for 7 December 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run 11.30.00
Blessings on your pointy little heads for the wonderful fiber optic interview. If I read one more screed on how faster communications are going to change the world I'm going to find George Gilder and beat his puny little brains out. How a man whose technological illiteracy is so obviously demonstrated in his books has had the power to cloud men's minds about the Internet is something even the Shadow doesn't know. The last period in which rapid communication truly successfully tied the world together and was going to change everything was the period that led up to the Great War. As you may recall, it turned out badly.
Thanks, Alan. But you'll recall that in the period before WWI, the international community didn't have David Denby's steady hand on the tiller. If there's one New Economy dogma we agree with, it's that Denby Changes Everything.
I must say today's Suck was the funniest thing I have read in a long time. I don't usually sit home at my high-paying, do-nothing telecommuting sales support job laughing out-loud at stuff I read on the internet. No, when I laugh at the stuff on your website it is usually interior chuckles and lots of smiles. This time, though, you guys have outdone yourself!
Thanks, Steve. The highly-paid, doing-nothing, telecommuting, not-laughing-out-loud readers are the ones we prize the most.
damn. i had some goddamn snappy message to send to you and then i forgot it. but you can forgive me, no doubt.. look at the time... (and the lack of true ellipses dot dot dot.)
oh jesus. i really blew it all. i really did have some "snappy" shit to send to you, but fucking christ, i had to be all discreet and go with the random email. well, fucking christ, now you'll never know keep it up with the bitterness and shit, and mail me back with some sort of formal randomness, unlike mr. matt smith from the weekly who couldn't even bother to acknowledge my outrageous criticism.
btw, you guys suck ass.
uh. hey. i'm hip, i can throw down a few e/n pieces of crap each day but, fuck, why not hire SEvEN OR EIGHT ENGLISH MAJORS TO DO IT? GENIUS! OH JEBUS!
er. uh. no. don't stop the filler. that's all i (and everyone else) reads. thank god for illustration.
Admit it: You never had any snappy response to send in.
Subject: The Bush Face of Anti-War
The Website antiwar.com has strongly supported Gov. Bush over Al Gore since the Nov.7 voting. This is a site that is supposedly devoted to the cause of "anti-war." Their support for Bush has been most strident, inflammatory, aggressive and violent. This is what their main editorial writer says: "Make no mistake about it: Gore and his minions are guilty of undermining the Constitution and in effect plotting a coup d'etat. They are, therefore, guilty of treason. If the present administration cannot or will not bring these traitors to justice, then it is up to loyal citizens to correct this oversight. Any and all means necessary must be taken to defeat this coup attempt." (). This same writer is now equating Gore to Slobadan Milosic, calling them "peas in a pod." One wonders what role "antiwar" will now play in a Bush Administration. Dick Cheney as Vice President has clearly shown his feelings about War and Oil. Colin Powell as Sec. of State will bring his expertise from Viet Nam and the massacres of Iraq to the new administration along with his Powell "Doctrine of Overwhelming Military Force." McCain is being considered as Sec. of Defense and his talk of the glory and triumph of America along with his ability to drop bombs on urban civilians in Hanoi portends something too terrible to imagine. Bush might be able to get the services of someone to take the "intellectual" role in his government as Henry Kissinger did by getting someone like either Michael Ignatieff or Todd Gitlin who support "Humanitarian War" with their outstanding academic credentials. One may wonder why antiwar.com is supporting such a government? Really wonder.
Good question, Lee. You might try asking it at antiwar.com, rather than Suck.com.
As a thought experiment, you might also consider what the case is for Vice President Gore's being a more dangerous warmonger than Governor Bush. He was by many accounts an active hawk on Bosnia and Kosovo, and served with apparent ability (hard as it is, after watching him wriggle for a month, that he has any abilities at all) in an administration that regularly bombed Iraq and sporadically bombed other countries. During the Clinton administration, General Powell, the most prominent holdover from Bush 1, was accused by future Secretary of State Madeleine Albright of not being bloodthirsty enough. Gore is supported by the generally pro-interventionist New York Times and the manically anti-Arab The New Republic. During the debates he skylarked about national "moral interests" for which we must be ever-willing to take up arms.
On the other hand, if we take Governor Bush at his word (keeping in mind that to take Governor Bush at his word is to take a risk so dumb as to be suicidal), he would have the United States conduct itself as a "humble nation," and avoid forcing its grand notions of democracy on other nations. He is visibly more comfortable trying to speak a second language than is Gore. He had a friendly word for Arab-Americans at the debate. He reflects the country's vast popular lack of interest in affairs abroad. None of which will make the Bush 1 warriors who actually end up running his administration any less dangerous, or his father, who will actually end up controlling it all, any less fatal. Anyway, the point here is not to establish that Bush is any good, but that Gore is really bad.
There's no hope, Lee. Accept that, and your life will become easier.
David Denby is a complete putz, but he's a necessary component of an increasingly technological society. He is the cheerleader that shows us what COULD happen as opposed to what is actually going to happen. Selling Trollope to Upper Slovakistan is a noble idea, but the reality will be somewhat less than romantic (considering that the GNP for most states ending in -stan is about the price of a Starbucks coffee so how in the hell can they afford books?). I hate him as much as anybody because, let's face it, nobody today likes a cheerful person (or even the semblance thereof ie., a happy Al Gore is a scary thing over morning coffee). Furthermore, when we allow the film critics of the world to tell us what is going to happen in the future, they better include a shot plot and soundtrack advice. His vision of e-commerce and fiber-optic data transport is a lot more exciting than any MIT-educated scholars will be simply because he hasn't been told what is not possible and therefore he dares to dream. And he gets excited about it. The yapping chihuahahahahahas (how do you stop spelling that?) of the world have their place as long as they don't start peeing on the carpet.
P.S. More from Peter Bagge. He and Polly (Heather?) are truly awesome writers.
Albert A. Freeman
The Denby you're describing doesn't sound like the Denby we know. Can there be two Denbys? And to be fair, Albert, none of the Denbys strike us as the cheerleader type. Cheerful? The Denbys have always struck the Sucksters as being rather on the moralizing side a trait, curiously, that comes out most strongly when the Denbys write against moralists, as happened a few years ago when the New Yorker published a defense of DOOM that was purportedly written by "David Denby."
Whether there is one Denby or many, we will always be fascinated by this strange and exotic culture, and look forward as the Denbys find new ways to coexist (in amity, we hope) with the modern world.
Liked your take on Denby's silly article amazing what'll pass by the New Yorker editors.
More remarkable and sad, though, was the "geek like me" article about the fellow who timidly impersonated a dot-com employee for a coupla weeks. Paragraph after paragraph of squandered opportunities. If only he realized that most of us are doing essentially the same thing, only with a salary and stock options attached...
Enjoyable as that Fake Job story was, it's surprising The New Yorker ran it, given that Suck played a similar trick on The New Yorker itself a while back and we didn't have to work nearly as hard to do it. Sadly enough, many a New Yorker special issue on the Future of Tech has ended in tears, and we don't expect that to end anytime soon.
I'm writing because I read your interview with a crew member from the set of the MGM film "What's the Worst That Could Happen". I was an extra on the film, and I worked pretty much through the summer on this film. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I thought that all of the actors on the film were very nice, including Martin. I never approached Martin, he actually approached me, a few times. I was in a scene with him where I had to walk past him, and he added lines to script where he was asking me a question. Which was great because I was able to volunteer lines. After the first take he came up to me and thanked me for assisting him in the scene, and after the second take he told me that I was a natural. After we rapped for the day he waved goodbye to me, and the next morning when I saw him he said hello. From then on until I finished up, every time I looked at him he would smile. He seemed pretty friendly to me, although a lot of people felt he was being anti-social. Also, I had a chance to speak to Martin's bodyguard and stunt man who are part of his camp, and they too were very nice and respectful. Bernie Mac was totally awesome, very very congenial, he would sit with me everyday he was working telling stories of how he got into the business, joking , and just hanging out. He did this with all the extras. Danny Devito was wonderful, he thanked all the extras and always said hello. I can honestly say that everyone I worked with was extremely nice except for a lot of the crew members, they were rude and degrading to a lot of the extras, which I thought was very unprofessional! So isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?
Our mom always told us that when somebody's being rude to you, it's like an invitation to be extra nice to them. That, and if you give a person a smile it will come back to you with interest. Life experience has taught us that film crew members tend to be a generally surly and disgruntled bunch. We think that's because they do jobs that are really pretty tiresome and thankless; but like Mom said, that's no excuse for a frown! Too bad Martin didn't take this wonderful opportunity to show everybody the same kind of charm and courtesy he showed you. And how nice that everybody seems to agree that Danny DeVito's a good egg!
Good luck with your acting work in the future, Manajhjanihe. People remember how you treat them, so you won't go wrong if you keep being nice.
Did Martin ever, like, call you or anything?
There may be hope yet for Quiz Kid Donny Smith and Boy Wonder Al Gore. I saw a copy of a friend's Lex2000. It seems that Lex Luthor has now been elected as President of the USA. Superman was forced to humbly congratulate his arch rival after the election.
Does this mean that evil nemeses have better lawyers? Or did Superman hire the wrong graphic designer?
Don't blame us. We voted for Brainiac.
Them Against Fire
Best to double-check the background of S.L.A. Marshall. His tale of leading troops in WW I proved to be a lie, as was much of what he claimed about himself and his research. See David Hackworth's book, About Face. Hack worked with him at one point and learned the truth about this fraud.
Ah, good. I was waiting for someone to bring this up. Because, okay, if you go to for example the online encyclopedia at Infoplease.com, you'll get a one-line dismissal of SLAM as a once-respectable military historian and theorist whose work has since been debunked. And I think that's far more the product of a desire to believe that his conclusions are false than a product of any kind of reality about the man. Three, maybe four, things:
1.) The Army itself clearly still believes that Marshall's work holds up. His books are still on the reading lists at just about any ROTC program or Army command course, from OCS to ICCC; his picture still hangs in a prominent spot in the entryway at Infantry Hall (home to the US Army Infantry School); and the PX at the Infantry School still retails great enormous piles of Men Against Fire.
2.) All kinds of entirely respectable contemporary military historians and theorists treat his work with respect. Read Dave Grossman's On Killing, or Richard Holmes' Acts of War, or John Keegan's The Face of Battle, and you'll see Marshall's name over and over again. They're not attacking his stuff; they're talking about how useful it is in understanding combat.
3.) Plenty of other research supports his conclusions about the participation of riflemen in killing during WWII. David Grossman cites a bunch of these cases: The 12,000 dropped rifles at Gettysburg that had never been fired; Richard Gabriel's conclusion that 1 percent of WWII fighter pilots shot down 30 to 40 percent of the total number of enemy planes destroyed, suggesting that most (or at least many) pilots chose not to shoot at all; the 1986 reenactment of a hundred 19th and 20th century battles by the British military, in which the weapons of the time in each battle were found to be likely to have caused far more casualties than actually occurred, suggesting that many soldiers deliberately fired high or never fired; and all kinds of anecdotal evidence about individual soldiers encountering an isolated enemy in the confusion of battle, and, absent the social pressure to fight, waved and moved on quietly. I mean, there are stories about enemies in WWI climbing out of the trenches to share cigarettes with one another, in the absence of orders to fight, then resuming combat when told to do so. So, yeah, SLA Marshall: Killing in combat is usually the result of social pressures, and it stops when the social pressures are removed.
4.) The Army actually published a book on The Influence of S.L.A. Marshall on the United States Army in 1990; it was written by an active officer, and published by the Training and Doctrine Command. And it credits Marshall with producing accurate work that had an enormous positive impact on the Army. "Some critics, in their attack, for example, on Marshall's 25 percent firing ratio, betrayed a vested interest in its invalidity, seeing the ratio as a reflection of their own combat leadership," that book says. The same book also notes that Marshall tended to adopt a swagger and could be really, really irritating, and so made enemies by just generally being a jerk. Still: Valid and useful work, still used by the Army to shape training.
5.) And so on, but you get the point. Doubt the doubt, in this case, and consider the motivation for it.
Ambrose Beers does it again. I'm going to have to cancel my subscription to Foreign Affairs review and The Economist, because they don't come close to providing the quality of insight, to what's going on in the world, that you do. Particularly telling is your reference to Clinton (the nations foremost draft dodger) calling this terrorist act cowardly. In light of your review the act seems less than cowardly. And less than final.
I think this reduces the circulation of Foreign Affairs to, like, ten. But think of the trees you've saved...
As a former Marine, I salute your writing. I was talking with a more learned friend of mine and he told me that he thought that, because we as a nation are so committed to our policy in the middle east and blind to what could be the full implication of that policy, the U.S. would be willing to sacrifice the life of 500,000 service men to the middle east! This shocked me because I had placed the number at only 5,000 (roughly ten percent of the U.S. dead in Viet Nam). Having read your article I may be forced to reconsider my position. A change of heart seems to be particularly apt considering the stunning fact that the candidacy of Dubya Bush is considered legitimate by almost half the voters of the U.S. I will read Men Against Fire.
A "former" Marine? I thought that was supposed to never happen.
Anyway, I'm a soldier, so I'm going to go ahead and hope that both the 5,000 and 500,000 figures are wrong. Honestly I don't think the country would stand for that kind of bloodshed, but who knows? Anyway, we have the coca fields on Latin America on our dance card, first. Oh boy.
And you should definitely read the thing I wrote about Dick Cheney and the military, a few weeks back:
Thanks for writing,
You should write for the Times op-ed. I must admit that I never imagined that Suck.com would become such a good source of foreign and military policy analysis, but today's piece was at least as insightful as anything by Anthony Lewis, and much more interesting. Dismissing one's enemy as a coward is a good tactic for mobilizing the public, but that doesn't make it accurate.
I wonder, though, what do the webmasters at all the .mil sites you link to think of all the Suck.com referrers? They must get a bit confused sometimes.
Go Army, Beat Navy,
I will call the Times tomorrow morning, and let them know. One thing: "as insightful as anything by Anthony Lewis" is not generally considered a compliment. Except by Anthony Lewis, of course.
And I prefer not to know what the .mil webmasters are thinking on that subject. Let's just keep hoping they don't notice.
Excellent article. Inspired me to go straight to Amazon to order Men Against Fire. I also noticed a "Vietnam Version" called "Reading Athena's Dance Card: Men Against Fire in Vietnam", by Russell W. Glenn (who wrote the intro to the new paperback edition of MAF). Have you read that one as well?
Your article reminds me of the old "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", and of the rag-tag band of Minute-Men who were the ur-US Army. To dismiss the men is to dismiss the cause without having to argue the case it may be that the cause isn't right, but it should be faced fairly and in the open, and let the chips of public opinion fall where they may.
The whole Cole episode passed me by, I'm ashamed to admit. I've been living in Scotland for a few years now, though, and so have a lot of first-hand experience of public opinion in these isles about the Northern Ireland problem. Anyone who has sympathy in the US for the "brave Fenian men" should at least have the same respect for the bombers of the Cole, or those stalwart Basque patriots of ETA or the AIM, for that matter.
You've just said the whole thing I was trying to say, in about 1400 fewer words: To dismiss the men as cowards, in this instance is to dismiss the case without having to argue the case. Contemporary American political leadership in a nutshell. Yep.
Haven't read the Vietnam version thanks for pointing it out.
Your essay today on terrorism was very interesting and very well put. Men Under Fire is an amazing book and I'm glad you brought it into view. What I consider most interesting is how terrorism is most likely to come out of consistent marginalization.
...and the response to which is to try to marginalize it. In geometry, this is known as a "circle." It doesn't have an end, is the problem.
Nice essay today. Paul Fussell covers a lot of the same ground in Wartime, an amazing book about his experiences in WWII. Wartime was kind of ignored in the post-Private Ryan "good war" glut, but he talks a lot about soldiers all being kids who were motivated to move forwards by preferring death to appearing weak in front of others.
Extrapolating this behavior to terrorists was smart, and unfortunately probably correct.
Haven't read this one, but I'll go buy it. Thanks.
Great column today. I forwarded it to those who would appreciate it. Most important is this: you've made us see why the dumbing down of an issue by others is an act much like that of Marshall's soldiers. Perhaps we should coin a term.
"Marshall's Law: when media fails to follow it own directives of truth to the nth degree. Usually caused by a lack of compassion for the readers and a lack of compassion for media leaders."
A useful term, sure. But I'm picturing a bunch of soldiers running through the streets, shooting and beating everyone in sight and setting up giant detention facilities. And then, when someone finally explains which law had been mentioned, being all, like: "Uh... We thought you said martial law, man. Sorry about that."
It's best to be safe.
Thanks, and glad you liked it,