Friday, July 11, 2014

The Week In Decency, Part MMMDCCLXVI

This post, motivated as usual by the contents of my Twitter feed, which is - for reasons I won't go into here - partially populated by a lot of very belligerent partisans.

This week, those people's burning question appears to be - how come lots of internet fannies immediately call bullshit on the Israelis when they start rubbing out civvies, but don't spend long hours debunking the nonsense of the Syrian regime?  

It's a reasonable question and it deserves an answer, so here it is: by and large, it's just not necessary for internet fannies like me to debunk the Syrian regime's propaganda.

Does this seem like an odd assertion?  Well, here are two reasons why it's accurate:

1) We already have a vast, intricate system that painstakingly assails every deceit that sneaks out of Damascus, and we call it the mainstream broadcast and print media.  These organisations beam a whacking deluge of content into every home in the land daily, and most of them have expended huge amounts of energy on - correctly - attacking the Syrian government.

2) When the Syrian government makes grand, bullshitty claims about its own virtue and the villainy of the civilians it kills, you very rarely see the nation's intellectuals, pundits, public figures and bloggers leaping to their feet to angrily repeat its loopy propaganda*.  

To pick one relevant example: Let's say that Bashar al-Assad announces tomorrow that, if he informs the people that he's about to bomb that they should immediately relocate or die, then any civilians that end up getting killed because they didn't heed his warning are wholly responsible for their own destruction.

What would happen?  Well, many people who follow current affairs would be outraged at the suggestion.  The papers would denounce Bashar at great length and you wouldn't have to go far to find a seething hive of sulphorous condemnation on social media, with links.

If Al-Assad further announced that actually, people who don't get out of the way of his bombs are not only to blame for their own deaths, but that they're also actually engaged in despicable acts of terrorism aimed at blackening his name, out of malice...

Well, people would just laugh, wouldn't they?  They'd laugh, because it would be ludicrously obvious and insane propaganda, barely meriting refutation.

People aren't obliged to get out of the way of your missiles and mortars, you madman, folk would say.  It's your responsibility to not deliberately kill them.  And those folk would be correct.

And yet, if you re-read this example while replacing the name Bashar Al-Assad with Benjamin Netanyahu, you wind up with the kind of thing I've seen vast amounts of this week - many otherwise sensible people coming to exactly the opposite conclusion, very angrily and insistently so.

And this is just one extreme example, for illustrative purposes.  If we dial it back down to merely accepting as factual a lot of extremely dubious propositions advanced from Tel Aviv, well, you can find endless repetition of that from the most powerful media conglomerates on Earth... 

...But you'll very rarely see  e.g. News Corp or the BBC repeating pronouncements from Damascus as if they were facts, and you won't often hear them echoed and reinforced by public figures and pundits elsewhere.

So let me finish with another short but obvious point - there's an even more pertinent reason why it's not really necessary for me to get up on my high-horse every time the Assads barrel-bomb a neighbourhood, and it's this:

I'd like to think that people would have the basic decency to just assume that I disapprove of barrel-bombing crowded urban areas, rather than seeking proof of it.

And you have to admit that it's damn odd, that it's necessary to point this out.


*Some idiot somewhere will but then, you can always guarantee that whatever the loony proposition, some idiot somewhere will be making it.

17 comments:

Organic cheeseboard said...

I'm assuming that if Hamas were to obtain laser guided missiles and began firing them at the personal residences of IDF commanders and members of the Knesset, having dropped fake bombs 5 minutes earlier, killing their children, that Decents would be fine with it?

Equally I find it funny that, in order to "stop rocket fire" (which is what these bombings are supposedly meant to do, quick, listen to this air raid siren on my phone etc), Israel needs to kill a lot of Hamas officials and their families. (As well, of course, as destroying the country's infrastructure, as they always do, for no reason other than being complete and utter cunts). You'd have thought that bombing the weapons depots and the places rockets are fired from would be the best idea, to stop rocket fire, but apparently not. Apparently they have "no choice" but to "defend themselves" by killing civilians.

Equally, given that this "bomb the shit out of them to stop rocket fire" approach has a track record of never, ever solving any problems but getting a lot of Israelis and palestinians killed, you'd have thought that maybe, just maybe, the usual IDF cheerleaders might question whether these bombings to actually "defend Israel" in even a vaguely efficient way. But no.

One last thing - I note that not only have the killers of that poor Palestinian kid not been named, their families' houses seem to have remained bulldozer-free. I wonder why.

flyingrodent said...

(As well, of course, as destroying the country's infrastructure, as they always do, for no reason other than being complete and utter cunts).

This was certainly the MO for the 2006 Lebanon War and Cast Lead, so it wouldn't be out of character.

Equally, given that this "bomb the shit out of them to stop rocket fire" approach has a track record of never, ever solving any problems but getting a lot of Israelis and palestinians killed, you'd have thought that maybe, just maybe, the usual IDF cheerleaders might question whether these bombings to actually "defend Israel" in even a vaguely efficient way.

To be fair, I notice that most of the major ideological humanitarians are basically reduced to saying "Down with this sort of thing" this time, for the most part. We're certainly not getting the "Why oh why can't our favoured faction blow up whatever and whoever they like without facing any criticism" stuff that we got in both 2006 and 2009. That may change if there's a ground invasion, but I'm sensing a bit of fatigue in all but the most hardcore ideologues.

Speaking of which, even HP Sauce has reined it in a bit this time, by comparison with previous efforts. A bit of boo-hoo-woe-is-us and a single insane article by Michael Ezra, and that's pretty much our lot.

flyingrodent said...

And I realise that last paragraph won't make much sense, in terms of the post, so let me elaborate: when I'm talking about nutters with strong ideas about which civilians it's permissable to attack, I'm talking about the Richard Kemps and Mel Ps and Michael Ezras.

Which, I admit, is basically nutpicking, but I was trying to use them to make a broader point.

Organic cheeseboard said...

I was amused by James Bloodworth 's approach to all of this on twitter in particular - essentially in order to keep up the appearance of being the Young and All-Improved Decent he was reduced to the old "do you think Israel has the right to defend itself" question, repeated ad nauseam, because no sane person can really suggest that this latest onslaught will work, or is support-able.

That Michael Ezra piece is awful. Essentially the only point is "if things were much different, then they'd be different, so we should act as if they are different now".

Most of the people who run HP Sauce have given up, from what I can tell - essentially it seems to be a place where someone (probably David Toube) reblogs total crap from elsewhere (it seems that the admins who are vocal disown responsibility for almost every single posting) The piece from the Times of Israel is the worst excess of this copy and pasting - I'm sure an Israeli audience would be ok with it, but to outsiders it's pretty much objectionable from start to finish.

Incidentally have you ever looked at that weird think thank, The Centre for Humanitarian Intervention? It's pretty much the worst think tank on earth, as the name would suggest (I mean absolutely all it's analysis is pre-empted by its name Ffs). The woman who runs it today on twitter praised the idea of Blair teaming up with Sisi to "solve the Gaza crisis". When someone pointed out that this is hardly great news, given Blair's track record in Iraq (they could equally have pointed out the fact that Sisi despises Hamas, so is hardly neutral), she gave a reasoned articulation of why Blair will make a difference. It ran thus: "it is good because Blair is my friend and so are his people". And that's it. Truly exceptional analysis there.

flyingrodent said...

That Michael Ezra piece is awful...

It really is and, rather go into detail, I'll just observe that I'm not really up for taking lectures on morality from people who respond to every war involving nations they like by pondering at length on which civilians are killable, how many of them can be zapped and by what voltage.

The woman who runs it today on twitter praised the idea of Blair teaming up with Sisi to "solve the Gaza crisis".

That's completely insane - as best I can tell, Blair's sole contribution to the fictional peace process has been to give speeches in front of Israeli notables assuring them that all of their actions are just and correct, and urging them to find better ways of explaining how just they are to the world. By which he appears to mean "Disseminate better propaganda" or, bluntly, "Tell better lies".

And it's only a few months since Sisi's troops were machine-gunning Palestinian civilians on the Gaza border, FFS. The idea that he has a useful role here, beyond joining in with the airstrikes, is utterly deranged.

I was amused by James Bloodworth 's approach to all of this on twitter in particular...

He's got a bit of a difficult sales job, really. His entire schtick is that we should be really outraged about bad people firing missiles at civilians, and for as long as the death-toll on the Israeli side remains at zero, he's pretty much just stuck with little more than petulant snark, I reckon.

gregorach said...

There is another another point I like to mention whenever this sort of thing comes up: as a citizen of a democratic state with a (nominally) representative parliament, I'm rather more concerned with the antics of my government's allies than those of its enemies. If the UK government starts openly backing the Assad regime, I'll be more likely to criticise its actions. As it stands, they're just one more gang of lunatics doing unconscionable things, but which I (and my representatives) have no direct responsibility for, or influence over. And if I'm supposed to start individually denouncing everybody who falls into that category, we're going to be here for a very long time indeed.

flyingrodent said...

Good timing Gregorach - just on cue for the slapstick in the column below...

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/arguments-about-israel-and-palestine-have-more-to-do-with-the-fashion-for-revolutionary-tourism-than-actual-politics-9604934.html

gregorach said...

If you're going to link to Bloodsworth (a fine example of nominative determinism if ever I saw one), shouldn't you at least warn people first?

organic cheeseboard said...

Yup, it's staggering that the pretty clear rationale for people getting more upset by the actions of the UK's allies, which we tacitly endorse, than pariahs like Assad, is so often totally ignored by pundits - not just yer Bloodworths of this world but almost everyone else. worth remembering here that Tony Blair literally opposed a ceasefire in Lebanon - he, as our PM, allowed Israel to continue killing civilians when it was clear that a ceasefire could have been sorted there and then.

I'm impressed by Bloodworth's limitations - it's twice in two weeks, I think, that he's managed to write an article which says 'everyone makes the same old tired arguments about issue X' without even the vaguest sense of self-awareness. I mean He literally includes the following:

Most non-political people are for obvious reasons relatively immune from [picking overseas causes to support], but it’s important to recognise the symptoms the next time you see a middle-class student from Hertfordshire wearing a keffiyeh and gesticulating about ‘Zionism’.

Of course he doesn't mention the alternative - the 'friends of Israel', etc - but then why would he? we also get this:

a condemnation of Israel will begin with the words ‘speaking as a Jew’, as if this gives the opinion greater force. Really though, there is very little reason to believe it should.

I note here that HP Sauce literally have a post using the construction to demonstrate why the Jewish Bill Maher should be listened to on Israel/Palestine - he's on the side of the former.

And in a piece which bemoans 'the same old arguments having been made before' we get this stunner:

The Israeli incursion into Gaza may be disproportionate, but there is no country in the world that would tolerate the firing of rockets at its major cities.

Well, maybe not (though as someone on Twitter said, the UK managed to put up with IRA bombs without firing missiles at the houses of Sinn Fein politicians in Ireland), but observing that Rocket Attacks Are Bad is pretty much the most obvious thing anyone has ever said about this conflict.

Incidentally, there's been an awful lot of emphasis placed on Iraelis living under fear of air raid sirens and having to scramble to stairwells and shelters in recent weeks. Indeed it sounds fucking shit. But it's a bit at odds with the (HP Sauce-approved) Sderot bombing-watching parties, isn't it? I mean if I lived in constant fear of a randomly-fired missile hitting me, I wouldn't take my family to the outskirts of town in the car, with a coolbox and some bags of popcorn, and settle down on the sofa I'd previously brought there, to it and watch bombings.

One extra note on all this via Twitter - John Rentoul enthusiastically claiming that the one person whose views on Israel/Palestine are non-predictable and thus essential reading is.... Howard Jacobson.

gregorach said...

"the UK managed to put up with IRA bombs without firing missiles at the houses of Sinn Fein politicians in Ireland"

Which, we should remember, included the successful (and hugely destructive) bombing of the party conference of the current governing party (which did actually kill some serving ministers if my memory is accurate), and mortar attacks on 10 Downing Street.

Also worth noting: there is plenty of scope for "not tolerating" things without getting into the more-or-less indiscriminate aerial bombardment of the civilian population.

flyingrodent said...

Yup, it really is something - a supposedly reasoned attempt to ask What is it about the dispute between Israel and Palestine that causes so much vituperation? that somehow yields the answer: "Because folk who hold different views to me are all twatty, studenty, self-important, fake-revolutionary fannies who should be ignored".

Yes,I wonder why arguments get a little heated, with sober, generous analysis of this nature.

And why isn’t the same level of concern shown for the world’s many other seemingly intractable problems?

As noted above, one of the main reasons why people who disagree with James are more animated about this issue is because there's simply nobody to argue with about e.g. Syria. 99.9% of people who pay attention to the issue think Assad is a bastard and will say so if prompted.

That means that almost no-one is penning lengthy articles trying to pretend that Assad is a moral human being, or that his military tactics are wholly justified, or that the civilians he kills are responsible for their own deaths.

You actually do get that with e.g. repeated bombardments of Gaza, which is why there's a really angry argument about it.
For a really nasty row to develop, you need a bunch of really quite unpleasant and dishonest people acting like appalling shits and inventing excuses for other, very violent and horrible people who do terrible things. In short, you need people like James and his mates to tell us that, for example, certain types of civilians can be killed with impunity.

most ‘anti-war’ protests were mobilised for the purpose of deterring any action to punish the dictator who had been starving Palestinian refugees in Damascus.

I don't remember any marches against bombing Damascus, but I live far from the political centre. Suffice to say that this is a really tiresome recapitulation of countless previous bad arguments, and leave it there.

...condemnation of Israel will begin with the words ‘speaking as a Jew’, as if this gives the opinion greater force.

I don't think this is correct - I think that formulation exists because people think it will somehow immunise them from disingenuous criticism by people like James and his pals. As we've seen so often, it doesn't.

And BTW, anyone who feels the need "to paraphrase the French writer Pascal Bruckner" has pretty much lost the right to be taken seriously, in my view, since he appears to be a deeply unpleasant man with some pretty dodgy views about cracking down on the ethnics.

There's lots more of drivel in that article, but that'll do for now.

flyingrodent said...

As an example of the phenomenon I'm talking about, here's one of HP Sauce's many cut-n-pastes, on the general topic of "Actually, taking up prime seats to enjoy the bombardment of Gaza is perfectly normal and understandable".

http://hurryupharry.org/2014/07/14/in-defense-of-the-sderot-cinema/

I imagine that precisely the same largesse will be forthcoming the next time some anonymous Palestinian nutter says he's happy an Israeli got killed or something. After all, that kind of thing has also been happening for centuries.

septicisle said...

It's also very far from the first time there's been a "Sderot cinema" when Gaza was under attack - they were there a couple of years back and in 09. Don't worry though, it's not "particularly nasty" cheering on the bombing of those people you hate.

gregorach said...

And BTW, anyone who feels the need "to paraphrase the French writer Pascal Bruckner" has pretty much lost the right to be taken seriously, in my view, since he appears to be a deeply unpleasant man with some pretty dodgy views about cracking down on the ethnics.

I suspect James is operating on the fairly safe assumption that most of his readers will have no idea who Pascal Bruckner is (I certainly didn't), but will reflexively assume that he's some sort of lefty peacenik, since obviously all French writers are, and would rather lie in bed artfully rumpled beds with beautiful women, eating cheese, smoking Gauloises, and listening to Serge Gainsbourg than bomb the darkies. It's got "see, even this Frenchie agrees with me!" written all over it.

organic cheeseboard said...

As far as I can tell the only other British fans of Pascal Bruckner are Andrew Anthony, Clive James, and Nick Cohen. By all accounts the book they all love, 'The Tyranny of Guilt', is absolutely awful, a series of half-remembered anecdotes and selective quotations 'proving' that the West (by which he means France, interestingly enough) is in love with feeling guilty about race, or some such bollocks. Check out this review:

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/412503.article

Bloodworth is really, really fond of quoting him, which is ironic given how utterly predictable Bruckner's 'ideas' are.

I love the fact that Bloodworth's attempts to look 'balanced' have failed so miserably - he's busy retweeting praise of that article today, all of which presents it as an anti-lefty rant.

On the Sderot cinema post, I really don't know what they think they're playing at. I can understand why these people in Sderot do it but it doesn't mean you have to pretend it's ok, especially since they're literally and repeatedly cheering the deaths of civilians - not just turning up to watch a battle like the Civil War example given (which also looks pretty horrific in retrospect - saying 'well someone did it before' is surely not enough).

Also just to note:

condemnation of Israel will begin with the words ‘speaking as a Jew’, as if this gives the opinion greater force.

Again this belies Bloodworth's partisan nature (which is even weirder given that he doesn't actually seem to be much of an IDF fanboy) - the 'as a Jew' gambit is seemingly ok, even to Bloodworth (you'd expect it of HP Sauce), if the person in question is a lover of all things IDF.

organic cheeseboard said...

I saw you retweeting the thing about Israel effectively destroying Gazan water infrastructure - there's also this:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/16/witness-gaza-shelling-first-hand-account

Pretty fucking difficult to blame that obviously intentional redirection of shellfire, in front of foreign journalists, on 'the use of human shields' I'd have thought. But the IDF will. Also again evidence of their willingness to destroy infrastructure, both public and private. Even James fucking Bloodworth has retweeted it.

Speaking of him, I had another thought about hiss dreadful piece:

10 dead Palestinians equals about 1,000 dead Syrians (or 10,000 dead Africans

According to a quick google, the number of articles Bloodworth has written about Africa - I could find 1, and that was about Muslim extremists. Number on Syria - at least 6 times that amount, probably more. Number on Palestine - At least 5, almost all of them complaining about how Lefties are obsessed with Palestine. Looks like he's not too far from his 10 vs 1000 vs 10000 thing...

flyingrodent said...

I saw you retweeting the thing about Israel effectively destroying Gazan water infrastructure - there's also this...

Yes, not really unexpected. And on the water thing, given that e.g. the 2006 Lebanon War saw the IDF "targetting terrorists" by bombing hundreds of entirely non-military targets including ports, airports, petrol stations, bridges, bakeries, factories, apartment blocks, supermarkets, and on and on, I'm not really inclined to take their claims of restraint at face-value.

Looks like he's not too far from his 10 vs 1000 vs 10000 thing...

What else would we expect, though? This holds true for almost everyone deploying the old how come people are upset about (x) but not (y) thing. No doubt I'm guilty of that myself, on occasion.

True, I don't spend much time yammering on about the suffering peoples of Democratic Republic of Congo much myself but then, I don't claim to be a champion humanitarian with grand ideas for the betterment of mankind via high explosives, as some do.