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The real source

Donald Rumsfeld wishes he were better

Donald Rumsfeld has been muttering darkly about the “vicious extremists” who constitute, in a convenient echo of the second world war, “the rising threat of a new type of fascism”. The phrase “a new type of fascism” is cleverer than it looks, subtler than the boss’s recent adoption of “Islamic fascism”. The rider “a new type of” is designed to acknowledge the obvious fact that what is under consideration is not “fascism” as hitherto understood, while allowing oneself to say the scary word “fascism” anyway, because the opportunity it provides to paint opponents as “appeasers” is too good to pass up . . .

Like Goebbels, the newfangled fascists are also brilliant at “manipulating the media”, Rumsfeld said in another speech yesterday:

The enemy is so much better at communicating. I wish we were better at countering that because the constant drumbeat of things they say – all of which are not true – is harmful. It’s cumulative. And it does weaken people’s will and lessen their determination, and raise questions in their minds as to whether the cost is worth it.

Rumsfeld shouldn’t be so hard on himself: he is really quite good at communicating. To remind us that the “cost” is worth it, here is how he heroically slices the enemy’s net of falsehoods into a pile of flaccid string with the shining sword of truth:

The struggle we are in is too important – the consequences too severe – to have the luxury of returning to the ‘blame America first’ mentality. Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America – not the enemy – is the real source of the world’s troubles?

It is no doubt true that the world’s troubles can be blamed on a single “real source”. But do “America” and “the enemy” really exhaust the list of suspects? Can we truly afford to ignore the possibility that the real source of the world’s troubles is Satan, or lawyers, or insufficiently “free” markets, or Darth Vader? What do you think the real source of the world’s troubles is, readers?

Update: If you haven’t yet watched Keith Olbermann’s outstanding commentary on Rumsfeld’s speech, do so, and be glad that the true spirit of American democracy lives on.

  1. 1  arbuthnotite  August 30, 2006, 12:30 pm 

    Heheh. I loved the bit in the book about Rumsfeld as a jazz sax player, btw ;)

  2. 2  SP  August 30, 2006, 12:31 pm 

    Thank you. Although here I think he is parping a trumpet of doom.

  3. 3  kevin beck  August 30, 2006, 4:59 pm 

    Yes, “new type of fasciam” is a ‘brilliant’ way of indicting Islam without having to say the word “Islam.” It allows Rumsfeld, et al to idict implicitly without having to name the ‘enemy.’ That is too politically unseemly.

    I don’t know if it qualifies as Unspeak or not, but the government’s phrase, “We have to stay in Iraq until the mission is done” is terribly vague. What, exactly, is the mission, and how will we know when it is “done.”

  4. 4  abb1  August 30, 2006, 5:12 pm 

    Yes, it’s about time we begin defending traditional old-style ‘Glorious State vs. The Enemies’ fascism against these obviously inferior new types. This is what conservatism is all about.

  5. 5  SP  August 30, 2006, 6:56 pm 

    Ah yes, abb1, I do so hanker after the good old days of proper fascism.

    Kevin, wasn’t the mission accomplished three years ago? If so, there is a strange disconnect between concepts of “accomplished” and “done” going on. Or maybe there has been “mission creep”?

  6. 6  SW  August 30, 2006, 6:59 pm 

    I really like your sentence: “Like Goebbels, the newfangled fascists are also brilliant at “manipulating the media”, Rumsfeld said in another speech yesterday:”

    While grammatically unimpeachable, the sentence can be imaginatively read as though the middle phrase were suspended as paranthesis. There is a certain poetic ambiguity in it, however grammatically sincere, such that it is all actually describing the subject, Rumsfeld.

    Which brings me to me my answer: the real source of the world’s trouble is a failure to recognise the second law of thermodynamics and Entropy. Propped up against the terrifying, inexorable March of Disorder, are vicious attempts to impose order; one might be more generous and say that human civilisation itself is a naive response to entropy, at times optimistic and at times cruel and vile, and the best we can do is take a stand on which is which. (Apologies, as always, to physicists for so awkwardly stealing their “laws” for phenomena for which they may have no relevance)

  7. 7  SP  August 30, 2006, 7:13 pm 

    Fascinating. You mean like this?

    Like Goebbels (the newfangled fascists are also brilliant at “manipulating the media”), Rumsfeld said in another speech yesterday:

    More proof, if any were needed, that the intentional fallacy is just that. I did not consciously intend this reading, but I cannot deny that it is there, and irresistible.

    I am sure there are lots of physicists who read this blog. Even as I wonder whether building houses and sewing up flesh wounds also count as naive responses to entropy, I defer to their no doubt imminent judgment of your metaphor.

  8. 8  SW  August 30, 2006, 7:28 pm 

    Yes, that’s exactly what I meant (although I prefer leaving the original grammar in place – clearing you of any evidence of malign intent) and allowing . . . shall we call it “voice”?

    As for your comment about “building houses and sewing up flesh wounds”: I assumed that such activities were included in my “optimistic” responses to entropy. Building a mansion on a fault line, or neatly suturing a poorly irrigated or inadequately cleansed wound, are both bursting with opportunities for disordered results. Hence, the use of “optimistic”.

  9. 9  SP  August 30, 2006, 8:22 pm 

    Aha, I see. The physicists are itching to jump in, so I’ll leave it to them.

    Any other nominations?

  10. 10  Paul Ward  August 30, 2006, 10:36 pm 

    Er, that wouldn’t be the Entropy defined as the Renderman-Interface compliant 3D Renderer I ‘spose?

    ‘Paranthesis’ should be ‘parenthesis’ and I would say ‘the middle phrase was suspended in parentheses’, that is, to be grammatically unimpeachable. Steven do you really know what this chap is talking about or are you just pretending? By the way Goebbels was another of those types that liked threatening people with deletion.

  11. 11  sw  August 30, 2006, 11:07 pm 

    Sweet Jesus, I’m telling myself not to respond, not to respond, not to respond. But the pull towards the entropy of intellect is too powerful: Paul Ward, please check your “grammatically unimpeachable” contribution.

  12. 12  DF  August 30, 2006, 11:20 pm 

    Don’t respond SW. Paul is clearly not himself today, as his last comment demonstrates.

  13. 13  Paul Ward  August 31, 2006, 12:17 am 

    DF it’s too late he already has.
    Tell me a man in a suit with a large net beckons SW.
    I’m a man in equilibrium and that means I’ve got as much entropy as I can geet.

  14. 14  SP  August 31, 2006, 12:28 am 

    A gentle reminder is in order that I reserve the right to delete comments as I see fit, or alternatively to translate them into the very useful “Moron” dialect. As dictators go, I am firm but whimsical. Please try to keep comments on-topic.

  15. 15  SP  August 31, 2006, 1:01 am 

    DF, what do you think the real source of the world’s problems is? I will hazard a guess that you don’t nominate lawyers.

  16. 16  Paul Ward  August 31, 2006, 1:13 am 

    Steven, I really don’t know where you get the energy from. There is no dialectic here. It’s pure promenade. Delete away old bean. Delete away.

  17. 17  DF  August 31, 2006, 8:35 am 

    The real source? Olden times, it used to be the thinking that women were at the root of all problems. You’ll find that view in the Bible, and it comes up in the poets too. But that seems wide of the mark to us – we usually say its men that are to blame, with their nuclear plans, empires and big cars.

    Lawyers? They’re in the frame too, have been for a while. But maybe the rage that is traditionally directed at them is at least in part an anger at living in a vast, diverse and complex society that reqires so many damn rules to order it.

    The other prime suspect, modern times, is God.

  18. 18  abb1  August 31, 2006, 9:20 am 

    Big brains, according to Kurt Vonnegut.

  19. 19  abb1  August 31, 2006, 9:25 am 

    Hmm, I just realized that ‘big brains’ could be, indeed, a euphemism for ‘lawyers’.

  20. 20  egghead  August 31, 2006, 10:11 am 

    A crossword puzzle is a problem to be solved or it’s a pretty pattern of black and white squares that would look nice on the wall. A problem is only a problem if the human intellect makes it so. Ergo:

    the real source of all problems is us

  21. 21  SP  August 31, 2006, 11:30 am 


    As you implicitly surmise, perhaps we should ask every nation’s refugee.

    Is God a potential source of all the world’s problems owing to his malice or his annoying nonexistence?

    Egghead: incontrovertibly Zen, thank you.

    I was reminded by Rumsfeld’s complaints about the enemy’s brilliance at manipulating the media of the passage in my book that mentions the Office of Strategic Information, an official US government body for creating international propaganda, set up and then quickly cancelled in 2002. Afterwards Rumsfeld said:

    And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And “oh my goodness gracious isn’t that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.” I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.

  22. 22  egghead  August 31, 2006, 11:58 am 

    Dear old Dick and Rummy – while dubya takes all the flack they work the machinery. It’s all very Straussian. But whilst we gab they do. And that you might say is the tragedy of it.
    By the way has Paul Ward been deleted?
    That would be a great pity as I happen to know him personally and he is a man of first-rate intellect and the utmost integrity. Yes, he is a little passionate at times and perhaps even a little wayward in his logic; hell, let’s not mince our words, you could even say he was a self-aggrandizing twerp. Indeed at times I have been his severest critic.
    But do we not all have feet of clay when all is said and done?
    Can we not, in fact, as fallible human beings extend our empathy and say, ‘never mind you bollocks we forgive you’?
    Just a thought.

  23. 23  SP  August 31, 2006, 12:55 pm 

    Quite so: while we judiciously study reality, they create their own new one, etc.

    abb1: it seems your/Vonnegut’s theory could easily be translated into egghead’s. But the idea that the world needs fewer big brains, not more, seems a little suspect to me.

    PW deleted? Heavens no; I merely suppressed one very wayward comment of his. I trust he will be back.

    Meanwhile, as dictated by blogosphere fashion, this site now has an official Comment policy.

  24. 24  Paul Ward  August 31, 2006, 2:26 pm 


    Your claim to know me personally is preposterous and some of your remarks would be construed by a lesser man as offensive.

    But to return to the topic. De Selby’s ‘molycule theory of matter’ may be of assistance here. Basically he divides the Universe into three fundamental groups: matter, anti-matter, and don’t matter. Naturally De Selby places the sublunar world mostly into the latter group. Which in turn of course, could make much of the foregoing redundant.

  25. 25  egghead  August 31, 2006, 2:27 pm 


    This is incredible!
    It’s hard to believe but I’m a fan of De Selby too.
    I must’ve read Golden Hours three times at least and what he has to say regarding policemen and bicycles is frankly gobsmacking. As a cyclist of thirty years I could easily be 80% bicycle!

    Under the circumstances I fully and unreservedly retract my remarks, vis-a-vis, ‘self-aggrandizing’ and ‘twerp’.

  26. 26  SP  August 31, 2006, 2:29 pm 

    Do I need to put something else into the Comment policy about pretending to be two different people and constructing a pointless fictional conversation between them? I do hope not.

    De Selby, of course, is always on-topic.

  27. 27  Paul Ward  August 31, 2006, 2:39 pm 

    Er, sorry.
    Won’t happen again.

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