Monday, February 6, 2012

David Bromwich's Loaded Language

For some reason, the Huffington Post decided that David Bromwich, a professor of literature at Yale, would be a good choice to write an analysis about President Obama's "sliding toward war with Iran." Presumably all of the professors of political science and international relations were busy. As usual, I can't comment with certainty about the politics that Mr. Bromwich is talking about. He does say the usual things about Iran, how it doesn't pose an existential threat because of MAD, etc.

What does bother me more is his use of problematic language that is sliding toward the norm on the Huffington Post. Let me show you some examples and we can discuss if you agree:
"The Israel lobby and its congressional hosts may then convert the issue into a national cause."
Yep. Once again the governing body of the most powerful country on earth has absolutely no control over anything that they do, because the Jews lobby is just so tricky. There are actually many interpretations to this comment, all negative, all implying that our representatives can't speak for themselves. Presumably, though, if they disagreed with more actions against Iran, that would be because they are "brave" or "honest" or somesuch.

Here is something that is not anti-Semitic, but rather sloppy:
"Of course, the suspected Iranian operation might have been the public face of an Israeli operation. We now know from Mark Perry's story "False Flag," in Foreign Policy, that Mossad agents in recent years posed as CIA agents to recruit Pakistani Jundullah terrorists in order to sow mayhem in Iran. "
Actually, no we don't. The story went up and the Huffington Post fanned the flames as much as they could, but the allegations didn't go anywhere. Mark Perry's latest article will join the ranks of "General Petraeus said that Israel is responsible for the deaths of American soldiers," as inflammatory articles that aren't even proven. If Mr. Bromwich wants to claim that "we know" that this happened, show us the proof. Because Mark Perry didn't. Moving on to something equally strange:
"Regime change in Syria -- Iran's most potent regional ally -- is a related project of the Likud in Israel and the neoconservatives in America. In Syria the work is far along; in Iran, they want to speed it up."
Man. Who would have imagined that Huffington Post bloggers and conspiracy theory writing Arabs could have agreed with each other? Oh wait, never mind. If Mr.  Bromwich would like to claim that Israel and the "neoconservatives" are behind the uprisings, I'd like to see some evidence for it. Until then, he is just another Mark Perry. Actually throughout a lot of the article we see "Likud and the neoconservatives" doing this and "Likud and the neoconservatives" doing that. Maybe that's why Mr. Bromwich was tapped to write the article. Not necessarily because he knows about the politics of the region but because he is good at telling the Huffington Posters what they want to hear. Which is that everything is the fault of the right-wingers, Israeli or otherwise.

Here is something kind of funny:
"TheNew York Times, in almost back-to-back articles, on the front page on January 27 and on the cover of the magazine on January 29, informed its readers that Israel has calculated the risk and feels sure that it will not suffer badly in any retaliation following an attack on Iran. The first of these stories, by Ethan Bronner, for some reason quoted only Israeli sources and took their declared estimates at face value."
Wow, really? An article about Israel's calculations only quotes Israelis? Would you have preferred that they ask Iran what Iran thinks Israel's opinions are? I think Mr. Bromwich was looking for a "gotcha" point, but he should have looked a little harder.

As for the rest, it is the usual unsourced ridiculousness:
"Demands from thoroughly lobbied members of Congress were hammering at Obama in late summer of 2009."
Can you prove they were "thoroughly lobbied?" Can you prove that the lobby was why they were "hammering" at Obama? In what respect were they "hammering?" I understand that in literature you don't have to back up what you say but for an article as important and popular as this one, there are a lot of claims like this.

As for the article itself, it is well argued but there a lot of assumptions being made on why Obama is doing what he is doing, beyond the article itself. Let's conclude with some Huffington Posters who obviously gained what he wanted them to know from the article, but put it in more black and white terms:

Well done Mr. Bromwich.

1 comment:

  1. Meanwhile Sy Hersh of the New York Times (and others including Juan Cole, Glenn Greenwald, and most of MSNBC) has practically promised us a war with Iran, tomorrow morning 8am sharp, no doubts, no I really really mean it this time, for literally the last 2000 days straight.


Hey guys we've started to employ a slight comment policy. We used to have completely open comments but then people abused it. So our comment policy is such: No obvious trolling or spamming. And be warned: unlike the Huffington Post we actually enforce our comment policy.