April 04, 2003

Foul News -- Michael Kelly ...

Foul News -- Michael Kelly Killed in Iraq: He was a pugilistic newspaper columnist, at times funny and mean, and a left-baiter who never tired of the work ... and he also stepped up to the awful task of the Sept. 11 massacre better than any American magazine editor I'm aware of. We'll miss him.

Posted by at April 4, 2003 08:55 AM

I thought his editorials were often unfair or phoned-in. But he turned the Atlantic into a fantastic, unmissable magazine. The world was a much better place with him in it. It's a tragedy.

Posted by: Ted Barlow at April 4, 2003 09:07 AM

I like what Jonah Goldberg wrote over at the Corner: "there's nothing wrong with hitting the other guy hard as long as you provide a rationale for doing so and are willing to take your lumps in return." Pugilistic indeed!

Regardless of political leaning, any journalist that would trek off to a war zone to provide us with the scoop back home deserves top honors, especially so when their fate was as dreadful as Kelly's. We lost a good one today.

Posted by: Emily at April 4, 2003 11:43 AM

This is the best thing that I think anyone can say about a journalist:

I'll dearly miss his writing.

Posted by: Patrick Phillips at April 4, 2003 11:47 AM

As we say in Texas, at least he died with his boots on, doing what he loved doing. I'm sure his many friends and admirers will remember him eloquently.

Over on the right side of your dial, the more rabid of the pro-war bloggers are outraged that the Indy Media people have profaned his memory by calling him a fascist. Of course, they had to momentarily stop kicking the body of Rachel Corrie to do so. You remember her: another passionate, outspoken person who deliberately put herself in harm's way for a cause in which she believed.

Of course, she wasn't a reporter.

Kaveh Golestan was killed Wednesday in Northern Iraq. He stepped on a landmine. Hardly a mention in American media. Of course, with the American media it's always about them, isn't it?

May all God's children find peace.

Posted by: Ray Bridges at April 4, 2003 01:12 PM

When Golestan's death was first reported on ABC TeeVee the talking head didn't even say his name. They showed a picture of him and put his name on the screen saying only that a "BBC cameraman died."

Posted by: Scott Ross at April 4, 2003 01:39 PM

Why do we never hear of "right-baiters"??

Posted by: Robert Light at April 4, 2003 06:26 PM

Robert -- Maybe because it just doesn't have the rhetorical snap of "America-hating Marxists," or "appeasers," or "Fifth Columnists," or any of another dozen insults that fly loosely from the lips these days. I suggest you Google the Right-bent criticism of such right-baiters as Eric Alterman, Paul Krugman and Joe Conason, see what adjectives are favored, and then get back to us.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 4, 2003 06:55 PM

"Right-baiter" has just the polemical snap that "left-baiter" does.

One just doesn't hear it because . . . well, to be long winded about it because this is wrapped up ultimately with the nature of American liberalism. As a philosophy/political movement its roots go back to that Prussian schmo, G.W.F Hegel. Whether people recognize it or not, liberals and progressives are playing on terrain established by Hegel. It's a "movement" infused with *passion*, more so than any analogue of conservative thought on the right. That is, the extent to which you *feel* strongly about something is the measure of the veracity of your cause (passion, not reason, is what's "progressive," is what moves history [er, rather, capital "H" "History"] -- forward toward the emergence of "reason" -- er, Reason).

People like Alterman - and he's a perfect example (he is after all trained as an historian) - really think of themselves as having history and progress (hence their "progressivism") on their side. The quotes I've seen from his book, "What Liberal Media?," bear this out completely. Of course, anyone "standing athwart history" (that quasi-famous slogan from National Review) is going to strike them as hopelessly unenlightened, opposed to what's rationally, ineluctably changing toward the rational State.

Given this little spiel, wouldn't it make sense that most journalists -- the vast majority of whom are themselves liberal -- would abjure the use of the word "right-baiter" in describing people for whom they, at a very passionate, sub-rational level, feel a strong affinity for?

What people on the right may call Conason, Alterman, is totally non-germane to my point. The hacks on the right do not establish the normative vocabulary we use in everyday conventional discourse. (i.e. I would expect you -- because it would indeed be uncivil -- to refer to Alterman, if it had been he and not Mike Kelly -- as an "America-hating Marxist." But given the hypothetical, should we be as surprised by the epithet of "right-baiter"?)

Posted by: Robert Light at April 4, 2003 08:28 PM

That last line ought to read: (i.e. I would _not_ expect you . . . ).

Sheesh, my dyslexic typing.

Posted by: Robert Light at April 4, 2003 08:34 PM

Robert -- I guess I can only speak from my own, non-philisophical experience, which is that A) I am more conscious of "left-baiters" than "right-baiters," because I have been one myself, & am intimately familiar with the form; and B) perhaps I don't read many people who obsess about something called "the right." The *religious* right, sure, or the "far"-right, or the "corporate" right, or even the neo-cons; but actually I don't encounter much sweeping, pejorative use of "the right," compared to the same with "the left." Or maybe it's just that when I do my eyes glaze over and I move along.

Not to say that all your points aren't valid; just to explain why I use the phrase. In a descriptive, and non-pejorative sense, you'll note.

Posted by: Matt Welch at April 4, 2003 09:28 PM

Hi Matt -- points well taken, thanks.

Just a question on your phrase, which I don't quite understand: "but actually I don't encounter much sweeping, pejorative use of 'the right,' compared to the same with 'the left.'"

How do you mean "use"? Do you mean you don't encounter much journalism that insinuates a negative/hostile disposition toward the "the right"? The "religious" right, the "corporate" right are excepted, which, as you described, I think is correct. There *is* a pronounced negativity toward these "entities" in mainstream newsmedia (again, which is what I take you to be acknowledging).

But then we're faced with the question: other than the stupid corporate right (i.e. "go to college son and major in business; forget that pansy-ass Shakespeare and liberal arts stuff; it's only *useful* if you want to become a school teacher") and the odious religious right (Pat Robertson, et. al.) what are we left with?

Well, you have a panoply of disparate, essentially highly intellectual groups: existentialist/libertarian "conservatives" [Reason Mag, etc.], traditionalist Burkean conservatives (which includes Dixie worshiping South'nahs), the theo-cons (people at _First Things_ and conservative Catholics, followers of Thomas Aquinas), and, last but not least, the Straussians (neo-con "Eastern" Straussians [Kristol, Wolfowitz, Kagan, Blitz, Perle] and Jaffa inspired "Western" Straussians [Claremont Review of Books, Charles Kesler, etc.].

This cross-section of, for the sake of clarity, "non-leftist" are, in fact, almost uniformly treated with disdaind by the main arbiters of opinion and taste in this country: i.e. The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, and nearly all of academia (forget trying to get tenure if you're Strauss inspired). They only have their outlet in their own publications (National Review, etc.).

To wit, check out today's New York Times, "How Books Have Shaped U.S. Policy" (which actually, is somewhat balanced -- however, its sad that whenever they treat of Strauss and Straussians it's always filtered through Kristol & Co., and his fellow Likkudniks. Strauss was in the first order of things a philosopher and his mature works are highly recondite and not very political at all. He really was not a "conservative" in any contemporary form the of the term. I say this because it the false representation of the man scares a lot of people away from reading him -- the most original political philosopher of the last 400 years -- who would otherwise benefit from reading him):



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can Mind" and a mentor to both Mr. Fukuyama and Mr. Wolfowitz (who became the inspiration for a minor character in "Ravelstein," Saul Bellow's 2000 roman clef about Bloom).

Both Strauss and Bloom reviled moral relativism, invoked the teaching of the classics and took an elitist view of education. As teachers in the Socratic tradition, they also ardently believed in mentors, a role that Mr. Kristol, an avowed Straussian, filled so energetically as Vice President Dan Quayle's chief of staff that he became known as "Dan Quayle's brain."

In "Ravelstein," Mr. Bellow, described the Wolfowitz and Bloom characters talking about Desert Storm. "And it was essential to fit up-to-the-minute decisions in the gulf war — made by obviously limited pols like Bush and Baker," he wrote, "into a true-as-possible picture of the forces at work — into the political history of this civilization." In 1992 Mr. D'Souza put it this way: "Straussians have an intellectual rigor that is very attractive. They have extolled the idea of the statesman and the notion of advising the great, the prince, like Machiavelli or Aristotle. This is necessary because the prince is not always the smartest guy in the world.""

Posted by: Robert Light at April 5, 2003 09:55 PM

Speaking of sweeping generalizations of the "right" and "left", I'd noticed following Kelly's death, a number of folks - many of whom I respect a lot - were linking to an Indymeadia thread that had a small number of posts celebrating his passing, largely as "evidence" of the hate-mongering tendencies of the left. What so many people failed to notice (or chose to ignore), at least the last time I checked, is that for every one-handed, nasty post, there were at least four or five thundering down the author for their inappropriate cruelty, most of them from other lefties. Likewise, I recall similar cruel sentiments expressed by some conservatives following the death of Senator Wellstone not too long ago, again, propped up by some on the left as an illustration of the heartless right. All any of it proves is that this sort of thing is neither a right-wing thing, nor is it a left-wing thing. It's a @#$%ing jerk-off thing.

Posted by: Emily at April 7, 2003 12:20 PM
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