Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jerkwad Jihad

Consider, if you will, the career of one Jonah Goldberg, a lumpen lout guaranteed a lifetime wingnut welfare sinecure by virtue of his relation to the woman who almost brought down the Big Dog back in the 90s. Jonah has had his status as a public idtellectual thrust upon him, and no matter how many of his bulk bought "bestsellers" moulder in warehouses at Cato Headquarters, he comes across as a guy who'd rather loaf around on the couch watching bad 80's teen comedies on Blu-Ray while mainlining Cheetos. Hell, he even referenced the movie Meatballs in a recent column in the right's most "prestigious" publication. While his "thug with a thesaurus" predecessor William F. Buckley, could at least fake erudition, Goldberg is more comfortable making allusions to bad movies than he is conducting actual research... or even relating anecdotes from his real life.

Even when Jonah references a book, it's often a work of genre fiction. In one unfortunate column from 2011, Jonah referred to Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi "Dune" series. In his column, Jonah refers to an anti-computer "jihad" that features in the back-story to Frank Herbert's novels. He then decides that an anti-TSA "jihad" is in order:

The backdrop of my favorite science-fiction novels, Frank Herbert’s Dune series, is something called the Butlerian Jihad. Some 10,000 years before the main events of the story take place, humanity rebelled against “thinking machines” — intelligent computers — controlling people’s lives. The revolution was sparked because a computer decided to kill, without the consent of any human authority, the baby of a woman named Jehanne Butler.

I bring this up because I’m wondering why we can’t have a Reppertian Jihad. Its namesake would be Lena Reppert, a 105-pound, 95-year-old Florida woman. Her daughter claims Reppert was forced by airport security to remove her adult diaper in compliance with a body search. Reppert is dying of leukemia. She did not have another clean diaper for her trip.

He then makes the outrageous assertion that TSA employees are acting in "the likeness of a machine":

And that’s what brought to mind Dune’s Butlerian Jihad. The holy war against machines was also a war against a mindset. “The target of the jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines,” a character explains. “Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary selfdom out of which we make living judgments.” In the aftermath, a new commandment was promulgated: “Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind.”

It seems the first commandment of the TSA is that every mind must be trained in the likeness of a machine. “Garbage in, garbage out,” is how computer programmers explain the way bad inputs determine bad outputs. Likewise, if TSA workers are programmed not to use common sense or discretion — surprise! — TSA workers won’t use common sense or discretion.

Dehumanization of one's political foes is a prerequisite for political violence. While Mr Goldberg would assert that he was not calling for the murder of TSA agents, his callous characterization of them as "programmed" like machines belies any protestations. Goldberg's article has to be viewed in the context of a long campaign to demonize the TSA by right-wingers. A quick Google search reveals that much of the right-wing rage against the TSA is couched in racial terms, with many conservatives believing that the largely minority TSA staff are using their authority to "punish" white people.

Now, with the murder of TSA agent Gerardo Hernandez, Jonah Goldberg has finally gotten his "jihad". Agent Hernandez, though, was no machine- he was a civil servant, a husband, a father of two. I imagine that the "National Review Online" will get around to shoving this column down the memory hole, and that Jonah Goldberg will pretend that it never existed. Being a right-winger means never having to say you're sorry, not even to the widow or the orphans.

Cross posted at Rumproast.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Doughy doesn't need research, that's why he has common taters!

mikey said...

On the other hand, the TSA is a thoroughly unnecessary expression of both security theater and an authoritarian, intrusive security state. Along with it's creepily named parent, the Department of Homeland Security and legislation such as the Orwellian named Patriot Act, passed in act after act of cynical manipulation of the pants-wetting panic they manufactured after 9/11, it is long past time to re-visit these security programs.

Other nations seem to manage their air traffic without the level of abuse and idiocy the US provides through the TSA. Just as other democracies have done a better job of protecting their citizens privacy and rights.

Jonah may be an idiot, but he is not altogether wrong in this case...

Helmut Monotreme said...

If the Bush administration had taken their security briefing seriously and prevented 9/11 there would be no TSA. If the nation, led by the professional security lobby, hadn't collectively lost its shit following 9/11, there would be no TSA. Since the Bush administration didn't do their jobs, and since legislators in a fit of paranoia, created the TSA, we have a TSA. That TSA is going to try and do their damn jobs. The people who set up the TSA have never heard of acceptable risk and demand complete security. They are hindered by the fact that to be totally secure, passengers would not be allowed to bring luggage of any kind, and would have to strip naked, get x-rayed, issued hospital gowns, and be sedated for the duration of the flight.

The TSA has is in a terrible spot institutionally, they have to be as secure as possible, as fast as possible, and as cheap as possible, without offending passengers, on a budget that assumes that ever more intrusive screening is more useful than more agents at the checkpoint to process people faster. Their mission statement does not place a priority on respecting the dignity of travelers, or accommodating those with special needs.

So pardon me if I don't share the same outrage at the TSA as Jonah. They are being asked to do a difficult job under trying circumstances and get nothing but shit from the very people who were begging for the creation of the TSA in the first place.

Jim H. said...

Good catch. That's exactly what's happening. Incite hatred, wait for the 'lone wolf'.

You caught, I'm sure, the Rand Wolf dog whistle to the 'lone wolf' right the other day, talking about 'hacks and haters' and 'duel'? Not saying you have dog ears. I worry for Rachel. They're out to get her.

Syrbal/Labrys said...

I have dusty eyeballs from them rolling under the desk over this. Mind you, I HATE the TSA and the whole nonsensical security theater and cash drain that they are and the last one of them I encountered in person in 2005 was an obnoxioius bully who demanded I remove diamond earrings unless I wanted to "miss your plane".

That said, they are NOT machines; they are mostly bottom of the barrel employment-wise types just trying to make a living. If they want a 'jihad' against machines they could look to the NSA's busy little listening devices. If they want to label humans and inhumane 'machines' they could look to atrocities committed SOMEwhere in the USA every day by the egregious behavior of New Mexico police pretty much repeatedly anally assaulting a man with a nonsensical search for drugs ---and the hospital that assisted with a forced colonoscopy sent the poor man a $6000 bill for his "treatment".

Talk about bloviating morons...I tell you, the crazies don't even bother hiding in the woodwork these days.

Smut Clyde said...

The revolution was sparked because a computer decided to kill, without the consent of any human authority, the baby of a woman named Jehanne Butler.

Even in his chosen metier of popular culture, Johan exerts a truth-repellant field: this extended backstory is the work of Brian Herbert, not Frank Herbert at all. But Johan enjoys the pleasant freedom to make up whatever he likes, knowing that no-one who knows what they're talking about will be reading his columns and checking his claims.

Smut Clyde said...

Whoops, I tell a lie. Although the bit about
a computer decided to kill, without the consent of any human authority, the baby of a woman named Jehanne Butler
is not part of Dune canon, it should not be blamed on Brian Herbert, but rather on Willis McNelly in "Dune Encyclopedia":
As to the story of the aborted female fetus in the DE which brought about the Butlerian Jihad, that creation was entirely my own, as I recall, and I named her "Jehanne" after Joan of Arc - the warrior saint.