Posted by lex, on April 18, 2006
Taken as a whole, I have to confess that I’m not a charter member of the Michelle Malkin fan club. It’s not so much that I disagree with her on substance for the most part – it’s a tone thing: To hear her talk about it, it’s all about the forces of Good and Evil, the whistling arc and glad clash of absolutist, demonizing rhetorical scimitars, etc. Pundits have to choose a point of view I suppose, but I’ve often wished that along with the courage of their convictions, some of them would take the counsel of the occasional uncertainty, too.
Even granting that she’s been treated abominably in the past by her legion of critics, most of whom couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge her existence, far less her opinions, were it not for the fact that as a conservative “woman of color,” she fails the critical requirement of conforming to identity politics stereotype. Because of her enthusiastic expression of unorthodox political beliefs, she is, in the minds of too many diversity supporters, inauthentically female, insufficiently Asian. Many of these worthies tend to express their thoughtful disapproval in repugnant, racist terms, when they aren’t being offensively sexist. Or both.
So the lady has, in my view, maybe earned the right to a crocodile tear or two. Especially when it comes the stir surrounding her recent post revealing the email contact data and telephone numbers of the UC Santa Cruz Students Against the War – foolishly provided in their arrogant innocence within a press release crowing about chasing military recruiters off campus.
Now, I also have to admit that I find these SAW people an unsympathetic class of victims. While they strike popular, eyes-on-the-full-length-mirror poses and assume self-referential bohemian attitudes from behind the protected and ivy-panoplied parapets of state supported academia, other – dare I say it: Better? – men their age are fighting, and all too often dying in order to protect their right to prevent qualified classmates so inclined from leading those same men in combat. Doesn’t matter who else might like to hear the recruiter’s pitch, or what the law has to say under the Solomon Amendment, because they themselves are against the war. Which is the important thing.
Too many victims here, and all too few heroes. There are all kinds of death threats, is what I guess mean. There are those death threats that cause self-congratulatory, soi disant “radicals” working on their English degrees between cups of carmel macciato latte – men who dare to flick the bird and shout obscenities at the Military Recruiter Man, but who risk nothing, absolutely nothing of consequence in doing so.
But then, these bold warriors of the Popular Front for Orthodox Counter-Culture hyperventilate at the first exposure to rays of light from outside the warm, snug fastness of the campus echo chamber. At which point, receiving vigorous – even violent – criticism from brutish, albeit it absent, trolls (for what one suspects may be the first time in their sheltered lives) they claim to be afraid, outraged. Victimized.
Under such pressure, what is a true radical to do, besides resign themselves to a changed email addresses and new or unlisted cell phone number? Only think of the lost voicemail opportunities, the blown chance to hook up with Buffy after the protest march for an espresso, and then: Who knows? Quelle horreur! Oh, small stuff you might say, it was different back in the day. But then again, radicalism used to be made of sterner stuff.
But on the other hand, there are those death threats that stout young men and women at arms, young people with fewer choices, different expectation sets or greater patriotic fervor face in the service of their country, fighting long hours of boredom on the one hand, while trying to build a democracy of out of a brutalized populace and blasted land, all the while knowing that if it comes to a fight with their backs to the wall, it’s fight and live, or fight and die. There are no other choices over there, no changing email addresses or unlisted numbers, no blushing, approbatory coeds – they all know that if it comes to out outside the wire, dying on the trigger is a thousand times to be preferred to the fate of those who might be captured.
Who’s to say which kind of death threat is worse? Who the greater victim? Especially when the soldiers themselves eschew the mantle.
Still, death threats are poor form, all the way around, and do nothing to elevate the debate. To admit that Ms Malkin ought to probably have taken the data down after receiving the death threat feedback is not to disagree that posting the SAW-provided contact data was probably too tempting to resist. And while the SAW knuckleheads have probably learned a valuable lesson, it’s worth keeping in mind that American college students – even ones we disagree with – are not the existential enemy, nor even a useful proxy.
This is all so post-modernist: Everyone is a victim, there are no heroes, one searches in vain, despairingly for any sense of honor. To find those, you’d have to maybe go to Iraq – if, that is, the radicals let you speak to a recruiter.