Before I get into the reasons why I’ve decided to discontinue posting essays or comments at buhdydharma‘s Daily Kos-inspired blog, let me briefly explain why I began posting there in the first place.
A couple of weeks ago, I joined Docudharma at the suggestion of a Kossack who recommended that I cross-post my diaries there, in case one of them didn’t get much site traffic on Daily Kos. While I know for a fact that there are writers who post at Docudharma because they are frustrated with different elements of Daily Kos, that was not the case for me. I simply wanted an additional outlet for publishing and discussing my political opinions. The first diary I posted there was generously promoted to Docudharma’s front page within a couple of hours, which I thought was pretty cool (and it was also listed on Daily Kos’s Diary Rescue later that night).
I figured that there wasn’t really any harm in cross-posting my diaries over at Docudharma, if only to give them a little extra exposure. But, my decision to leave Docudharma has nothing to do with my own diaries. It does, however, have everything to do with this one — entitled “The United States is Evil.” It was published by TocqueDeville, a well-known former Kossack whose posting privileges at Daily Kos were revoked several months ago. The essay itself contained nothing except for a YouTube video set to the soundtrack of a speech given by John Stockwell, a former CIA officer who described atrocities committed in other countries by the CIA and the U.S. military.
It was bad enough that the essay’s title was designed to be inflammatory, and that the diary had no substantive or original commentary by the author to back up his claim. What was worse was his response to a commenter who strongly objected. Here’s what the author had to say to that commenter:
You can jump off a high building for all I care. You’re just another cog in the machine. A brainwashed warrior-slave who would rather hold on to a delusion than accept reality and help fight it. Just another good German, your loyalty to the empire has been noted.
Are Americans evil? Of course not. The people ruining and running this country are but a small minority. But one’s individual minor infraction, shopping at Walmart, driving around like there’s no tomorrow, CAN become evil en masse.
In other words, we are not individually evil. But we can be collectively evil. Understand, there are no absolutes. And there are saints among us. I hear about them from time to time.
But the simple truth is most Americans are, to varying degrees, spoiled, fat, selfish idiots. And if you told them that driving SUVs would put their grandchildren in great peril, and possibly cause mass extinctions across the planet, they would drive them anyway.
It’s funny how a person can write a sentence like “there are no absolutes,” yet also claim in the same screed that the actions taken by a minority of people in power — as well as day-to-day actions undertaken by ordinary citizens that the author considers “minor infractions” — therefore makes the entire nation of the United States “evil.” It’s a simplistic, ignorant generalization that’s hardly worth debating. It attributes the actions of a sample of people and globalizes them to the entire population.
I do wonder, as a matter of consistency, if TocqueDeville considers other nations to be “evil” as well. After all, there are a lot of SUV drivers in Japan, and Germany, and China too. I wonder, as a matter of logic, if TocqueDeville considers the United States to be morally “good” at the same time — because after all, there are lots of people in this country who don’t drive SUVs and do good deeds like charity work and community service. I also wonder how he came to the conclusion that “most Americans are, to varying degrees, spoiled, fat, selfish idiots,” and what criteria he used to determine those qualities in an entire nation of people. Besides, even if it were true that “most Americans are, to varying degrees, spoiled, fat, selfish idiots,” so what? That’s not the same thing as being “evil.” Applying a moral extreme like that to an entire country because the author believes that most of its citizens are “spoiled, fat, and selfish” illustrates a gross misunderstanding of what the term “evil” really means.
But beyond the logical fallacies in his arguments, the author’s essay strikes me as being nothing more than incendiary. As someone who has been very critical of some of President Obama’s policies thus far — like escalating the conflict in Afghanistan — I would still never stoop so low as to brand my country as being “evil” because I strongly disagree with that policy. I didn’t think the United States was “evil” even when George Bush was President, and his administration did a lot of horrible, morally repugnant stuff. It’s true that there have been evil institutions in this country’s history that were constructed and maintained by those in power (i.e. slavery, Jim Crow laws), and there certainly have been powerful individuals in the highest levels of our government who undertook criminal and evil actions of their own (i.e. authorizing torture of prisoners). But TocqueDeville’s essay doesn’t discuss these issues or policies in a rational manner. It just applies a moral absolute to an entire country based on the actions of a few, all while the author lamely denies the existence of moral absolutes.
Now, you might wonder why I would care enough about this one blogger’s opinion. Surely I could just ignore it and continue posting at Docudharma anyway, right? And, aren’t there lots of diaries at Daily Kos that make the Rec List, even if I strongly disagree with the arguments made in some of them? Well, the problem is, TocqueDeville isn’t just some random blogger at Docudharma. He’s one of their main front page authors. Whatever positions Markos or Meteor Blades might hold on particular issues (and however you might disagree with them), they don’t engage in the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that accuses an entire nation of being evil. In my opinion, allowing that particular diary to go right to Docudharma’s front page — without editing or fact-checking or criticizing or even asking the author to elaborate further on a rather extreme claim — reflects poorly on the website’s management and those who endorsed it.
I don’t say that to cast aspersions on all writers at Docudharma — there are some eloquent diarists who participate in their forums and make good points. I’m not going to attribute TocqueDeville’s opinion and globalize it to the entire population of Docudharma. But I would still rather not be associated with a website in which one of its main authors uses extreme language like to make an incoherent point — and then dismisses someone who objects to that point as a “brainwashed warrior-slave” and “just another good German” who can “go jump off a high building.”
So, I hope the site admins and other users at Docudharma will respect my decision to leave. I appreciate that they allowed me to post my opinion there, regardless of how short-lived an experience it was.