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.