether or not he had read the book; he ignored the question and again asked directly: "Are you saying that he shot himself on purpose?" The two talked past each other and over each other; Matthews asked a third time, a fourth time, a fifth time. "No one has ever accused him of shooting himself on purpose," Matthews said.
"Yes!" Malkin exclaimed. "Some of the veterans say that!"
More back and forth, then Matthews responded with annoyance. "This is not a show for this kind of talk. Are you accusing him of shooting himself on purpose to avoid combat or to get credit?" He had now asked her directly six times. "Give me a name," Matthews demanded.
Malkin stammered for a moment. "Patrick Runyon and William Zaladonis, in... in..."
"And they said he shot himself on purpose to avoid combat or take credit for a wound?" More back-and-forth, and Matthews again cut to the quick: "I want a statement from you on this program, say to me right now, that you believe he shot himself to get credit for a purple heart. On purpose."
"I'm not sure," Malkin admitted. So why, Matthews wanted to know, had she said it? Indignant, her eyes grew wide: "Because I'm talking about what's in the book!"
"What is in the book?" Matthews asked. "Is there - is there a direct accusation in any book you've ever read in your life that said John Kerry shot himself on purpose to get a credit for a purple heart? On purpose?"
More stammering from Malkin, more barking from Matthews. "Have you tried to ask - have you tried ask John Kerry these questions?" Malkin asked.
Matthews looked as if he might laugh out loud: "If he shot himself on purpose? No. I have not asked him that."
"Don't you wonder?" asked Malkin. Her pouting, doe-eyed petulance during the exchange is painful to watch. Shame on MSNBC: no one had told her that she would be held accountable for her words. She promptly played the victim card after the interview, railing against "Caveman Chris Matthews" and describing the show as "ambush journalism."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000418.htm
Of course, she could have walked away from the "ambush" unscathed had she been willing to simply say - in response to any of the eight times Matthews asked her - that no, she was not saying that John Kerry had deliberately shot himself. Yet she refused to say this. She had even asked Matthews if he wondered if Kerry had shot himself.
Why? Presumably, she wanted viewers to believe that Kerry had shot himself. Such a scurrilous claim, however, would have undermined her already marginal credibility; so the slur would have to be attributed to someone else. Hence the two names she finally sputtered out: Patrick Runyon and William Zaladonis.
Malkin was referring to what she called "the February 1969 event." This, however, was wrong: the incident involving Runyon and Zaladonis took place in December 1968. Presumably she was confusing this with a February 1969 incident, in which Kerry won a Silver Star in combat on the Bay Hap River.http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/specials/elections/chi-0408220342aug22,1,2523679.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
And this should not be confused with a third incident, in March 1969, when Kerry won a Bronze Star for rescuing a comrade who had been thrown overboard by an exploding mine.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A21239-2004Aug21.html and http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110005460
But back to Runyon and Zaladonis: Did they say that Kerry had shot himself? They definitely had not. As Zaladonis put it: "I don't see how... I don't understand how he could have possibly had a self-inflicted wound."http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5843180/
Presumably, the name Malkin meant to say was William Schachte. Schachte had claimed that he was also on the boat when Kerry was wounded. Runyon and Zaladonis, however, disputed his claim. Zaladonis was specific about who was there: "Myself, Pat Runyon, and John Kerry." Runyon was equally certain: "There definitely was not a fourth."http://groups.google.com/group/alt.war.vietnam/browse_thread/thread/c8857f92fd0c871c/ad14d897e230d95b
Runyon, it turned out, had actually given the Swift Boat group a statement... only to discover later that it was drastically edited before being put on the Swift Boat website. "It made it sound like I didn't believe we got any returned fire," Runyon told the New York Times. "He made it sound like it was a normal operation. It was the scariest night of my life."http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/politics/campaign/20swift.html?position=&ei=5090&en=8afa4fded4046b86&ex=1250654400&adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1161201965-DUfGJJX6Z0GPYk906zxbcQ
And as for the wound itself? According to the Swift Boat Veterans, Kerry's supposedly self-inflicted wound was minor, and was treated by Dr. Louis Letson. But as the Times article noted: "Dr. Letson's name does not appear on any of the medical records for Mr. Kerry. Under 'person administering treatment' for the injury, the form is signed by a medic, J. C. Carreon, who died several years ago." Letson also seemed to have a little trouble recalling the invisible William Schachte. "Dr. Letson said he had not recalled Mr. Schachte until he had a conversation with another veteran earlier this year and received a subsequent phone call from Mr. Schachte himself."ibid.
And speaking of Mr. Schachte himself... as Joe Conason pointed out in Salon:
"Although his current employment went unmentioned in press accounts, the former Navy officer now works at Blank Rome LLC, a leading Republican law and lobbying firm.
"Schachte's colleagues at Blank Rome include not only top Bush-Cheney donors, several former Bush administration officials, a cochairman of the 2000 Republican Convention and a cochairman of the 2004 Republican Convention, but also the former director of the Republican National Committee's 'opposition research' department."http://dir.salon.com/story/opinion/conason/2004/09/10/schachte/index.html
And, as Media Matters pointed out, the original version of the Swift Boat Veterans' website also contradicted Schachte's account: before being modified to match Schachte's claims, the site had said that "While waiting to receive his own Swift boat command, Kerry volunteered for a nighttime patrol mission commanding a small, foam-filled 'skimmer' craft with two enlisted men."http://mediamatters.org/items/200408270009
Two enlisted men: that would be Runyon and Zaladonis. As Runyon told the Times: "Me and Bill aren't the smartest, but we can count to three."http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/politics/campaign/20swift.html?position=&ei=5090&en=8afa4fded4046b86&ex=1250654400&adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1161201965-DUfGJJX6Z0GPYk906zxbcQ
It would seem, then, that Malkin's innuendos regarding Kerry's wounds were just so much hot air.
Hot air: remember that phrase. We'll be coming back to it in a bit.
But was the Swift Boat fiasco an anomaly? Are Malkin's claims accurate, in general? To see, let's take a look at her blog.
III. Explosive Anger
Malkin's website, at www.michellemalkin.com, is an understated, tastefully designed site, with a snippet in the header showing her newly-adopted moniker, courtesy of the New York Times: "Firecracker."
It's a label that fits nicely: lots of noise, not much substance.
The ever-watchful Malkin devotes much of her time to identifying "moonbats." The site's theme song is the thump, thump, thump drumbeat of Malkin's "Moonbat" stamp. The Dixie Chicks? Moonbats.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005405.htm
Sheryl Crow? Moonbat.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004261.htm
David Letterman? Moonbat.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004215.htm
Walter Cronkite? Moonbat.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004290.htm
Michael Berg, whose son was murdered by Islamic terrorists? Moonbat.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005356.htm
South Korean rice farmers, afraid that they would be driven out of business by multinational corporations? Moonbats.Posting descriptions of protests at the World Trade Organization in Hong Kong, Malkin summarizes the incident by informing us that "The moonbats never rest."(http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004098.htm). But who were these "moonbats?" According to CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/12/17/saturday/index.html?eref=sitesearch), they were predominantly South Korean rice farmers.
Moonbat, moonbat, moonbat: it is rare day indeed that Malkin's column does not include at least one instance of her favorite epithet.
In January 2006, when the Bay City News Service reported that a bomb had been found in a San Francisco Starbucks, Malkin was on top of the story. Was it the work of Muslim terrorists, or the ubiquitous moonbats? Malkin favored the moonbat theory, elaborating in an article titled "BOMB DEFUSED AT SAN FRAN STARBUCKS."
"Just sharing this info, FYI: Bay Area moonbats have quite a history of Starbucks-bashing.... Apparently, they don't think the left-leaning corporation is guilty enough about its profits or organically pure enough for their caffeine-stained tastebuds.
"Whoever it was that left the IED in Starbucks ought to face serious consequences for endangering people's lives. But it's the Bay Area. So they won't."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004255.htm
And why would they not face serious consequences? Because the mainstream media (or, to use the Malkinspeak term, the MSM) is on the side of evil. This was particularly true of the San Francisco Chronicle. By way of explanation, Malkin quoted one of her readers: "Once again, left-wing terrorism and violence gets a pass in the MSM. The Chronicle was equally coy when left-wing terrorist groups like ELF exploded devices at Emeryville's Chiron headquarters."
"Coy?" The Chronicle's September 6, 2003 story on the Emeryville bombing was titled "Activists see more violence from extreme protestors." Subheadings in the body of the article were in all capital letters: "'WAR AGAINST THE EARTH'." "ACTS OF TERRORISM." "MORE EXPLOSIVES LIKELY."http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/09/06/MN258847.DTL
As is often the case when reading Malkin, it's a classic "So let me get this straight" moment: An article with a heading in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS reading 'WAR AGAINST THE EARTH' is coy? An article that describes the actions of these extreme protestors as "acts of terror" and predicts more such attacks is coy? One is reminded of Andre the Giant's dryly delivered line in The Princess Bride: "I do not think that word means what you think it does."
Nonetheless, though it is tempting to ridicule Malkin, she was right on one point: the person who left the device ultimately did not have to face serious consequences. That, however, was only because the "bomb" turned out to be a flashlight with corroded batteries, accidentally left behind by a homeless man.http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/13/BAGC9GMUSD1.DTL
There are, of course, dangers other than moonbats and flashlights. The most dire threat? That damnable free press. Traditional media had been overrun by liberals, and The New York Times, in Malkin's view, was one of the worst offenders. The Times might indeed have a liberal slant; but if it does, then surely any realistic discussion of hit supposed slant would need to address a number of questions. Why, for example, did the Times withhold information regarding the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping until after the 2004 election? Or why did they run Judith Miller's wildly inaccurate articles about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/4486750.stm for Miller's own assessment of her articles.
Rather than answering those questions, Malkin had other "evidence" in mind. A prime example of the paper's liberal bias, in Malkin's view, came in March 2006, when an Iranian man tried to run over students in a rented jeep. Under the headline "JIHAD IN N.C.: MSM WHITEWASH," she cites a passage from Newsbusters.org to explain the problem: "The national 'paper of record' [the Times] doesn't even use the term Muslim in the story, even though the suspect told police the attack was to 'avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world.'"http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004727.htm
The story did, however, describe the accused man, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, as "Iranian-born," and it explained that his goal was to avenge "his people across the sea." And, in a curious oversight, Malkin left out one detail that even Newsbusters admitted: the last line of the story quoted Taheri-azar saying that he was "thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah."http://newsbusters.org/node/4345
Ah, yes, that coy mainstream media: how could their readers possibly know that an Iranian guy named Mohammed who claims that he is spreading the will of Allah is a Muslim?
Muslims - both real and imagined - provide a great deal of grist for the Malkin Mill. Malkin's coverage of the October 2005 death of an Oklahoma University student provides an example. The student, Joel Henry Hinrichs III, blew himself up with a bomb outside a football game. Malkin immediately began peddling the theory that the student was a radical Islamic terrorist, bent on Jihad. Her October 4 post about the bombing carried an "updated" teaser with the latest details uncovered by her fellow bloggers:
"Hinrichs attended the same mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui?...Hinrichs' Pakistani roommate briefly detained..."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/003668.htm
When it turned out that the supposed "evidence" of Hinrich's Islamic connections was entirely unsubstantiated, and that Hinrichs was not part of any extremist group, Malkin suddenly became peeved that the evil "MSM" had the temerity to suggest that her beloved "blogosphere" had distorted the story. After Wall Street Journal media reporter Joe Hagan contacted Malkin to discuss coverage of the incident, she outlined her complaints in her blog:
"He wanted to talk about blogs and the University of Oklahoma bomber story. Although I was dismayed to learn the only coverage of the incident from the august WSJ would be a story about the coverage, rather than an original investigative report, I thought it would be better than nothing.
"I was wrong: Nothing would have been better.
"Several times, I stated clearly that I did not subscribe to any conspiracy theories--and that most of the blogs covering the story didn't either. I explained that unlike the MSM, most of the blogs I have linked to were simply trying to find out the truth about the strange incident--and that meant keeping open the possibility that Hinrichs meant to commit murder and that he may have been swayed by extremist Islamic views."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/003729.htm
You would think that Malkin would have let it die there. You'd be wrong. On March 1, she was back on the story:
"THE OU BOMBER: CASE NOT CLOSED"
"So much for the lonely, depressed young student theory to explain how University of Oklahoma Joel Hinrichs found himself blown to bits on a park bench outside the packed campus football stadium last fall. The Daily Oklahoman reports on A1 today:
"A Norman police bomb expert said Tuesday he does not believe University of Oklahoma student Joel Henry Hinrichs III committed suicide by blowing himself up outside a packed football stadium. 'I believe he accidentally blew himself up,' Sgt. George Mauldin said."
And what about those terrorist connections? Malkin quotes blogger Mark Tapscott:
"Despite the official denials, there was substantial evidence at the time of Hinrichs death and in the days thereafter as more was learned about his background and actions during the final year of his life that suggested to others the distinct possibility that Hinrichs was involved in some way with a terrorist activity."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004686.htm
So had the police uncovered new leads? Was the "substantial evidence" of Hinrichs' "terrorist activity" finally coming to light? Had the "blogosphere" had it right all along?
Not quite: Malkin left out one little detail. It's right there in the OU Daily's coverage of that February 28 presentation by Norman police: "The suspicions of an Islamic connection were shown to be false, Mauldin said."http://www.oudaily.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2006/02/28/440535120debd
And yes, that is the same George Mauldin that Malkin was just quoting.
A recap is in order, because it's a textbook lesson in Malkinesque journalism:
1. Malkin pushes a ridiculous claim.
2. Malkin denies pushing the ridiculous claim.
3. Malkin implies that the ridiculous claim is true, citing - as proof - a source who says the claim is false.
Was this an isolated occurrence? Not really: Malkin has a history of compiling "evidence" that doesn't show what she thinks it shows. Her book In Defense of Internment is rife with examples.
IV. Take My Rights... Please
The premise of In Defense of Internment is straightforward: the incarceration of Japanese-Americans was a prudent, essential measure, necessary to protect the American mainland from Imperial Japan. According to the book, decoded diplomatic messages from Japan (the "MAGIC" cables) had indicated the presence of a vast fifth column inside the United States. These messages, according to Malkin, were the rationale behind the decision to force Japanese-Americans into camps.
In one of the book's most remarkable feats, Malkin manages to start misleading readers before they even get past the book's flyleaf. "Everything you've been taught about the World War II 'internment camps' is wrong." By encasing "internment camps" in scare quotes, she implies that they weren't really internment camps. But if everything we've been taught is wrong, what is the truth about the camps? According to Malkin's bullet points, "They were not created primarily because of racism or wartime hysteria," and "They did not target only those of Japanese descent." Moreover, she writes, "They were not Nazi-style death camps."
Welcome to Camp Malkin, providing comfortable lodging for straw men since 2004.
Surely no serious scholar has ever claimed that Japanese-Americans were herded into "death camps." Ah, but wait... Malkin's got an example. Historian Roger Daniels says they were death camps. As proof, she cites this passage from Daniels' Prisoners Without Trial:
"The American camps were not death camps, but they were surrounded by barbed wire and by troops whose guns were pointed at the inmates. Almost all the 1,862 Japanese Americans who died in them died of natural causes, and they were outnumbered by the 5,918 American citizens who were born in the concentration camps. But the few Japanese Americans who were killed "accidentally" by their American guards were just as dead as the millions of Jews and others who were killed deliberately by their German, Soviet, or Japanese guards."I am indebted here to David Neiwert, who highlights this particularly absurd claim at http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2004_08_08_dneiwert_archive.html.
It's vintage Malkin: she cites a man saying, "The American camps were not death camps" as proof that people claim they were death camps.
Returning to Malkin's thesis, however, a problem becomes apparent immediately: There are exactly zero references to MAGIC in the contemporary documents discussing the incarceration policy.
Malkin attempts to explain this away by pointing out that MAGIC was classified, and therefore could not be mentioned in the official justifications for the internment policy. Lacking any historical evidence to support her claim, Malkin's entire theory becomes one of blind faith: MAGIC could, in theory, have been a factor; and as it suits her purposes, she is happy to assert that it was a factor.
Yet even the faithful must demonstrate a certain amount of consistency in order to be taken seriously. Malkin's tortured logic, however, makes consistency impossible. This becomes apparent when comparing her contradictory stance regarding prominent supporters and opponents of the internment.
High-ranking opponents of the measure included J. Edgar Hoover (hardly a bleeding-heart liberal) and Attorney General Francis Biddle. Malkin suggests Hoover and Biddle were opposed to the internment because of ignorance: they did not have access to the MAGIC cables. She admits that Hoover did receive "MAGIC-derived information about Japan's espionage networks attributed to 'highly reliable sources' which he then passed along to his top agents and to Biddle." But, she continues, "those outside the MAGIC loop could never fully appreciate just how reliable the information was since they didn't know it came straight from high-ranking Japanese diplomats."Malkin, Michelle: In Defense of Internment, Regnery Publishing, Washington, D.C., 2004, p. 41
And what about supporters of the internment? Regarding General John DeWitt, who recommended evacuation and internment, Malkin writes that "It appears that DeWitt did not have clearance to MAGIC in early 1942, but he did have access to intelligence reports that were derived from MAGIC -- reports that warned of Japanese-controlled espionage cells up and down the West Coast."ibid., p. 75
Thus, Malkin acknowledges that neither Hoover, Biddle, nor DeWitt had access to the cables. In DeWitt's case, however, she implies that the information in the summaries was sufficient, and thus DeWitt favored internment. Simultaneously, however, in the case of Hoover and Biddle, she implies that the information in the summaries was not sufficient, and consequently they opposed internment.
Not surprisingly, Malkin's book was not particularly well-received. A group of roughly 40 historians and scholars issued a joint statement describing the book as "a blatant violation of professional standards of objectivity and fairness."http://hnn.us/readcomment.php?id=40982
The book flew in the face of more than a half-century of scholarship, and was contradicted even by the work of the official historian of the United States Army. "In fact," read the statement from the Historians' Committee for Fairness, "the author's presentation of events is so distorted and historically inaccurate that, when challenged by reputable historians, she has herself conceded that her main thesis in incorrect, namely that the MAGIC intercepts of prewar Japanese diplomatic cable traffic, explain and justify the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans."
It should be stressed that it was not simply touchy-feely egghead historians who felt that the internment was a mistake. A Congressional commission had concluded that the incarceration "was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions that followed from it - exclusion, detention, the ending of detention and the ending of exclusion - were not founded upon military considerations. The broad historical causes that shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cacodes/edc/13000.html
The relocation and internment were, in the Commission's words, "fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights." But hey, screw the commission: it was, according to Malkin, "stacked with left-leaning lawyers, politicians, and civil rights activists."Malkin, Internment, p. 123
Journalist David Neiwert, law professor Eric Muller and historian Greg Robinson have all written detailed critiques of Malkin's claims regarding the internment. Robinson's response to Malkin on the subject of the MAGIC cables gets right to the heart of the issue: "Let me divide it into three parts: first, that the MAGIC cables do not present the image of a Japanese American spy network; Second, that the people who pushed the case for evacuation would not have had access to the MAGIC excerpts in any case; thirdly, that those who did have access to MAGIC did not base their decision on it."Muller's review of the book is available at http://www.reason.com/0412/cr.em.indefensible.shtml, and a more detailed discussion by Muller and Robinson can be found at http://www.isthatlegal.org/Muller_and_Robinson_on_Malkin.html. In addition to the previously cited article by Neiwert, see also his post at http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2004_09_05_dneiwert_archive.html#109485588109386637.
Robinson goes on to note the most egregious omission in Malkin's book: There is no discussion of the long history of anti-Japanese racism on the West Coast. Responding to this criticism, Malkin replied that "As I explain above and in the book, there have been hundreds of books and dissertations on this topic. Why repeat what has already been said hundreds of times?"http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000360.htm
The answer to that should be painfully obvious: Because it is relevant. Malkin fails to address the point that it has not merely been said hundreds of times: it has also been documented hundreds of times. It does not matter that it has been said hundreds of times that the Earth is round; ignoring those hundreds of statements does not suddenly make the Earth flat.
DeWitt, in particular, has been accused of harboring racist sentiments. Malkin, however, claims that he's been unfairly maligned, and that when DeWitt was quoted as saying "A Jap is a Jap," he was merely summarizing other people's views.
The "Jap is a Jap" remark, however, was hardly the only time DeWitt made his feelings known. The transcript of the Supreme Court case challenging the internment policy - Korematsu v. United States - contains this little snippet from DeWitt: "The danger of the Japanese was, and is now - if they are permitted to come back - espionage and sabotage. It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty. ... But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map."http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=323&invol=214
Funny... Malkin doesn't cite that quote.
DeWitt, of course, is not Malkin's star witness for her case. That role falls to Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, and Karl Bendetsen, the Army officer in charge of the evacuation. According to Malkin, both men "stated in Congressional testimony that the MAGIC messages (or intelligence derived from them) played a major role in the development of the evacuation plan." Malkin, Internment, pp. 130-131
Malkin refers here to their testimony before Congress in 1984. But there is one little problem: Both McCloy and Bendetsen had also testified before the Congressional commission in 1981, during the hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Neither man made any mention of MAGIC. Malkin's response to this glaring omission smacks of deadpan comedy: "McCloy's detractors knock him for neglecting to mention MAGIC in his testimony before the commission, and for giving conflicting answers on the role that espionage played in the decision to evacuate the West Coast. At the time of his appearance before the commission in the fall of 1981, he was eighty-six years old. Advanced in age, his memory simply needed refreshing."ibid., p. 124; p. 131
Ah, yes... his memory just needed a little "refreshing." And yet roughly three years later, when McCloy once again testified before Congress during hearings on the Japanese-American and Aleutian Wartime Relocation, his memory was suddenly just fine. Apparently, he'd been "refreshed" in the interim.
Basking in the clarity of his newly fresh memory, McCloy also claimed in 1984 that "Generally speaking, I would say that our Japanese/American population benefited from the relocation rather than suffered, as did so many others of our population as a result of the war."http://www.jots.com/notes/deadjb/20324
Odd: that quote is also mysteriously absent from Malkin's telling of the tale.
Bendetsen, meanwhile, justified his failure to mention MAGIC in 1981 by claiming that "I knew it would have been fruitless. Every Commissioner had made up his mind before he was appointed -- I knew most of them -- except the Congressman from California."Malkin, Internment, p. 124
Yet even Bendetsen recognized in hindsight that the policy had been unnecessary. In his 1984 testimony, he admitted that "if the President and the Secretaries of War and Navy, the Chiefs of Staff of the military services, had known what you know now, yes, it would have been a hell of a mistake." This, curiously, is yet another quotation that is missing from Malkin's book.http://www.internmentarchives.com/showdoc.php?docid=00210&search_id=20564&pagenum=4
Bendetsen -- and Malkin -- both insist, however, that the government could not have known any better, and hence the internment was not a mistake. But this makes no sense whatsoever: a mistake is a mistake. One might argue that it was an understandable mistake, but errors and bad decisions are still errors and bad decisions, no matter why they were made.
Consider an analogy: A friend asks you to meet him in a strange city. You arrive bearing a handwritten paper bearing the location of the meeting. You show the paper to a stranger, who reads: 15 S Drake. He kindly tells you how to get to 15 S. Drake Avenue. You follow those directions, but your friend isn't there. Why? Because you were not looking for 15 South Drake Avenue; you were looking for Suite 15S at the Drake Hotel. But how was the stranger supposed to know that? And how could you have known that this unknown city had both a street and a hotel called the Drake? In hindsight, it is an understandable mistake... and yet, it is still a mistake. Your friend will not suddenly materialize at 15 South Drake, just because everyone involved had good intentions. A mistake is a mistake, and "a hell of a mistake," to use Bendetsen's own description, is still a hell of a mistake.
Consequently, if one wishes to construct a meaningful defense of a policy of internment, it is not enough to claim, as Malkin does, that the policy was well-intentioned, or that it was not racist. The policy was only worth defending if it was also just, and effective. This raises a question: how widespread was the threat posed by Japanese espionage and sabotage?
Malkin's website contains what she calls a "partial list" of ethnic Japanese implicated in aiding the enemy. The number of people on the list? Nine.Malkin's list is available at http://www.michellemalkin.com/subversives.htm. That list, incidentally, includes a Japanese-American with dual citizenship, who had returned to Japan in 1939... hardly relevant to a discussion of incarcerating American citizens on the West Coast in 1942. For details, see http://www.biocrawler.com/encyclopedia/Tomoya_Kawakita.
Meanwhile, one hundred and ten thousand people were removed from their homes and sent to internment camps.Malkin cites a figure of 112,000 (Internment, p. 78). Higher figures are sometimes given, but these typically include the number of births in the camps in the total population.
Setting aside the moral considerations involved in violating the rights of a hundred thousand people, a purely pragmatic evaluation of the policy would suggest that it was, in a word, moronic. Resources that could have been used to track and infiltrate groups of suspected collaborators were instead devoted to incarcerating innocent people.
The number of German-Americans and Italian-Americans dwarfed the number of ethnic Japanese, and the fact that the United States was not crippled by German and Italian spies is clear evidence that a less drastic response would have been entirely adequate to mitigate the alleged threat.
Malkin's reasoning on this point, however, is simply incomprehensible: she argues that because these groups were so large, internment would have been unworkable. Thus, we are left to conclude that while a larger threat could be addressed without resorting to internment, a smaller threat could not. Such "logic" would have made perfect sense to DeWitt, who had argued that "The very fact that no sabotage has taken place is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken." Take a moment and let that sink in: There had been no sabotage... which therefore proved that there would be sabotage.
Malkin's arguments suggest that she is incapable of grasping the value of anything other than the most draconian measures. She behaves as if there were only two possible choices: incarceration based on race, or inaction. This, or that. One section of her book, in fact, is bluntly titled "CIVIL LIBERTIES OR SURVIVAL."Malkin, Internment, p. 163
Sure, you can have your precious civil rights... if you want to be slaughtered. Live free or die, in the Malkin universe, becomes: live free, and die. This from the woman who calls the opponents of violations of civil liberties the "quivering quarter of the punditocracy."ibid., p. 164
Someone is quaking with fear, yes: but is it the people who demand respect for civil liberties, or is it the woman thinks we all going to die if we pay heed to the Bill of Rights?
An entire book could be devoted to refuting In Defense of Internment. In fact, one might argue that many books refuting Malkin's screed have already been written, as her misguided narrative runs counter to virtually the entire body of scholarly research that preceded it.
What was the point of such revisionist history? In the book's introduction, entitled "A Time to Discriminate," she argues that "In war, desperate times sometimes call for disparate measures." Did she mean desperate measures? It's hard to tell: disparate measures would imply that we need to do something different than what was done during World War II; and yet Malkin explicitly defends the incarceration. "Make no mistake: I am not advocating rounding up all Arabs or Muslims and tossing them into camps, but when we are under attack, 'racial profiling' -- or more precisely, threat profiling -- is justified."ibid., p. xxx
One cannot help but wonder, then, why the book was called In Defense of Internment, and why it had a picture of Mohammed Atta on the cover. Why even bother with the pretext that the book told the story of what really happened during World War II?
Reveling in the role of armchair historian, Malkin launches a misguided attempt to seize the high ground: "Critics of the World War II evacuation and relocation are fond of quoting philosopher George Santayana, who warned that 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' Forgetting history is dangerous indeed. But falsifying it is a far worse sin."ibid., p. 148
To which one can only reply: Someday, Ms. Malkin, perhaps you should look in the mirror.
There are two more items worth quoting here. The first is the dedication of Malkin's book:
In memory of John McCloy and David Lowman
who defended America's honor to the end
The second item is not to be found in Malkin's book. It is one of the opening remarks of a witness in the 1984 relocation hearings. The witness, a former official of the National Security Agency, remarked that "At the outset, I would like to make it perfectly clear that I, too, feel that a grave injustice was done to many resident Japanese nationals and to many Japanese Americans who lived on the west coast in 1942, who were evacuated and interned solely on the basis of their ancestry."
The speaker? David Lowman.http://www.internmentarchives.com/showdoc.php?docid=00211&search_id=20632&pagenum=4
V. War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Inconsistency Is Consistency.
Considering Malkin's willingness to assert that up is actually down, perhaps we should not be surprised by anything that appears in her columns. And yet there is something entirely unexpected in her inability to remain consistent. By nature, ideologues tend to have a simplistic, black-and-white view of the world. Wouldn't this simplistic view make it easy to identify the good guys and the bad guys? In Malkin's world, however, ideology gives way to expediency, and consistency flies out the window.
A fine example can be seen in the way Malkin changed her tune (so to speak) on the question of violent songs. Although she had previously written denunciations of lyrics of rap songs,http://michellemalkin.com/archives/001178.htm and http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000620.htm
she reacted differently when the singer was someone on her side. In June 2006, Cpl. Joshua Belile triggered criticism from opponents of the Iraq War when he performed, in uniform, a song called "Hadji Girl" in front of an audience of other soldiers. The song tells of a marine who meets an Arabic girl at a Burger King, goes to her home, and is attacked by her family, whereupon he kills them. An excerpt from the lyrics:
So I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me
As the bullets began to fly
The blood sprayed from between her eyes
And then I laughed maniacally
Then I hid behind the TV
And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little fuckers to eternity.
And I said
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
They should have known they were fucking with a Marinehttp://michellemalkin.com/archives/005387.htm
No doubt your first thought on reading this is the same as mine: "He hid behind the TV? Wow... that's a big TV!" Malkin, however, was homing in on other aspects of the story. Was she upset about the lyrics?
Apparently not. She immediately rose to Belile's defense: "Support Belile and Sweater Kittenz here," Malkin wrote. "If you are a talent agent and want to support the troops, go contact them now." The song wasn't the problem at all: what disgusted Malkin were the "Haditha hyperventilators" who complained about it.ibid.
Who were these hyperventilators? One of Malkin's examples was liberal hawk Andrew Sullivan, who had called the song "more than a little dispiriting." Describing the song, Sullivan had referred to "two unarmed little girls," to which Malkin indignantly replied that "There aren't 'two unarmed little girls' in the song." Sure, there was the little sister who the marine used as a human shield, and there was the "Hadji Girl" alluded to in the title, but "Hadji Girl" probably wasn't little. After all, her family had that big, fat TV, so their daughter was probably big and fat, too. Take that, Andrew Sullivan! That will teach you to call songs about killing Iraqi families "dispiriting!"
And, in the grand comedic tradition of the callback gag, a couple weeks later, Malkin was shilling for the band again: "I think the band would be a great addition to the Freedom Concert Series! Support the troops: Hire the Sweater Kittenz!"http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005450.htm
It was, in short, a classic example of the selective blindness that affects extremists everywhere. In Malkin's case, even when the behavior of the Right and the Left is essentially the same, their motives will be viewed differently. This was also demonstrated clearly in an affair which we might call "The Travel Section Jihad."
In June 2006, the New York Times Travel section included an article on Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's vacation homes. The intrepid Malkin quickly saw through the "look at these nice houses" charade and discerned the real motives for the article: "There is a concerted, organized effort to dig up and publicize the private home information of prominent conservatives in the media and blogosphere to intimidate them," Malkin wrote.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005480.htm
Those liberal bastards were just trying to get our fearless leaders assassinated.
There were a couple small problems with Malkin's theory, however. First of all, it turned out that the article and photos had actually been approved in advance by Rumsfeld's office. Upon learning this little fact, however, Malkin was undeterred: "'Because Rumsfeld gave permission' may cut it with the moonbats and fairweather privocrats. Not with me."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005480.htm
After all, Malkin is no "fairweather privocrat." She's totally committed to privacy. (Unless, of course, you're talking about federal monitoring of financial transactions, or warrantless eavesdropping on international telephone calls. Those things are just fine.)
And, as blogger Glenn Greenwald pointed out, there was (surprise!) a double-standard at work: "On June 8, 2003, the same New York Times published a lengthy article entitled "The Ex-President Next Door," which provided every possible detail one would ever want to know, and then many more beyond that, about Bill and Hillary Clinton's new home in Chappaqua, New York and the lives they lead there. The article contained numerous photographs of their home, and all sorts of information about where they eat, recreate and jog."http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/07/conservative-pundits-reveal-murderous.html and http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/07/what-is-left-of-malkin-hinderaker-and.html
Strange... can't seem to find Malkin's condemnation of that article.
One thing should be understood, however: it is one thing to hold contradictory opinions simultaneously, and something else entirely to change one's mind. This distinction is lost on those who spent months harping on the alleged "flip-flops" of John Kerry. There is nothing wrong with changing one's mind from time to time; in fact, doing so demonstrates a willingness to consider new evidence, a trait that is sorely lacking among many pundits and academics.
In the case of an extreme reversal, however, an honest commentator might realize that a mea culpa is in order. In the rare instances when Malkin changes course, there is usually no such admission of error. In December 2005, for example, we saw Malkin hailing the birth of democracy in the Middle East. On the day of the Iraqi election, she was delighted with the way things were going: "Little violence, massive turnout, widespread participation: Success!" But those bastards in the liberal press wouldn't be able to see the big picture: "The MSM will find a way to turn lemonade back into lemons. Just wait and watch."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004083.htm
A few days later, she still couldn't fathom why the press was missing the real story out of the Middle East. Why, she wanted to know, had Time magazine not chosen "the brave people of Lebanon" or "the brave people of Iraq" as Persons of the Year?http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004101.htm
Seven months later, however, Malkin herself was trading the lemonade for lemons. She warned her readers that maybe democracy wasn't such a swell thing after all, and quoted what she called "a wake-up call" from Andy McCarthy:
"'We've been told for some time now against common sense and the weight of our own national experience that the way to defeat international jihadism is to spread democracy. So now the Lebanese democracy can't control Hezbollah (which has been freely elected and controls about a fifth of its legislature), while the Palestinian Authority IS Hamas (the Palestinian people having democratically put them in power)....
Democracy has many enduring benefits, but it doesn't stop terrorists from operating and in many ways, it makes life easier for them. When are we going to stop talking about it as a national security cure-all?
We have to kill al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the rest. This is harder work than the administration's rhetoric is preparing the nation for. We are not going to democratize these savages into submission.'"http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005541.htm
Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, "and the rest." Wasn't that the way the Professor and Mary Ann were described in the original Gilligan's Island theme song? Perhaps that's exactly who McCarthy wanted dead. Especially that damn Professor... you can never trust those ivory tower eggheads.
Nonetheless, there is some actual insight buried underneath McCarthy's call for wholesale slaughter. Democracy is not going to suddenly make everything better. The irony, of course, is that realists have known this all along. A duly elected murderous thug is still a murderous thug. It was the neocons who had claimed that democracy was flowering, and that the Middle East would soon be a happy, peaceful place. Malkin's "wake-up call" wasn't much of a revelation to the "naysayers," "grouches," and "quagmirists" who have been issuing similar warnings for years.
VI. Names We Dare Not Speak
Every propagandist with his or her salt knows that it's not just what you say that is important. What you leave out is also critical: there are some facts that have to be avoided at all costs.
Different people had different reasons for opposing the war... but you would never know that from reading Malkin. There are some things that simply cannot be discussed. There are names that cannot be spoken, lest we invoke Lord Voldemort.
The amount of screen space Malkin has devoted to Iraq would cover a football field or two; and yet in all that space, one finds nary a mention of mainstream opposition to the war. A prime example is the "revolt of the generals," when six former military leaders took the extraordinary step of openly criticizing a standing Secretary of Defense.
Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste? Zero mentions. Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold? Zero mentions. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton? Zero mentions. Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs? Zero mentions. Retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack? Zero mentions.Searches were conducted using the "Search" feature on Malkin's site; last verified on 10/24/2006.
But let it not be said that Malkin ignored the story completely: Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni garnered a mention in the form of a link to an article on another site, with no comment at all from Malkin herself.
Of course, those six generals were not the only veterans who were criticizing the Bush administration's handling of the war. General Wesley Clark, the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, had called for Rumsfeld's resignation during his 2004 presidential campaign.http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/04/16/rumsfeld/index.html
What did Malkin have to say about Gen. Clark?
"I met him in the green room at Fox last week," Malkin wrote. Oh... they had actually met, face-to-face. And what would the intrepid war cheerleader ask the career military man? Perhaps a few questions on the nuances of Clausewitz or Sun-Tzu? Please, Michelle, do continue: we anxiously await your retelling of this meeting of great military minds.
"I met him in the green room at Fox last week and asked him about his decision to attend the fringe confab [The YearlyKos convention]. He babbled about the moonbats' right to participate in democracy or something like that. Didn't listen to much more because he is a, uh, close talker."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005359.htm
Other names that you won't see in Malkin's column? There is no mention of Gen. Eric Shinseki, who had warned in 2003 that the occupation of Iraq would require "several hundred thousand troops."http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12335719/site/newsweek/
You won't find anything about Lawrence Wilkerson, the retired Army colonel who, as an aide to Colin Powell, had helped the Secretary of State review documents in preparation for his February 2003 UN speech, in which Powell alleged that the US had solid evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. "I wish I had not been involved in it... I look back on it, and I still say it was the lowest point in my life," Wilkerson said.http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/08/19/powell.un/
Not a word about Gen. Bernard Trainor, or his analysis of the strategic failures of the Iraq War;http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/30/books/review/30heilbrun.html?ex=1304049600&en=ffc80747ae84f966&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss
nothing about retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, a 28-year-veteran of the armed forces, a Ph.D. now working as a defense consultant, who stated bluntly that he believed that Rumsfeld was only one of several officials who should be relieved of command.http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0417/dailyUpdate.html
And you also won't find any mention of Retired Lt. Gen. William Odom, a man who had once served as the Director of the National Security Agency under President Reagan, and who argued that "The invasion of Iraq may well turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in American history."http://www.niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=63
Nor will you read any excerpts from the 1998 memoir by the George H.W. Bush, who had warned of the "incalculable human and political costs" in toppling Hussein: "We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... Under those circumstances, there was no viable 'exit strategy' we could see.... Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."A World Transformed, George H.W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, p. 489. (1998)
Clearly, the opinions of a bunch of old, washed-up officers are not as important as the opinions of Harry Belafonte (25 mentions), Sean Penn (25 mentions), Oliver Stone (31 mentions) or George Clooney (20 mentions).Hits returned in searches of www.michellemalkin.com, from the site's Search field, as of 10/24/2006.
But what about the soldiers on the ground? The ones cast adrift, with no exit strategy, in that bitterly hostile land? There are, in fact, some whose names and faces Malkin is happy to trot out from time to time... but she curiously never discusses what they've said about Iraq.
One such example was the so-called "smoking marine." In 2005, when the Associated Press was awarded a Pulitzer prize for a series of photos showing the violence in Iraq, Malkin criticized the choice. She favored Luis Sinco's photo of a weary Marine, a cigarette dangling from his lips.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/002003.htm
A year later, that Marine - Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller - had returned home, having been discharged early because of post-traumatic stress disorder. He didn't seem to like the war as much as Malkin did. "We've done some humanitarian aid," Miller told the Los Angeles Times "but what good have we actually done, and what has America gained except a lot of deaths? It burns me up."http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-marlboro19may19,0,4643056.story?page=1&coll=la-home-headlines
Why didn't Malkin revisit the story? Perhaps she didn't need to. She had other heroes, after all... like Pat Tillman.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005245.htm
Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who gave up a multimillion-dollar contract to enlist in the Army, had been killed in the mountains of Afghanistan in April 2004. Heroic? Unquestionably. But Tillman, according to his family, was an admirer of Noam Chomsky. That alone would surely be enough for Malkin to toss his memory into the moonbat file. Moreover, he was opposed to the war in Iraq. "Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war," Mary Tillman said. A colleague who served with Tillman in Iraq agreed, recalling an incident when he and Tillman had watched bombs falling on an Iraqi town. "We were at an old air base, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren't in the fight right then. We were talking. And Pat said, 'You know, this war is so f------ illegal.'" Another soldier in Tillman's platoon said that Tillman had urged him to vote for John Kerry.http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/09/25/MNGD7ETMNM1.DTL; see also http://mediamatters.org/items/200509290001
Such stories must have seemed blasphemous to the woman who just couldn't bring herself to say that Kerry hadn't shot himself deliberately way back in 1969.
In the rare instances when Malkin actually does provide details that conflict with her interpretation of events, one finds that her presentation is, shall we say, a bit skewed. In January 2006, for example, Malkin wrote about an incident in which six men tried to buy 60 disposable cell phones from a Midland, Texas Wal-Mart. Suspicious clerks called the police. Malkin wrote that "ABC News has posted the Midland Police Department police report of the incident, which notes that 'Upon the arrival of special agents, and as a result of subsequent interviews, it was discovered that members of the group were linked to suspected terrorist cells stationed within the Metroplex.'" [Emphasis added by Malkin.]http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004278.htm
But was that really what "subsequent interviews" had revealed? Not at all. The Midland Reporter-Telegram quoted Bill Vanderland, the agent in charge of the FBI office in Midland, as saying "assertions of a connection between a terror cell and the men who attempted to purchase cell phones from a Midland Wal-Mart were invalid... There is no known link or demonstrated link or any other kind of link at this point between the people here and any terror cell."http://mywesttexas.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15922345&BRD+2288&PAG=461&dep_id=475626&rfi=6
To her credit, Malkin did provide a link to the Reporter-Telegram article... but oddly enough, while the claim of terrorist connections was highlighted in BOLD letters, the link to the Reporter-Telegram article was buried in a single sentence in the last paragraph of her post: "Meantime, the Midland Reporter-Telegram has more details on the Wal-Mart incident." She did not bother to mention that one of those "details" was the fact that the supposed connections to "suspected terrorist cells" -- the ones she had just highlighted in bold letters -- did not actually exist.
But perhaps we should overlook Malkin's inconsistencies. After all, a certain amount of battle fatigue has to be expected... particularly in light of the fact that the war in Iraq was not the only war Conservatives were waging. Back in December 2005, they were tied down on two fronts: The Iraq War, and the War on Christmas. As one of General Bill O'Reilly's most loyal soldiers, Malkin was ready for combat. Charging into the thick of the fray three days before that holiest of days, Malkin had a tip for last-minute shoppers: "Manolo puts the spotlight on the holiday shoes. Ladies, check out this pair of open-toed Vera Wang heels in fire-engine red: Super-fantastic!"http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004134.htm
Eight hours later, however, she was concerned that we might be losing sight of the true meaning of Christmas. "Amy Welborn's [sic] meditation on the real meaning of Christmas is must-read," Malkin wrote.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004136.htm
And what exactly is the true meaning of Christmas? According to Wellborn, "The really traditional Christian remembrance of the Nativity is not about sweetness. It is about awe, fear, and trembling, and it is shot through with hints of suffering to come." Christian tradition, says Wellborn, doesn't wrap up Christmas in good cheer. "It's striking that the next day - the very next day - after Christmas, the Church remembers not glad tidings, angels, and shepherd boys, but a bloody death by stoning. St. Stephen it is, the first Christian martyr."http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/wellborn200512220837.asp
Christmas with Michelle Malkin: Vera Wang shoes and memories of gruesome deaths by stoning. Who says Conservatives don't know how to celebrate?
VII. They're Liberals, Not Humans... Fetch the Torch!
One of Malkin's methods for inciting her followers with a minimum of effort is to simply extract profoundly dumb comments from like-minded commentators. After the July 2005 London train bombings, for example, Malkin quoted Mark Steyn: "After the initial shock of stumbling over the truth, what will Britain do? Go back to the Bob Geldof agenda or avenge her dead?"http://michellemalkin.com/archives/002949.htm
Surely the British know a thing or two about coping with bombs, and surely their approach is a little more sensible than that advocated by Steyn and Malkin. ("We can't feed these starving African children, dammit! We've got Arabs to kill!")
The following July, the smarmy sound bites of choice came from the Power Line blog's John Hinderaker. The kindred spirits of the far Right were livid about a New York Times photo series, which had shown members of the Mahdi Army fighting U.S. troops. Berating a Times editor's comment that the photographer had showed "incredible courage," Malkin quoted Hinderaker's response: "It would have required courage to hang out with the Mahdi Army, if there were any likelihood that a member of the Iraqi 'insurgency' would regard a representative of the New York Times as an enemy."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005548.htm
How quickly they forget: A New York Times journalist had been murdered in Basra 10 months earlier; and freelance journalist Steven Vincent had been killed a little more than a month before that, just two days after he wrote an op-ed for the NYT.http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1574229,00.html and
Malkin and Hinderaker would no doubt reply that the people who killed them were not, strictly speaking in the Madhi Army... they were just other members of the scare-quote "insurgency." You see, terrorists are all one big happy family when it's necessary to lump Afghanistan and Iraq together... but if the requirements of partisan punditry require a little differentiation, well, that can be done in a pinch.
The theme of the "one big happy terrorist family" was also apparent in early October 2006, when North Korea claimed to have detonated a nuclear weapon. Malkin relied on the New York Sun to summarize the true nature of the problem:
"To the extent that America needs to be particularly wary, it is of the danger that the North Korean test could be, like the war in Lebanon and Israel this summer, an Iranian-Syrian stunt aimed at diverting world attention from Tehran's own nuclear program."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/006087.htm
Ah, of course... how could the rest of us be so misguided? The problem was not that a lunatic dictator had obtained a nuclear weapon: the problem was, the whole thing was just a stunt by those damned jihadis, who were using it to distract us.
That other little New York newspaper, the Times, was never astute enough to see such truths. The Times has long been one of Malkin's favorite whipping boys: in what passes for wit, she refers to the paper as "The New York Slimes," and executive editor Bill Keller is known as "Bill Killer." (Clever gags like that are a sure sign that Malkin's columns are the work of a seasoned professional comedian.) Back in June, in fact, she urged her readers to protest outside the Times' Washington D.C. office. The turnout wasn't exactly overwhelming: according to the organizers, the initial group of 14 "soon swelled to 29 protesters."http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1661567/posts
Thirty if you count Malkin/Kaufman as two people.
Her ubiquitous fury, however, is of course not limited to the press. These days, even the President she admires is letting her down. She was deeply disappointed when (after a five-year delay), President Bush finally appeared before the NAACP.http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/20/AR2006072001723.html
Or, as Malkin calls them, "the grievance-mongers at the NAACP."
"What a squandered opportunity," Malkin wrote. "Bush could have hit back hard at the race exploiters who shamelessly accused him of hating black people and suppressing black votes and causing Hurricane Katrina."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005576.htm
In other words: why didn't Bush go before the nation's largest civil rights group, and insult them? Enough of this "uniter, not a divider"http://www.salon.com/news/feature/1999/05/06/bush/
crap. Who needs unity when you have control?
The bully pulpit, after all, works nearly as well as mob rule. Never one to tread the high road, Malkin has no reservations about employing the collective anger of the fringe Right. Thus, she cheerfully published the email addresses of people who sent her hate mail on the back of her book Unhinged.http://theconservativevoice.com/article/9440.html
(The publisher seems to have thought better of this later, and they've now been removed from newer editions.) She also posted Chris Matthews' phone number in her blog after she embarrassed herself on Hardball.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000418.htm
It's a recurring theme: Moonbats bothering you? No problem: there's a legion of torch-wielding villagers, just waiting to storm the gates.
The defining moment in her repeated attempts to cultivate populist fury came in April 2006. Three students at UC Santa Cruz had organized protests against the presence of military recruiters on campus. Extracting their phone numbers and email addresses from a press release, Malkin printed the information in her blog two days in a row.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004973.htm and http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004974.htm
The result was entirely predictable: Malkin's devotees overwhelmed the group with a storm of phone calls and emails.http://saw.revolt.org/node/51
When she was criticized for her actions, Malkin responded that there was nothing at all wrong with what she had done. After all, she had even said, "If you are contacting them, I do not condone death threats or foul language."
Malkin also published the address and phone number of the office of the university's chancellor, Denice Denton. And what had Denton done? Nothing, it turns out. Her crime, in Malkin's eyes, was to decline to punish the group who had protested the recruiters. Nonetheless, Denton's office was deluged with phone calls.
What Malkin's minions apparently could not grasp is that there was a human being on the receiving end of those angry phone calls. A little over two months later, Denton committed suicide. Reason Online's David Weigel summarized the affair this way:
"While no one is suggesting that her readers pushed Denton over the edge, Malkin has said nothing about the chancellor since her suicide. It might become her to apologize for smearing an academic, and directing people to direct their outrage to her office, in what were the final troubled months of her life."http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2006/07/suicide_not_pai.shtml
Malkin was livid, and quickly responded with a new blog post: "NEWSFLASH: I DIDN'T KILL DENICE DENTON." Predictably, she was silent on the question of whether or not her actions might have been callous or cruel; instead, she whined about Weigel's use of the word "treason," which she hadn't applied to Denton. Malkin, you see, had merely said that "UC SANTA CRUZ HATES OUR TROOPS" and had described the university as "seditious."http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005491.htm
Sedition, of course, is totally different from treason: so different, in fact, that if you look up "sedition" in West's Encyclopedia of American Law, you'll see that sedition is actually "A revolt or an incitement to revolt against established authority, usually in the form of treason or defamation against government."http://www.answers.com/sedition&r=67
POW! In your face, Weigel!
VIII. The Chamberlain Principle
Everyone makes mistakes. Malkin's defenders might claim that of course we will find a few errors if we examine every one of her words with a fine-tooth comb.
A fine-tooth comb? This is a rake with teeth two inches apart. Drag that rake through the field of Malkin's fevered hysteria and watch what gets dredged up: There was, for example, the time she got all upset about the altered photo of Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes,http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004416.htm
or the time she decided that it demonstrated a "double standard" for the Texas Rangers to wear uniforms labeled "Los Rangers" on Cinco de Mayo,http://michellemalkin.com/archives/005138.htm
or the time she launched into a harangue about "journalistic malpractice" after she wasn't permitted to show the cartoons that had enraged the Muslim world when she appeared on Hannity and Colmes,http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004496.htm
or, or, or...
It is impossible to read more than a few paragraphs of Malkin without crashing into some type of nonsense, distortion, or just plain meanness; after all, it takes a special kind of person to write, "Cry me a river" to a woman whose son has been killed in combat.http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004124.htm
But maybe... just maybe... maybe it's all a joke. Sure, she is mocking the parents of dead children... but maybe it's all done in the spirit of fun.
Would that be better, or worse?
There is a surreal aspect to her posturing: she rails against the mainstream media, while making repeated appearances on the Fox News channel. It's a trait she shares with Noam Chomsky,There is a detailed article on Chomsky on this site, at www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm. The article deals exclusively with his comments on Cambodia, but readers will notice several similarities between Chomsky's rhetorical methods, and Malkin's.
who complains about the marginalization of his ideas, despite his routine appearances on college campuses, radio, and television, and the millions of copies of his books in print.
One wonders: do they really believe that they are brave, beleaguered defenders of the truth? Or do they just realize that it makes a nice pitch? Perhaps we should call it the Chamberlain Principle. No, not Neville Chamberlain... Wilt Chamberlain. "Nobody cheers for Goliath," Wilt observed. We like to see ourselves as brave underdogs; it's more appealing role than that of snakeoil salesman, preaching insincerities to a devoted, unquestioning flock.
But what if Malkin isn't really peddling snakeoil? What if Malkin isn't even Malkin? Could it really be a long-running gag? Could it be that Andy Kaufman is back, making a wry commentary on our deeply polarized society, or a sardonic jab at a political movement that never learned to use anything less blunt than a sledgehammer?
Is there really any evidence to suggest that this is all a joke? There is. Malkin, it turns out, has not one, but two blogs. The newer of the two, called Vent, is a video blog. The URL? HotAir.com.
For the benefit of those who are not familiar with idioms of the English language -- that is, all the damned immigrants Malkin is always complaining about -- let us clarify the meaning of the phrase "hot air." An example from the Cambridge International Dictionary of Idioms will do nicely: "If something that someone says is just hot air, it is not sincere and will have no practical results. Their promises turned out to be just so much hot air."http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/hot+air
Point of fact: serious commentators do not describe their work as "hot air." It simply must be a joke. And is there any evidence that the person perpetrating this joke is the one and only Andy Kaufman? Kaufman has not been seen in public, and we have not seen his corpse; therefore, we can conclude that he is living in disguise. And Malkin's rants have all the hallmarks of Kaufman's goad-the-audience gags.
Surely the data suggesting that Malkin is Kaufman is roughly equivalent in scope to the data indicating that the MAGIC cables led to the internment of Japanese-Americans. If we consider only the evidence outlined here, the hypothesis is plausible, isn't it? And if there is evidence suggesting that the hypothesis is not true, well, we have no responsibility to outline that here. After all, for more than 20 years, every reputable news source has claimed that Kaufman is dead. Why rehash those arguments here?
We need to ask the questions the "MSM" won't ask. We need to ask ourselves: Is Kaufman really dead? Is Michelle Malkin real, or is she a parody?
Is this brilliant... or just plain stupid?
Andy, please, show yourself. Take off the mask. Show us that it's you, hiding under a little makeup. Admit that it's nothing but a bunch of hot air.
Tell us it's just a joke that you carried a little too far, because if it isn't, it's too depressing to contemplate.
IX. Acknowledgments and References
Refuting nonsense tends to be a thankless task. Bearing this in mind, we should recognize a few of the people who have gone above and beyond to address Malkin's pretzel logic. The previously mentioned David Neiwert (http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/) and Eric Muller (http://www.isthatlegal.org/) frequently respond to Malkin's rants, patiently pointing out the sheer madness of her enterprise. Greg Robinson, also cited above, has responded at length to Malkin's claims regarding the internment of Japanese-Americans.
Many bloggers have written about Malkin. Among them, there are two standouts. Auguste (a pseudonym) spent about a year and a half maintaining a blog called Malkinwatch (http://malkinwatch.blogsome.com/), before the sheer volume of excrement in the Augean stable finally sent him in search of greener (but less freshly fertilized) pastures. Malkinwatch was taken over by another blogger; it soon degenerated into a collection of sophomoric insults, and as of this writing, it has not been updated in many weeks. On a more positive note, the mysterious MaryMary (at the bluntly named michellemalkinisanidiot.com) has demonstrated a keen eye for Malkin's hypocrisy with articles such as "Unhinged conservatives with murder on their minds." MaryMary also has a genuine gift for satire, serving up such parodies such as "Malkinopoly," and the marvelous In Defense of Deferment. ("The Case for 'Wussing Out' While Other People Fight the Wars We Love.")
Meanwhile, in the "late-breaking news" category, I've discovered that I wasn't the only one who noticed the similarity to Andy Kaufman. While checking Google to see if this article had made it into the index, I discovered that way back in 2004, "Bandar Bush" had made the connection in a comment left at Media Matters: "She's brilliant! In the tradition of Andy Kaufman, Michelle Malkin continues to deliver brutal, brilliant satire. Kaufman used to behave like a jerk to deliberately provoke his audience; Malkin has created a media character that skewers extremist right-wing views, a self-hating minority apologist for racial profiling, a spewer of wacky distortions and discredited views. Her performance art pushes all the right buttons, enraging the conscientious souls who don't see through her schtick and firing up the fringe cases who support her "views". Genius." (http://mediamatters.org/items/200410200006)
And, under the heading of "related stuff," there is a good critique of Malkin's In Defense of Internment by author Klancy Clark de Nevers at http://www.klancydenevers.com/research.htm.
Finally, many thanks to Cali Ruchala. Without his encouragement, this article would not have been written, and Malkin's nonsense would still be stuck in the back of my mind, corroding my faith in the ability of reason to overcome demagoguery. Committing it all to writing has been cathartic. Tedious, yes... but cathartic.
Last updated on 10/30/2006.
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