September 04, 2003
Knives, Symbolism, and the Radical Left

Instapundit eventually lead me to this illustrative discussion about almost everything I dislike about the left.

I'm quite aware of the power of symbols, and know very well that artists sometimes like to use shocking images simply to make us think about an issue. The problem I have with these images isn't that they're shocking, or that they're radical... it's that they're stupid.

Comparing a psychotic holding a knife to the US, who bled its own blood dismantling an oligarchy that thought nothing of shooting women in soccer stadiums and a dictatorship that gassed children and fed people into wood chippers is ludicrous. Simply ludicrous. Calling people who feel this sort of imagery is appropriate willfully ignorant of their own country and the world around them is about as big an understatement as I know to make. Moronic **cktard is probably more appropriate.

Placing the image of an elected official who might be gone in a year and will be gone in five next to the images of two of the west's worst modern dictators again demonstrates a complete and utter ignorance of what they're talking about. Sticking the caption "hate=war" underneath it just adds a cherry of irony to the top of that particularly clueless confection.

The other three illustrations, of the Statue of Liberty, a bar code, and a vaguely anti-semitic flag of some sort, only cement my opinion of these people, and prove conclusively that watching TV and surfing the web are no substitute for actually thinking.

Those funny looking heavy things that fill a library are called "books". Hard to imagine I know, but by opening them up you can actually learn things. Even more difficult to comprehend, most of those things aren't covered by an MTV expose or an E! True Hollywood Story.

Here's a tip to all these artists: try reading a few books on the issues at hand before putting pen to paper, brush to canvas, or mouse to photoshop. Maybe then you'll be able to make a cogent argument instead of flinging sh*t like the shrieking chimpanzee you seem to have become.

Posted by scott at September 04, 2003 12:47 PM

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what i love about extremism like yours, scott, is that anyone who doesn't automatically support the kind of militaristic adventurism that the us has engaged in (poorly, for the most part) for the last century is automatically considered to be a moronic **cktard.

my point is that it has nothing to do with the left or the right. it's just extremism.

Posted by: matt on September 4, 2003 01:56 PM

Straw man. I wasn't supporting or decrying anything, just noting how utterly moronic the symbolism of the extreme left has become.

Just so we're all clear with this, do you actually believe portraying the US as a psychotic knife-wielder is a fair, or even cogent, portrayal of our country and/or its leadership?

Militaristic adventurisim in the last century?!? That's a mighty big bat you're swinging there, and would include such "adventures" as:

  • The first world war, wherein we successfully helped Europe fight off a German invasion.
  • The second world war, wherein we successfully helped Europe fight off another German invasion, and the Chinese, Phillipinos, and Southeast Asians a Japanese invasion, at the same time.
  • The Korean war, wherein we successfully helped South Korea fight off an invasion from what is widely seen as a Stalinist state.

Not to mention both gulf wars, which accomplished exactly what they set out to do with a ridiculously small number of casualties; Kosovo, which tore itself apart for years while Europe dithered and is still kept at peace only with US participation; and Afghanistan, wherein we dismantled a regime sheltering a group which killed more Americans than died at Perl Harbor and accomplished in three months what the Soviet Union couldn't in ten years.

"poorly, for the most part" indeed.

Posted by: Scott on September 4, 2003 02:58 PM

Yeah, who needs that extremist imagery. Oh like

Charleton Heston holding an old barrel loading musket while reciting "From my cold dead hand."

G.W. Bush Jr. playing dress-up and walking around a battleship trying to look like "one of the guys"

Oh wait, I forgot, those weren't artistic images displaying the personal feelings from an individual, but real life. Damn that freedom of expression ;)

Posted by: Joshua on September 4, 2003 03:23 PM

You make a fair point, but probably with the wrong images. I'm sure if any of us did a bit of digging we could find right-wing loonies with crosses burning, swastikas, and nasty depictions of (ironically, considering some of the illustrations I'm criticising) Jews. However, while repugnant, an image of, say, Richard Wagner, Adolf Hitler, and David Duke with the caption "Jews = Evil" would at least have the advantage of being historically correct and self-consistent (from a looney-right point of view).

I think the difference here is that we all know the moonbat right needs to be watched and reigned in from time to time. Cross burning is after all considered a crime, not a form of expression. Yet I don't see the media asking the same sort of hard questions, revealing the same sort of loony rhetoric, from the moonbat left.

Posted by: Scott on September 4, 2003 03:51 PM

yeah. it's a big bat. but someone should probably wield it.

i wonder if you consider the american foreign policy decisions of the last century to be sound, by and large. i don't. in fact, i would argue (and get pilloried for it) that american foreign policy blunders have caused more harm than good. especially in the middle east.

and i think that you're confusing righteousness with success. most people regard korea as less than our shining, glorious moment in foreign policy. ditto the first and second gulf wars and kosovo. (and winning a victory in afghanistan sort of includes sticking around to make sure the coalition holds together, not getting out when the photo ops have all gone away.)

i have a sense that this argument isn't going to go anywhere fast, but the point i'm attempting to make is that there comes a point where a country should knuckle down and focus on domestic policy before embarking on ambitious foreign policy, if only because it gives the statesmen some credibility when they start talking about things like universal literacy and healthcare.

finally, i think that if the united states was so keen on unseating dictators and oppressive regimes around the world, why haven't they really done much (even in terms of aggressive language) about some of the regimes that are considered much, much worse than saddam's was? myanmar, for example?

oh, and it doesn't matter what i think about the symbolism that you're decrying. it's meant to provoke a visceral, emotional reaction. which it did. fair and cogent don't enter any part of the discussion. including the person being villified.

Posted by: matt on September 4, 2003 03:52 PM

And I suppose WWII was a dismal failure because there are still neo-Nazis today.

Matt, you wonder why the Americans are so complacent about Republican corruption? We're not. We're just sick of being told leftist bullshit that our reaction to anything the so-called "intellectuals" say is to roll our eyes and say, "Whatever, man, get a life."

Posted by: Tatterdemalian on September 4, 2003 04:54 PM

If I may take a stab at responding to matt's comments.

As a matter of fact, I think that American foreign policy decisions of the last century was sound. Now, I might have different criteria than you do so let me be clear. The way I look at it, American foreign policy should lead to an advantage for the USA and at the same time should not be too onerous on the other party (country or countries). The fact that the USA wields a lot of influence around the world, has built up more economies (think Europe and Japan right after WWII, we are talking last century) and has damaged none that I can think of right now (feel free to rectify my ignorance) is what I judge American foreign policy by. I freely admit to only a passing interest in politics so if my criteria and/or definitions are wrong, please tell me why.

I think blunders are by definition more bad than good so I don't really see the argument there. If it is supposed to mean that the blunders have done more harm than the good that successful diplomacy have caused, I don't see how you did the math. Successful diplomacy is often understated and unobserved. While the press was complaining about US unilateralism with regards to Iraq, there were dozens of countries that were convinced to side with the US but they were only mentioned as a list. In contrast, the US-Turkey negotiation had pretty much a blow-by-blow coverage. So how do you judge?

As for knuckling down to domestic policy before dealing with foreign policy, the world does not wait at our convenience. The rest of the world will do their thing and it would be nice if they would leave the USA alone but any administration should be ready to deal with them if necessary.

Now about the symbolism,
"it's meant to provoke a visceral, emotional reaction. which it did. fair and cogent don't enter any part of the discussion. including the person being villified."
Fine, sure, if that's all that the "artist" wanted to do, I can live with that. **it-flinging chimpanzees also provoke a visceral, emotional reaction so I don't see what is wrong with that characterization. If all the artist wanted to do was provoke an emotional reaction then hurray he got one. On the other hand if you want a discussion yes, cogent argument does come into it, I didn't notice anybody else say anything about fair though one can hope.

Posted by: felix on September 4, 2003 04:54 PM

To repeat, and to drag this back on track: My point is not that the images are shocking, or that they are radical. They're just amazingly stupid, and indicate at best a complete and willful ignorance of the history, politics, cultures, and leadership of the various parties involved. At best. More likely in my opinion, as stated, it's the same sort of stuff that gets flung out of a chimpanzee cage. And should therefore be treated accordingly.

Anyone can be shocking. Ask my wife how she feels when I moon her. It only becomes art when it shocks and then informs with some sort of relevant, or even vaguely cogent, point.

Posted by: Scott on September 5, 2003 09:28 AM

Not to be mean or arrogant, but Scott, I think you need to re-phrase that last sentence...

"It only becomes art when it shocks and then informs with some sort of relevant, or even vaguely cogent, point."


"For me to accept something as art, first it shocks and then informs with some sort of relevant, or even vaguely cogent, point."

Unless you want to call up Miriam-Webster and offer up a new definition. I know artists out ther that aren't creating things that shock much less informs the viewer. Be careful of the blanket statements.

Posted by: Joshua on September 5, 2003 01:45 PM
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