Thursday, July 13, 2006

Snark: Also Dead

I've already lamented the death of satire, with the fatal blow resulting from, in no small part, the Bush administration's laughable dissembling on the state of affairs in Iraq. Now, it appears, snark has followed the path blazed by satire to that great literary graveyard set aside for the blogosphere's favorite tropes. I wrote this when snark was still a living breathing tool in this blogger's arsenal:

As I've mentioned before on numerous occasions, one of the more bizarre narratives to emerge from Washington during the Bush presidency has been the storyline about the treasonous CIA - an agency that has been, allegedly, overrun by liberals, peaceniks and other assorted appeasers and defeatists. Anyone even vaguely familiar with the CIA's history - especially its cold war activities, both domestically and abroad - over the past fifty years should derive a hearty chuckle at the thought of CIA headquarters coming to resemble a hippie commune in rural Vermont. The C...I...A for crying out loud!

I was content to use such snarky characterizations as "hippie commune" and "peaceniks," in order to convey the ridiculousness of the narrative being pushed by the Right with respect to the CIA. But my attempt at sarcasm was far too timid and has since been rendered hopelessly quaint. Snark just can't compete with real life anymore. Peter Hoekstra has seen to that. From the invaluable Spencer Ackerman:

On June 26, [Peter Hoekstra and Rick Santorum] took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to unleash a larger allegation: that some officials in the intelligence community are attempting to destroy the Bush administration--and America itself. "People who leak the existence of sensitive intelligence programs like the terrorist surveillance program or financial tracking programs to either damage the administration or help Al Qaeda, or perhaps both, are using the release or withholding of documents to advance their political desires, even as they accuse others of manipulating intelligence," they wrote. In other words, the reason we haven't found out about Saddam's WMD is because Al Qaeda sympathizers in the intelligence community don't want us to know.

Welcome to the new smear. Previous GOP attacks on the intelligence community have merely alleged that Langley is full of political fifth columnists. Now Hoekstra and Santorum are implying that the CIA contains actual fifth columnists. "Good grief," sighs Jane Harman, Hoekstra's Democratic counterpart on the House intelligence committee. "I am not aware of anyone [in the intelligence community] who harbors sympathy for Al Qaeda. I think that is a reckless claim." [...]

The enemy within--that is, the Al Qaeda-cooperative intelligence community--cannot be allowed to prevail, Santorum and Hoekstra conclude: "If the American public can be deceived by people who withhold basic information, we risk losing the war at home, even if we win it on the battlefield." Conservatives, armed with the NGIC report and allied against a treasonous U.S. intelligence community, are determined not to let that happen.

Ackerman quotes CIA veteran Paul Pillar:

"Talk about a smear. I mean, helping Al Qaeda?" he says. "Of course, this theme of intelligence officers allegedly being out to undermine the president, of course we've had that in spades. But I've never heard it take quite this shape."

No Mr. Pillar, and obviously neither had I. And for this, I am here to turn in my snark card. Forever laid to rest by a truth that so far outpaces fiction as to set the mind reeling. But here's the really frightening part: Hoekstra and Santorum are playing to an audience. The "base" if you will. There are people that actually hear this kind of thing...and believe it. Thousands of them - among them, some of the Right's most popular media personalities and pundits. God help us.

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