June 16, 2003


John Naughton identifies the problem:

The mainstream US media seem to be largely in cahoots with Bush, Ashcroft & Co. It is as if the opposition to Bush has been atomised into millions of isolated individuals who are afraid to speak out because they fear being labelled unpatriotic.

In the current hysterical atmosphere, putting an anti-Bush poster in your window might result in a brick being thrown through it. Alternatively, of course, it might result in a ring at the doorbell and a neighbour saying 'Thank God someone has spoken out against this nonsense'. The point is that you cannot know in advance, and nobody is willing to take the risk.

”Nobody”? Next, Naughton proposes a solution to his imagined terror-state:

Now comes a thought that links Amazon with political atomisation. In principle, it would be possible to use collaborative filtering and other data matching techniques to allow people safely to describe themselves in terms of political or ideological values, and then provide them with anonymised contact details of others in their locality who have similar profiles.

It's really just an extension of online dating, but with a political slant. There would, of course, need to be serious security precautions - but then these are already taken by dating services.

The point would not be to facilitate the creation of virtual communities of like-minded people who might be physically located anywhere on the globe, but to enable the discovery of local communities of interest in cultures (like much of the US today) where overt demonstrations of individual dissent require more courage than most citizens possess. There is safety in numbers: but first you have to get the numbers. Maybe the Net could provide them.

This is a grave slur upon America’s anti-Bush dissidents. Naughton believes they are too stupid and timid to seek out like-minded pals. Hasn’t he heard of Indymedia?

Posted by Tim Blair at June 16, 2003 12:29 AM | TrackBack

Funny that this guy's newspaper is called the "Observer". He obviously hasn't "observed" very much of what is actually happening in the US. In my neighborhood in Seattle there are still a lot of yard signs that say "No Iraq War", "Impeach Bush", etc. No broken windows. Also, not a single pro-Bush or anti-Saddam sign for miles. Zero. You see more UN flags, peace-sign flags and rainbow flags than US flags. Seattle is way more liberal than the norm, but still. There is no "crushing of dissent" except inside that writer's own forehead.

Posted by: Stefan Sharkansky at June 16, 2003 12:51 AM

I love these arseholes from overseas imagining the crushing of dissent in America from their perches at the Jayson Blair Arms. As Stefan Sharkansky notes, vast quantities of America are dotted with "No War For Oil" signs and such; what you won't see, because nicely socially liberal folks don't want to be seen as bloodthirsty troglodytes by their neighbors, is a picture of the fallen statue labeled "Peace had its chance"...

Posted by: Mike G at June 16, 2003 01:37 AM

Well I guess in some places, an anti-Bush poster "might result" in a brick through the window, but not here in Nebraska! That pansy-ass kind of dissent-crushing would be scoffed at and mocked. Put up an anti-Bush poster in this neck of the woods, and we will straight up rape your dog. No "might" about it.

I have to go sit in my pentagon and give tribute to the Ashcroft now.

Posted by: Dave at June 16, 2003 01:43 AM

Where I live, it's the Pro-Bush or pro-war people who have to cringe and hide from people like John Naughton. And if you say anything whatsoever that indicates you don't exactly beieve that Islam is a religion of peace, you can lose your job.

We Americans have to take this crap from a resident of a country (UK) that puts people into jail for lengthy prison terms for defending their own property against habitual burglars.

George Orwell lived and died much too soon.

Posted by: Susan at June 16, 2003 02:09 AM

I am immensely proud of you for honouring your promise never,ever to link to Mad Margot (Kingston, for the blow -ins), but now that the Iraq war is over, could we please have a similar promise to never again link to the Guardian (alias Al-Ghardiya).
The nausea factor is becoming overwhelming.

Posted by: Pete at June 16, 2003 02:35 AM

I love this old, high-rent part of St. Paul that I managed to find a cheap apartment in, but the no-waaw signs are everywhere, somehow. Dissident rich bored old women have created virtual meeting places within the virtual coffee shop and the virtual health club. They meet from late morning to early afternoon, any given weekday, when you've probably got something to do.

Clever and brave. Bravely clever, I guess.

Posted by: Dylan at June 16, 2003 02:35 AM

Another in a continuing series of "We're so brave. We took an unpopular position that disagreed with the government's. Did I mention we're brave? Can't you see how brave we are? No, I don't know what solipsism means, I'm too busy being courageous."

Posted by: scott h. at June 16, 2003 02:37 AM

This Naughton has some real problems: he should see his therapist without delay.

I live in military-loving, tobacco-growing, Bible-thumping North Carolina. And I can assure everyone that each week a few rabid anti-Bushies get their screeds published in the local newspaper.

Posted by: George Peery at June 16, 2003 03:17 AM

Naughton lost his tin foil beanie?

Posted by: Cracker Barrel Philosopher at June 16, 2003 03:20 AM

I live in Houston "By God" Texas, and the Houston Chronicle is full of anti-Bush and anti-war editorials and letters. That's the paper's editorial position, which sometimes spills over onto the news pages.

Now, to be sure, I haven't seen any Bush=Hitler letters, but I guess the paper has to have some standards.

Naughton is correct about worrying that a political statement in your window will get a brick thrown through it---but that's true no matter what the statement.

I wonder what's behind this sudden surge of "oppression". I figure that a lot of people have become accustomed to spouting their opinions in public, getting only a polite, non-committal "Mmmm" in reply from their audience.

Now, however, many in that audience believe the stakes are too high to allow opinions they disagree with to stand unopposed. Suddenly, the "Mmmm" has turned to criticism. Oh, no! We're being criticized! We're being opposed! We're being oppressed!

Posted by: Angie Schultz at June 16, 2003 04:11 AM

Don't forget Democratic Underground. They have to be feeling oppressed. After all, they've gone underground.

Posted by: Fred Boness at June 16, 2003 04:22 AM

I think Angie had it right. The left used to have free reign to spout its lunatic (IMHO) theories. Now people talk back and stomp them verbally.

The NYT could tell bald faced lies and get away with it. Now the blogoshpere catches the lies and fights back.

The left hates that. They had it easy for so long they HAVE to whine and snivel and claim its a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy that prevents them from speaking out. In reality, they just look stupid, and they know it, and they hate it.

The left yearns for the good old days where never was heard a disparaging word ...

Posted by: Bruce at June 16, 2003 04:40 AM

Anybody stop to consider this might be a gag? I mean, seriously -- it's got all the characteristics of one.

If it isn't, then either Naughton has never set foot in the US, and gets all his "news" from outlets like the SMH and Grauniad, or he's started to listen to the voices in his head.

Posted by: Harry at June 16, 2003 04:49 AM

It's underreported that Berkeley, California has been under siege for the better part of 10 months, with daily gas attacks, shelling, and occasional small, nuclear strikes. God Emperor Bush will not be opposed!

Posted by: Andrew at June 16, 2003 05:24 AM

I live in Orange County, California, an area supposedly dominated by right-wing pro-war zealouts, and I have personally witnessed dozens of anti-war rallies, anti-war bumper stickers, and anti-war lawn signs. A small group of suprisingly respectful (if typically dim) anti-war protestors have essently commandered the corner of Imperial Highway and Brea Boulevard, a block from where I live, every weekend from November of last year, and are still protesting the war as of last weekend (like I said, typically dim).

True, the number of pro-war sentiments outnumbers the anti-war sentiments, but look at the public opinion polls: most Americans consistently supported action in Iraq even before the war began, and support it in even greater numbers. The opinion on the street reflects the views of the people in this nation. Its called democracy, and one suspects that this is what truely bothers John Naughton and his American "dissident" friends.

Posted by: Sean P at June 16, 2003 07:27 AM

I'm a dual national and live in both countries. I would feel a great deal safer yelling, "Bush is a moron," in Dallas than, "Clare Short is an idiot," in Hastings (or, God help me, waving a Union Jack in Brixton).

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at June 16, 2003 07:48 AM

Well, here in flyover country, of course, the oppression consists largely of ignoring people who are quite used to being taken seriously, very seriously indeed.

Far worse than criticism is amused toleration. ("There, there. Don't worry your pretty little head, Daddy will take care of it and everything will be fine, soon.")

A couple of months ago I was in Chicago for a meeeting, and a protest took place in Daley Center. There were more cops standing around than protestors. The cops were loving it. All that overtime for standing around. I saw lots of cops drinking coffee in riot gear. Meanwhile a great many hard-working lower class types with jobs as waiters, janitors, etc were bitching because the protest (and associated, very small, march) forced them to go way out of their way to get to work.

In essence, a good part of the anti-war protest and the anti-Bush everything is being treated this way. Okay, we've got rights and you idiotarians can say anything you want and do quite a lot of things most of us vaguely disapprove of, and interfere needlessly in our lives, but, hey! everybody's got to have a hobby. Yours is just a bit sillier than most.

In essence, by not _being_ serious (vide the total lack of any kind of logical argumentation as opposed to wacky slogans -- "No war for oil, Bush = Hitler, etc" -- all of a sudden, no one is taking these people seriously. They do get a bit of criticism, but it's mostly of the sort that states, "When you start making sense, advancing actual arguments, listening to your opponents, offering solutions of your own instead of just complaints that everything's not perfect, and admitting it when you make a mistake, we'll start to take you sesriously. Until then, we're tuning you out."

This attitude (see Sean Penn, for example, or Susan Sarndon) seems to be very wearing on the antis. All they can figure is that somehow their message is being censored or oppressed. No. We heard you. You're silly, at best. We quit listening. Have a nice life, losers.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at June 16, 2003 08:16 AM

Tim Tim Tim...
What say we toss Indymedia and Free Republic into the same loony bin and write them off. You had a good point going (his piece is insulting)until you fell back on that lazy tactic of using the fringe to define the majority. Naughton's piece was stupid, but you are not, and you must realize that he is not talking about hysterical Indy types. Patriotic Correctnes exists, and it is creepy though it should surprise no one, but it too shall pass.

Posted by: Brian Linse at June 16, 2003 09:13 AM

Naughton's take on things is typical of so many paranoid, pinheaded pinkos. In their arse-about universe reason is unreasonable, violence is peace and healthy debate is evidence of fascist oppression.

You've got to wonder what these people would do if real totalitarians took over. My guess is they'd say, "At last. Visionaries have come to save us!"

Posted by: Matt at June 16, 2003 10:11 AM

As a retired Army Master Sergeant, I don't give a damn what anyone who does not live in MY country says, thinks or does. The American military services has rescued every swinging dick in the world at one time or another and in cases twice. See last sentence in next paragraph.

After all the writer is a resident of the "ByGod, the sun never sets on the British Empire". Any one a part of the FORMER French Empire, British Empire, Begian Empire, Russian Empire, Dutch Empire, Portuguese Empire or Spanish Empire should just shut the F**K up.

Posted by: Al Bullock at June 16, 2003 12:59 PM


OK, I'll shut the fuck up and stop talking back to the local idiotarians. Happy?

Posted by: Craig Ranapia at June 16, 2003 07:51 PM

"Patriotic Correctnes exists, and it is creepy though it should surprise no one, but it too shall pass."


Seriously -- you've made a claim. Where are bricks being thrown through windows? If Bush's critics are so afraid to speak openly, why do they seem to be everywhere, getting wide and prominent coverage in the press?

Posted by: Robert Crawford at June 17, 2003 12:29 AM

Also, I think the bit about Indymedia was somewhat of a joke. (It's not exactly the most prominent place that Oppressed Dissenters can take refuge in -- I hear that they can go to almost any university in the country, and that CNN also has an underground bunker for their use. And of course there is also any streetcorner, and the neighborhood coffee shop... Yeah, it's tough having to be an Alternate Voice in the land of Patriotic Creepiness...)

Whoops -- forgot to add my [SARCASM] tag.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 17, 2003 02:49 AM

I recently moved to Texas. The newspaper I take, the Austin American-Stateman evidently hasn't received the "be very afraid to criticize Bush" memo. The hysterical letter-writers haven't gotten the word either. The editorial page is 90% anti-Bush which also reflects in the straight "news" articles. John Naughton might think this is a problem because it isn't 100% anti-Bush.

If it weren't for my husband who is on the ground in Iraq, I would think by reading that newspaper alone things are going horribly wrong over there.

Posted by: Kelly at June 17, 2003 02:53 AM

Dear lord, what I *wouldn't* give for some oppression around my area (north side of Chicago). Every morning, I walk past a bunch of houses proudly waving their UN flags. Seriously, what kind of nitwit waves a United Nations flag??? I can only assume this is some sort of "F*ck You" to people who fly regular U.S. flags.

And yet oddly enough, I'm seeing no vandalism, no assaults, nada. So I'm wondering, where's the oppression my tax dollars are supposed to be paying for?

Posted by: ChicagoEd at June 17, 2003 02:58 AM

Seems to me that anyone who really believes he's likely to get a brick through his window if he says something against the war is part of the fringe, whether he's an Indy type or not.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at June 17, 2003 04:34 AM

I don't recall reading about a single incident of vandalism directed against a home with an anti-war sign; I don't remember any physical assaults on Bush critics. Nary a one, anywhere.

I think Americans are very good about tolerating free speech, ignoring what they think is stupid. It is one of the few civic ideas that's just about universal: Everybody's got a right to his opinion.

Posted by: Joanne Jacobs at June 17, 2003 07:05 AM

I live in New York City - one of the two US cities attacked by terrorists.

There's a store over on 20th street or there abouts, between 6th and Broadway were they have shirts - hanging in the window no less - with GWBush's photo and unflattering sayings framing said portrait. I have seen several youths wearing them. I have yet to hear of any of these folks being "hassled" for making such a statement, though my co-op regularly gets ticketed for putting recylable paper in with the regular trash.

There is NO crushing of dissent in the US, BTW. Nada. Zip.

Posted by: Dave violence at June 17, 2003 08:59 AM

I was limiting my criticism to Tim's last sentence, and agree with him about the sillieness of the Naughton piece.

As to the new *PC*, check out the antics of Clear Channel, the Baseball Hall of Fame, the famous Ari quote, or this:
"Unpatriotic Conservatives: A War Against America" by David Frum. ( http://www.aei.org/news/newsID.16630/news_detail.asp )

It's not just liberals who have to contend with it. Crushing may be too harsh a term, but there is a movement to at least discourage dissent. It won't work in the long run, but it IS creepy, just as old style POLITICAL correctness is creepy. Would some of you affirm the existence of one PC and deny the other? The universe doesn't work that way... Go read the Frum piece if you still don't get it.

But as I said earlier, this too shall pass, and I'm not that worried about it. Andrea (who never needs sacrcasm tags) and Joanne both make good points.

Posted by: Brian Linse at June 17, 2003 10:19 AM

The way that I see it, from talking to mates in the US, is that the prevailing orthodoxy is still prevalent. Bush is still a mindless drone of the oil/military industrial complex/neocons/jewish terrorists (pick your favorite of the day), within the major news services.

What has changed and caused a stir within the very small 'i' "intellectuals" is the fact that your average jack and jill in the street has flipped the proverbial bird to them.

Your average or garden variety lefty is so used to considering themselves to be the font of all wisdom that it comes as a real shock for them to realise that not only are they wrong, very very wrong, but that they are ignored by the very people they see as their constituency. Hence their MUST be this great vast right wing conspiracy that is brainwashing the peons against them and crushing dissent.

Must be wonderful to be so incredibly wrong, yet feel as though you have been oppressed.

Posted by: Todd at June 17, 2003 11:03 AM

Interestingly enough, in my a quick jog through my memory, I don't actually recall any of the anti-war sorts having ever been called "unpatriotic" per se. Asshat and fucktard, sure, but the anti-war folks have never, to my knowledge, complained about being called asshats or fucktards - only being called "unpatriotic."

Posted by: Anticipatory Retaliation at June 17, 2003 04:21 PM

Brian: I live in Florida's Bible Belt, which is ruled (so they say) by the Baptist Church, Disney, and Clear Channel, and I recall sitting in a redneck-frequented diner the day after the Dixie Chicks brouhaha and hearing their music playing on the country station the place had on the speakers. And I have heard their songs being played on the radio stations down here throughout their so-called oppression, and their airbrushed naked magazine cover was displayed on supermarket magazine racks where god and everybody could see them. I am just one person, but I witnessed no objection to any of this. No one even seemed to notice. Perhaps all the dissidents have already been rounded up by Mickey's Stormtroopers and imprisoned under Epcot, but I rather think that much of this "discouraging of dissent" is inside certain leftist commentators' heads. Anyway, the thought of anyone being afraid to criticize Bush because of an article David Frum wrote in the National Review is hilarious.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 17, 2003 05:23 PM

I hope someone is nearby with a camera to catch the look on Naughton's face when he arrives for his Amazon-facilitated blind date with his fellow patriotic-PC victim and it turns out to be Pat Buchanan.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek at June 17, 2003 08:13 PM

Andrea: I guess I'm not getting my point across. I agree that the squaking about "crushing" dissent is overblown, and the Naughton piece Tim cited was a perfect example.

I'm simply stating that post 911 there is a sense of Patriotic Correctness that was first spoken by dimwit Ari Fleischer at his podium, and continues to crop up in the banning of music from radio stations, the politicising of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and ridiculous articles like the one by Frum that I linked to (Bob Novak is unpatroitic? WTF?).

Does it have much effect? I think not. Just as good old fashioned POLITICAL CORRECTNESS has never stopped me from being gleefully un-PC whenever possible. Frank Zappa and Kinky Friedman are among my favorite artists in part because they tweak the nipples of PC all the time.

Whould you not agree that the two PCs are of a kind? And further, that just as some of the old PC stupidity (eg University speech codes) and some of the new PC (eg Corporate attempts at censoring artists) can get "creepy" and give rise to real concerns? Conservative professors work in fear, and liberal artists have to "watch what they say" (thanks Ari) so as to avoid loosing their jobs, or loosing airplay (their jobs).

The bottom line for me is that Political and Partiotic Correctness are both about intimidation, with the end being to limit speech and control liberal inquiry.

Unfortunately, liberals tend to see the danger only when it is Patriotic C, and conservatives only see it when it is Political C. To me, they are the same thing.

All this because I thought Lazyboy Blair was taking a cheap Indymedia shot at us Lefties.

Ain't the process of liberal inquiry grand? :p

Posted by: Brian Linse at June 17, 2003 09:51 PM

"I recently moved to Texas. The newspaper I take, the Austin American-Stateman evidently hasn't received the "be very afraid to criticize Bush" memo. The hysterical letter-writers haven't gotten the word either. The editorial page is 90% anti-Bush which also reflects in the straight "news" articles."

Ah yes. I have not-so-fond memories of the AAS from 10 years in Austin. But Austin is the Berkeley of Texas. I seem to recall a statistic that there are more therapists per capita in Austin than any other city in the US. There are certainly more allergists, but that's another thread . . . .

Posted by: Yehudit at June 17, 2003 09:52 PM

Brian, you must be kidding.

"As to the new *PC*, check out the antics of Clear Channel, the Baseball Hall of Fame, the famous Ari quote, or this: "Unpatriotic Conservatives: A War Against America" by David Frum."

What "antics of Clear Channel"? How do they compare to the "antics" of NPR?

The Baseball Hall of Fame? Ohhhh... they decided not to have a couple of loud-mouths speak there. Private organization; private decision. The Hall of Fame isn't like a college, supposedly dedicated to free speech and free exchange of ideas, it's a place dedicated to BASEBALL. You'll notice that Robbins hardly had any difficulty getting his views published.

What Ari quote? In my experience, most of the "scary" quotes the left slings around are so horribly distorted you'd think they came from the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

David Frum? Did you READ the article? Do you understand why it was written? How closely do you follow the disagreements within conservative ranks? Do you understand who the "paleo" conservatives are, and how they differ from the more mainstream conservatives?

"Crushing may be too harsh a term, but there is a movement to at least discourage dissent."

Bull. What's happening is that a bunch of whiners aren't getting the attention they want; instead of blind acceptance, they're having their ideas challenged. People are standing up and saying, "I disagree." That's "discouraging dissent" only in that it discourages the idiotic forms.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at June 18, 2003 12:14 AM

Yehudit, We just moved to Texas in January. I live about 75 miles north of Austin and have been there once when my parents were visiting. It was during the war and we ran into protestors at the State capital. My husband had just left for Iraq several weeks before. I gritted my teeth and walked on by though there were so many things I could have said. No crushing of dissent by ME.

My subscription runs out soon. I'm going to start taking the Dallas newspaper. I'm tired of being so enraged every morning. I just want balance (and some good comic strips)!

Posted by: Kelly at June 18, 2003 12:17 AM

"Ain't the process of liberal inquiry grand? :p"

Only when it's not hysterical. You're having problems with that.

Posted by: Robert Crawford at June 18, 2003 12:20 AM

Uh -- yeah, what Robert said. Or are you seriously equating the dumping of rich actor Tim Robbins by some private baseball group, or off-the-wall statements by Ari Fleischer on matters he has no power over, as being in the same league as the sort of Political Correctness that has actually had an effect in the real world?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 18, 2003 04:31 AM

This sort of thing pisses me off to no end. Complaining about the "crushing of dissent" when the crushing is merely criticism is a fucking insult to those in totalitarian societies who really suffered and still do suffer.

The boy who cried wolf ended up getting his nuts chewed off.

Posted by: md at June 18, 2003 04:34 AM

Robert: You need to get a sense of humor. Ask Tim where he got his, it's a good one.

Tim and I are FRIENDS, Robert, in case you hadn't picked up on that...

Uh -- Andrea: You need to read my last comment again. Here's a refresher:

"I agree that the squaking about "crushing" dissent is overblown..."

"Does it have much effect? I think not. Just as good old fashioned POLITICAL CORRECTNESS has never stopped me from being gleefully un-PC whenever possible."

And then there's the point you help me prove:

"Unfortunately, liberals tend to see the danger only when it is Patriotic C, and conservatives only see it when it is Political C. To me, they are the same thing."

Political Correctnes has been fucking up the world for the last few decades, but Patriotic Correctnes has been around even longer, and it's making a comback. They both suck.

And now, the echo in here is getting up my sleeve, so I'll leave you all to agree with each other. I'm remembering why I dislike comments, even on my favorite blogs.

Posted by: Brian Linse at June 18, 2003 02:33 PM

Oh dear. Mr. Linse disapproves of me. I haven't had the correct response to his comments.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 18, 2003 05:47 PM