Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ike on Palin

Matthew Rozsa

"Don't join the book burners. Do not think you are going to conceal thoughts by concealing evidence that they ever existed."
- Dwight Eisenhower (1953)

"Back in 1996, when she first became mayor, Sarah Palin asked the city librarian if she would be all right with censoring library books should she be asked to do so."
- Anchorage Daily News (2008)


Megan Humphreys


Matthew Rozsa
To be fair, given Palin's tenuous relationship with all things intellectual, it is entirely possible that she genuinely believes simply banning or burning books will eradicate the pesky ideas they contain.

"I mean, if those ideas lose their little paper houses, they'll have nowhere to go and just die, right?"

Matthew Rozsa
I miss the days when Republican leaders read Eric Hoffer instead of being the kind of people he'd write about. As President Eisenhower once wrote in a personal letter to a veteran, Hoffer believed that ideological fanatics were so quick to support their given movements because they allowed them "freedom from the necessity of informing themselves and making up their own minds concerning these tremendous complex and difficult questions."

For the record, Hoffer believed that this axiom applied in ALL cases - to militant Communists as well as Nazis, to the attempts at repressing dissent from atheists as well as religious fundamentalists, to racism from non-white as well as white groups. In his own words:

"The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready he is to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause."

That said, when I think of the religious overtones of Glenn Beck's latest rally in Washington, or of the tendency displayed by both Sarah Palin and her supporters to represent themselves as knights valiantly fighting for God and good against the evils of Obama and liberalism, I find it difficult to not mourn for the Republican party of Eisenhower.

Cliff Smith

Yah, except that she never actually asked to censor books.

But don't let annoying things like facts get in the way of a good narrative.

FYI, first one to invoke Nazis automatically loses.

Cliff Smith

Oh, and since we're discussing book burning...


Matthew Rozsa
Wow, Cliff. Let's deal with this point-by-point:

1) Why would you ask a librarian if she'd be open to banning certain books unless you were considering asking her to pursue that course of action? And don't give me that baloney about how she was just trying to test the librarian's integrity by seeing if she'd say yes to such a question- that's bullshit and her supporters know it. Your interpretation only makes sense if you insist on being so strictly literal in your understanding of her words that you choose to ignore any and all pertinent external context.

2) Besides, even if we were to completely ignore context for a moment, why did Palin try to get the librarian fired after the latter said she would never ban books if Palin's goal had been to demonstrate her integrity by refusing to engage in censorship (as opposed to what the librarian claims was Palin's goal, which was to get her to ban books, as well as what the librarian and the people Wasilla remember as Palin trying to get the librarian fired for disloyalty after she refused to comply)? Of course, Palin claims she tried to get the librarian fired for other reasons, although she's always been maddeningly vague in explaining what those reasons were.

3) Your willful blindness to context is also evident when you complain that I compared Sarah Palin supporters to Nazis. Actually, I was merely discussing the arguments presented by Eric Hoffer in his book "The True Believer", in which he pointed out that all ideological zealots - benign as well as dangerous - follow certain psychological patterns. While I was indeed stating that the ideology of Palin and her followers appeals to the same basic emotional needs as the case studies in Hoffer's book, my doing this does not compare them to Nazism any more so than it compares them to Communism or militant atheism (which were also groups that I mentioned). Hoffer was merely describing psychological structures; he couldn't have cared less about the "window dressing" of the specific ideologies themselves (his words, by the way, not mine). Your complaint here is thus woefully simplistic in its deliberately acontextual outlook.

4) Um... how does the fact that Democrats pointed out a campaign finance law violation by a publishing company have anything to do with censorship? No one is saying that Eric Cantor's book shouldn't be published; they're merely questioning aspects of campaign propriety engaged in by the Simon and Schuster corporation.

Cliff Smith
#1 - Saying we shouldn't have government sponsor free reading of a book isn't the same thing as saying it should be burned. Even if she meant what you are implying she meant, it's not book burning. I do not favor a scat porn section in a government sponsored library, although I think people should be able to write about whatever weird sexual practices they want to, I don't think the Government should pay for it. I don't think that makes me a Nazi. Obviously, that is an extreme case, but the point is that the mere suggestion that some books should be in a government sponsored library and others should not isn't a radical idea.

And in any event, she DIDN'T ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING. She, supposedly, asked a question that could be interpreted in a particular way 14 years ago. That's the sum total of the story and it's pure demagoguery to suggest it's anything else.

# 2 - Campaign finance laws, particularly ones like ones that have the possibility of curtailing a message book like this one, have done 1000X more harm to real free speech then every puritan mom who didn't want a naughty book in her library in America put together. Nobody has ever stopped anybody from buying any book they had a mind to buy. But laws like this have stopped a great deal of speech on important political ideas of the time from being pontificated upon and debated.

In any event, you seem to write bombastic points that are easily attacked then write entire essays in rebuttal. I think you'd be better off making a little more cogent points in the first place. It would certainly be easier to respond to or discuss intelligently.

Cliff Smith

I'd also like to point out that constantly harping on Sarah Palin is a bit like the right constantly harping on, say, the latest idiocy from Howard Dean or Michael Moore. I think it's legitimate to point out their views, discuss them, and even attribute their thoughts and motives to people who are more articulate at advocating for the same things. That said, I don't think anybody should pretend that they've ended the argument by doing so.

Matthew Rozsa

- If your first point was taken to its logical conclusion - that is, if we were to agree that it's okay for the government to decide that it won't "sponsor free readings" of a book in a public library - than the end result will be the castration of our public library systems. After all, what is to stop creationists from using that logic to state that Darwin's ideas shouldn't be included on the stacks, the militantly PC from trying to ban "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn", or any other number of offended constituency groups from claiming that material they find offensive shouldn't be included in libraries since they are taxpayer-funded? By the time your position goes to its inevitable outcome, our libraries would be lucky to have anything besides Clifford and the Berenstein Bears on its stacks.

- I find your comparison with the books Palin wanted to ban with "scat porn" to be so ridiculous that it's an insult to the intelligence of anyone you actually hope to persuade with that claim. Is there any evidence that Palin was objecting to the peddling of smut in the Wasilla public library? If so, then that position makes sense; otherwise, it is a blatant attempt to bring up a complete non sequitur in the hope of creating a smoke screen in front of the real issues being discussed... and by the way, I doubt she was trying to ban smut, since I have a feeling that if she was, she would have actually said, "We need to ban smut." and not "Would you be open to banning books?"

- In short, to wrap up those first two points, while I agree that libraries should be allowed to ban smut, the fact that there is zero evidence that that was what was being discussed here makes even suggesting that a deliberate red herring on your part; as for the notion that banning books from public library shelves doesn't constitute a form of censorship, the fact that engaging in such a practice would naturally lead to repressive results shoots that idea to hell almost immediately.

- You keep insisting that Sarah Palin didn't do anything, but I have bad news Cliff:
To quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."
By the accounts of the librarian, the townspeople of Wasilla, and Sarah Palin herself, there was a huge brouhaha in which the newly-elected mayor tried her damndest to get the librarian fired, only to be rebuffed by the townspeople. The librarian and the residents of Wasilla who have been interviewed (those who have since then found jobs with Palin aside) claim that it was because Palin asked the librarian if she'd be open to removing certain books from the library shelves and, upon being told no, worked to get the librarian fired; Palin claims that she only asked the librarian that question to test her integrity in abiding by first amendment principles (meaning, by the way, that she concedes that the question was asked, which makes your denial of that fact all the more mystifying) and that she wanted the librarian fired for reasons unrelated to her insubordination, although she has never been clear as to what those reasons were. These are FACTS; they are not my opinions. While I don't doubt that you'll claim these facts could be construed in a way that does draw Palin's guilt into doubt, the application of basic common sense makes such spin hard to swallow. Do you really think that someone would ask a librarian a question such as that for any reason other than to propose banning certain books from the shelves? Why did she try to get the librarian fired shortly after the latter's refusal if it wasn't because of her unwillingness to ban certain books?

- I love how you jumped from (a) speculating that Palin might have wanted to simply ban "scat porn" or its equivalent from the shelves to (b) claiming that she hadn't actually done anything wrong to (c) implicitly conceding that she DID try to ban books but once again defending her as a "puritan mom who didn't want a naughty book in her library." You went from coming up with a hypothetical excuse for Palin to denying that she needed any such excuse to conceding that she was in fact guilty but acting as if your earlier hypothesis is now a solidified and indisputable fact. Such forensic gymnastics are made all the more fascinating since not one of these steps was actually supported by facts or sound logical thinking; each time you start with a guess and end with a glib assertion that takes your earlier guesswork as de facto truth.

- How are campaign finance laws suppressive of free speech? I can easily see how banning books from libraries violates first amendment rights; it's a little tougher to understand how a publishing company that is being investigated for campaign finance laws violations is somehow a victim of similar oppression.

- I do indeed write bombastic points, although they are far more cogent and intelligent than anything you've ever composed in response to them (not trying to be insulting, but I've read everything you've ever written and couldn't avoid any other conclusion). However, in my defense, I am limited to 420 characters in my Facebook status updates, so I pretty much have no choice but to try to phrase my comments as concisely as possible (and to be bombastic so as to grab attention).

- Sarah Palin, unlike Howard Dean and Michael Moore, has a legion of rabid dittoheads who are eager to slavishly work for her White House ambitions. Michael Moore is a populist stemwinder but little else (notice how hard Democratic presidential candidates work to distance themselves from him during campaigns if you want any further proof, and then compare that to how Republicans stumble over each other in attempts to win Palin's favor); Howard Dean has never said anything half as intellectually or morally devoid as Sarah Palin.

- I have never called you a Nazi. An apologist for the imbecile blather that streams forth from political beau ideals over whom you ideologically masturbate? Absolutely, but not a Nazi.

Cliff Smith


I honestly don't think your answer is worth a reply. You aren't even trying to engage on anything even resembling rationality.

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