The right-wing brain in action

Law professor Glenn Reynolds provides an extremely vivid example of the authoritarian follower's ability to embrace two plainly contradictory thoughts at once.

By Glenn Greenwald
Published April 7, 2007 1:11PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

Michael Ledeen, the Corner, today:

And Nobody Cares...[Michael Ledeen]

...about chemical weapons, do they? For the ninth time in recent weeks WMDs are used by the terrorists in Iraq:

BAGHDAD - A suspected al-Qaida in Iraq suicide bomber smashed a truck loaded with TNT and toxic chlorine gas into a police checkpoint in Ramadi on Friday, killing at least 27 people -- the ninth such attack since the group's first known use of a chemical weapon in January.

But, just like women stoned to death in Iran, or the mass starvation of the people of Zimbabwe, these horrors are greeted with the silence that racists reserve for the less-than-humans who behave in an uncivilized way. Their unspoken attitude is, well, what can you expect of these untermenschen?

Glenn Reynolds, linking to that post, today:

"UNTERMENSCHEN:" He's right. That's how they seem to think.

Glenn Reynolds, November 4, 2006 -- a mere 5 months ago:

STILL MORE: A reader who prefers anonymity emails: . . .
The ball is in the Iraqis' court. We took away the obstacle to their freedom. If they choose to embrace death, corruption, incompetence, lethal religious mania, and stone-age tribalism, then at least we'll finally know the limitations of the people in that part of the world. The experiment had to be made. . . .

Hmm. Some support for this notion -- and for the idea that attrition is running in the U.S.'s favor -- can be found in this analysis. . . . . .

On the other hand, it's also true that if democracy can't work in Iraq, then we should probably adopt a "more rubble, less trouble" approach to other countries in the region that threaten us. If a comparatively wealthy and secular Arab country can't make it as a democratic republic, then what hope is there for places that are less wealthy, or less secular?

Yes: "untermenschen" -- that, as Reynolds and Ledeen so sincerely lament today, is how "they" think -- the "they" being not the "they" who want to drop more and more bombs and incinerate more and more of the "untermenschen" beyond the extraordinary numbers who have already died as a result of their warmongering -- the Michael Ledeens and Glenn Reynolds who call for more and more slaughter due to "the limitations of the people in that part of the world" -- but rather, the people who oppose that.

Five months ago, Glenn Reynolds called for "more rubble, less trouble" -- meaning more indiscriminate slaughter of the Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East -- because there seemed to be no hope for the people in that part of the world to evolve beyond their savage, primitive ways, their "stone-age tribalism." Today, Michael Ledeen scornfully said that that's how the vile people on the Left think. Glenn Reynolds linked to that and said "He's right. That's how they seem to think."

What else could possibly account for such behavior -- for the ability of someone so righteously to condemn the exact ideas which they so explicitly advocate -- other than this?

UPDATE: More "untermenschen" theorists:

Neoconservative and war supporter Marty Peretz: "Even the bare rudiments of civilization will not soon come back to the banks of the Tigris and the Euphrates."

Neoconservative and war supporter John Podhoretz:

What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?

What an appalling mistake we made - failing to exterminate all "Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35." Ledeen and Reynolds are right about one thing -- there most certainly is a substantial political faction in this country which sees "them" as "untermenschen" and believes they should be treated accordingly. There's no denying that point.

UPDATE II: College students in Canada will be studying the collective mind of Glenn Reynolds, Michael Ledeen, John Podhoretz and Marty Peretz and their views of the "untermenschen." From the blog of Professor of History Steve Muhlberger, at Nipissing University in Ontario:

An exercise for my outgoing students

If you want your Easter holiday to be a lighthearted one, you may want to put this exercise off for a couple of days.

On the other hand, if you reserve any time for serious contemplation, this may be an appropriate subject.

For students in intro World History: Read the following report by Glenn Greenwald [link is to this post]. Compare the people he quotes to various 19th and 2oth century ideologues discussed in Worlds Together, Worlds Apart.

For students in Islamic Civilization: Compare the impression you have of Iraqis from reading Night Draws Near to the picture sketched in the sources quoted by Greenwald.

Untermenschen, if you don't know, is a German word often translated as "sub-human."

I almost feel guilty for whatever role I played in inflicting such an assignment on them, but there is ample material there to put under the miscroscope and dissect. Perhaps Professor Muhlberger could be persuaded to pick two or three of the best papers to be posted here.

UPDATE III: Via Unfogged, there are still more prominent "untermenschen" theorists to be found among Reynolds' and Ledeen's own comrades. As Roy notes, Ledeen's own editor, Rich Lowry, wrote back in August:

The problem with Bush's freedom rhetoric is that it appears to not be true. Hezbollah and Hamas, and the populations that support them, desire the destruction of Israel above all, and are willing to endure warfare and dysfunctional societies to bring it about. The Sunni insurgents in Iraq want power more than anything else, and are willing to kill and maim to gain it. The Shia militias, in turn, desire revenge against the Sunni.

All around the chaotic and violent Middle East, human hearts are yearning for many things, but freedom isn't high on the list.

Roy has several other similar quotes from various luminaries on the warmongering Right expressing the precise view that Reynolds and Ledeen deceitfully claimed defined how "they" on the Left think -- namely, that Arabs and Muslims are incapable of freedom and democracy and (according to the Reynolds/Ledeen inference) are therefore "untermenscehen."

When Reynolds was asked by an e-mailer who he meant by "they" -- as in: Ledeen is "right. That's how they seem to think" -- he responded (in an update to the above-linked post): "it refers to those allegedly-progressive Westerners who refuse to hold non-Westerners to the same moral standards applied to, say, America and Britain. That should be obvious to, well, anyone who's paying attention."

Yet the view that Arabs and Muslims are too primitive to be tamed (and therefore need to be slaughtered) is one that exists almost exclusively on the pro-war Right, and is a view expressly advocated by many pro-war pundits, including Reynolds himself. How genuinely bizarre, yet typical, that Ledeen and Reynolds joined together this weekend to claim that this view of Arabs and Muslims: (a) is tantamount to Nazism (not necessarily untrue) and (b) is a hallmark of the antiwar mindset [blatantly false, as that is the view that fuels much pro-war sentiment, as these quotes -- from Reynolds, Peretz, Podhoretz, Lowry (and still more at Roy's blog) -- all indisputably demonstrate].

To find an equivalency to the comments from Reynolds and Ledeen this weekend, one would have to imagine a liberal pundit writing something along the lines of: "support for a law providing universal health care is basically the equivalent of Stalinist evil and genocide, but that's how they on the Right think." The entire claim is so plagued by falsehoods, transparent projection and incoherence that it is difficult to know where to begin in responding. That is the Reynolds/Ledeen joint "untermenschen" declaration this weekend.

Glenn Greenwald

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