Patronizing the Arts

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Patronizing the Arts

Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 9:54 am

I'm getting an awful lot of accusations of "patronizing" comments, and maybe it's true (and I recognize it was in the case of the Canadian elections, much to my regret). I don't intend my comments to come off that way.

On the other hand: Eric --

You could just say you disagree with me, Steve, because I don't think your patronizing (and mildly insulting) suggestion "to read a bit more on the subject" is going to change my mind. Especially books by Stephen Ambrose...if he's your source for anything, then maybe YOU need to read a bit more.


I appreciate the suggestion, but I actually read quite a lot. No insult was intended, I am simply recommending that your comment was dismissive of the military and I was suggesting (yes, maybe a little pointedly) that people who have never served in the military ought to understand the relationship between that organization and the civilian society. This book, while dry, does a pretty good job of framing the relationship.


(And, frankly, Ambrose has a very solid reputation amongst most historians. If you're referring to his plagiarism that was dealt with and dismissed even before he died. What of his books or articles have you read???)

I don't mean to get into a scrap, but it galls me when we get posts which come from strictly ideological points of view, condemning others for their actions. I don't accept it from the current administration, and don't think it's acceptable from the rest of us either.

No insult intended Eric, but I don't agree with your position -- and other than suggesting reading material, at least I don't stoop to namecalling as do so many others on this board.
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Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 10:04 am

Just ran across an article in the New York Times online. It sums up an interesting and pertinent point, again on the topic of the troops:


A study of 200 American and international journalists covering the Iraq war, done by American University School of Communication in 2004, found that 17 percent of them worked for organizations that would not publish pictures of the dead, and 42 percent had rules discouraging the practice. Absent government censorship, there are a variety of taste issues and commercial considerations — a dead body is never a good adjacency for ads — and a squeamish public aesthetic that can lead to germane but grisly photographs being left on the darkroom floor.

In November 2004, Stefan Zaklin, a photographer for the European Photopress Agency, was embedded with a United States Army company whose captain was shot and killed entering a house in Fallujah. He took a gritty, horrific portrait of the fallen soldier that ran in several European publications, but has only shown up in United States publications in stories about photos that went unpublished.

"There's really no way to know why this image wasn't published at all in the United States," he wrote in the blog Fabrica Forma Fotografia. "Every editor — whether a photo editor or their superior — who made the decision not to publish this picture had a reason. They might all sound different after one listen. But listen again, and you will hear the grinding wheels of the free market turning American journalism into dust."

An odd bifurcation in cultural sensibilities is at work as well: Americans are rabid fans of "reality" programming, save for the real McCoy. Exploded heads and bloody entrails land easily on audiences when rendered in computer animation on the big screen, but the same images in newsprint or on a newscast are seen as vile and somewhat pornographic. "Supporting our troops" — who doesn't, by the way? — apparently means averting our eyes when they end up on the wrong end of a firefight.


The rest of the article can be read at www.nytimes.com (registration required).
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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:22 pm

Steve, I felt that the gist of your Pavilion post was that only those who have served in the armed forces are qualified to comment on their behaviors at home and abroad.

This is the same line of reasoning that forbids people from criticizing writers if they are unpublished, or Presidents if they haven't held elective office, etc. Sure, I don't know what it's like to prowl around a hostile area knowing that a gun is probably pointed at me. And I don't disrespect people who do that to cover my ass, although it should never be forgotten that I pay quite a bit for them to do this. The military budget is very large, and so are my taxes.

I also think there are many fine and dedicated people in the military. I'm equally sure it also holds its share of losers, hangers-on, slackers, and genuine creeps like every other institution in this country. So I'm not in a hurry to deify them as a group, not yet. Here's Audie Murphy, and there's Lynndie England.

It's not a workable thesis to propose that every foot soldier evaluate every command decision with his or her conscience. A functioning army needs the bulk of its personnel to shut up and follow orders. So no, I don't damn or castigate the kids over there, even the ones who are doing the village and capping civvies. I feel sorry for them, as I said before, and would love to see them back home.

But I don't support them, either, since "support" implies compliance...at least it does to me. So no yellow ribbons around my tree or cans of hash sent from my larder...I can not provide verbal or financial sustenance to this effort or the people in it, from Rumsfeld on down to the guy slicing potatoes, any more that I already do with my taxes, which I admit I gutlessly pay without protest.

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:37 pm

> I was suggesting (yes, maybe a little pointedly) that people who have never served in the military ought to understand the relationship between that organization and the civilian society<

I can assure you that my reading history is adequate enough to allow an opinion on the military, its history, its functions, and its relationship to society.

As for Stephen Ambrose, if you'll allow me a little patronization, he's the K-Mart of military historians. Don't let the sales figures fool you. I have no comment on his alleged plagiarism, and it means nothing to me (indeed, I instinctively would defend him on that issue), but frankly, my dear, he's a hack.

And as an ironic aside, I'm pretty sure he never served in the military either.

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:56 pm

>but it galls me when we get posts which come from strictly ideological points of view, condemning others for their actions. <

I did not "condemn" anyone. Not supporting something is not the same as condemning it, although the far right might try to make this case. Be careful that you don't. This is not a black and white, with-us-or-against-us issue...to say so is pretty ideological!

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Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:09 pm

Eric Martin wrote:> As for Stephen Ambrose, if you'll allow me a little patronization, he's the K-Mart of military historians. Don't let the sales figures fool you. I have no comment on his alleged plagiarism, and it means nothing to me (indeed, I instinctively would defend him on that issue), but frankly, my dear, he's a hack.

And as an ironic aside, I'm pretty sure he never served in the military either.


All other disagreements to the side, Ambrose is hardly a hack. And, since you may have missed a little aside in my original post, my experience with him is kind of first-hand knowledge. No, I don't believe he served in the military, but given that his co-author on MAAS was a career Naval Officer; Ambrose was chosen by Eisenhower as his biographer; wrote BAND OF BROTHERS; served as military consultant on a number of respected films (including Saving Private Ryan), I'd say his credentials are pretty dang good.


I don't disrespect your opinion, or even question your right to have one when it comes to how you feel about people in military service. If you reread my original post, you'll note that I add a caveat dealing with the mindset of the individual. References to understanding how the military deals with society are exactly that, references.

I will stick to my guns that people who have never served in the military really do lack a point of reference as to how it works in relation to the rest of society (in the same way I could not possibly understand the nuances in the life of a miner, being a black man in the south, or a woman's pregnancy).

And, frankly, this is why I DO let those who are impacted have a degree of latitude about issues than concern them. They may, just maybe, know something I don't...

You're right that this is not a black and white, us or them issue. I never approached it as such. You stated that expressing respect and support for the people in combat was the same as supporting the war itself, and that's flat out not the case. It's black and white to say that it is.

Example: I can support the union members striking against supermarket chains, even if I believe the union itself was horribly misguided and working against its own membership. The union was wrong, but I didn't take it out on the workers who genuinely believed they were doing something for the greater good.
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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:30 pm

>I will stick to my guns that people who have never served in the military really do lack a point of reference as to how it works in relation to the rest of society <

You could say the same thing about the Nazi party or Avon Ladies. You don't NEED that point of reference to have an opinion about their organization or how it relates to society. Sorry Steve...I'm not going to grant that veteran status is required to have an informed notion about the military.

>You stated that expressing respect and support for the people in combat was the same as supporting the war itself and that's flat out not the case<

I never used the word "respect." And I don't see how supporting the people engaged in an activity is any different than supporting the activity. You'll have to get clearer on this one; I think you're confusing affection and concern with support.

>The union was wrong, but I didn't take it out on the workers who genuinely believed they were doing something for the greater good.<

I'm not "taking anything out" on anyone. Again, 'not supporting' is an act of omission, not commission.

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:31 pm

>I will stick to my guns that people who have never served in the military really do lack a point of reference <

Better toss the Ambrose then. He didn't serve. Or does he get a pass because Ike liked him?

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:44 pm

>I think you're confusing affection and concern with support. <

I'm quoting myself, because I think this is the final issue. Or is it? I see bumper stickers saying "support the troops." According to your union analogy, no matter how stupid or pig-headed or evil I think the war might be, I should continue to provide moral, financial, and verbal support to those who are engaged in it.

The stickers don't say "support the troops, by ending the war and getting them back home." They just say "support the troops." It's a back-handed way to play on people's honest concern for the sons of their neighbors that continues the violence. The yellow ribbon doesn't say "end the war." It says "no matter how wrong you might think the war is, tend to those who are fighting it, and thus keep the war going."

THAT is my problem, Steve. And when people like me say "I don't support the troops," I'm quickly accused of condemning hapless kids who are just taking orders. I'm not condemning anyone, but I'll be damned if I will "support" what they are doing...because by doing so, by paying lip-service to some treacly, flag-waving notion that "supporting the troops" takes precedence over any political or moral concerns, I'm just keeping the fucking war alive.

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Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:50 pm

No. He gets a pass because he surrounded himself with people who HAD gone through it and then recounted their experiences -- not quite the same as saying he'd done it himself.

Let's put it this way: I don't know what you do for a living, but wouldn't you be just a little bit annoyed if I began criticizing you without fully understanding what you've been through? I worked in midmanagement for WorldCom. As a result of Bernie Ebbers' greed I was labeled (as was everyone else who worked there) as somehow lacking in moral and ethical fortitude. I'd been nowhere near the company's books, and frankly I watched as my 401K (and all those of my employees) dwindled down despite my years of work and commitment to the company.

Bernie and Scott Sullivan and others lied, stole and abused the company. The fact I was as much a victim as anyone else (if not more) was irrelevant to some in my industry. I was painted by the same brush, including having several of my own personal memos posted to a website called "fuckedcompany.com".

You could not possibly understand what we went through, and I would be thoroughly entitled to feeling it was a personal affront if you labeled me a criminal along with Bernie and Scott. I stayed with the firm through the end of the bankruptcy, and left convinced that I'd done the ethical thing, even though some would tell you I was foolish for doing so.

It's the same in the military. We're making it fashionable to bash the troops again. I'm not saying it's unAmerican or unpatriotic, it isn't any moreso than supporting them, I'm just saying that given the fact I could never fully understand what they've gone through without doing it myself, I'm giving them the respect I think they deserve for doing what they've done.
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Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:02 pm

The stickers don't say "support the troops, by ending the war and getting them back home."


Actually, I have seen something like this and thought it was a pretty great sticker.

And this cuts to the chase in the much bigger picture, which is bring them home safely and quickly and tell Dubya to go fight his own war and vacate his office in the meantime. But, that's a different story for a different time.

I can't find the reference, but on Friday I heard that a poll conducted with troops in Iraq found that some astronomical number percentage (85%?) of them still believe that Iraq was responsible for September 11th and was an active supporter of terrorism.
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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:03 pm

Steve, you've got to flush your head on this one: I am not "criticizing" or "bashing" anyone. These are commissive acts....all I said was I didn't support them.

I didn't say the troops stunk, or were evil, or sucked eggs, or should be spanked. I just said I didn't support what they were doing. I never said anything about respect, either. You are attributing a lot of words and actions to me that I have not said or done. It's like saying that because I don't believe in the divinity of Christ, or support the Church, I must hate Christians.

If you want to impugn that "not supporting" equals disrespecting and condemning, that's your problem. It's wrong-headed, and it also sadly is a very common weapon used by war supporters to drum up hostility against war protesters.

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:04 pm

>I heard that a poll conducted with troops in Iraq found that some astronomical number percentage (85%?) of them still believe that Iraq was responsible for September 11th and was an active supporter of terrorism.<

Another reason I don't support them. They are very much mis-informed, and parroting deadly ignorance.

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Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:12 pm

Eric Martin wrote:Steve, you've got to flush your head on this one: I am not "criticizing" or "bashing" anyone. These are commissive acts....all I said was I didn't support them.

I didn't say the troops stunk, or were evil, or sucked eggs, or should be spanked. I just said I didn't support what they were doing. I never said anything about respect, either. You are attributing a lot of words and actions to me that I have not said or done. It's like saying that because I don't believe in the divinity of Christ, or support the Church, I must hate Christians.

If you want to impugn that "not supporting" equals disrespecting and condemning, that's your problem. It's wrong-headed, and it also sadly is a very common weapon used by war supporters to drum up hostility against war protesters.


Fair enough. If I misread or misinterpreted, my error. I was connecting the two and maybe that's unfair.

*Sigh*

So much time, so few arguments that make sense.
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Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:17 pm

I will hasten to add that I'm agreeing to disagree here, not acquiescing in toto.
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