Friday, December 01, 2006

Of Bloggers and Barbarians

Earlier this week, I posted an entry at Road to Surfdom that focused on what has become a preoccupation of mine that may be familiar to many TIA readers: humanity's unhealthy affection for war. I'll paraphrase portions of that piece below in order to tie in the themes with something that caught my eye today.

The segue, in that instance, was an Atrios post that referenced putative libertarian Glenn Reynolds, and Reynolds' approving review of a new book that envisions a modern-day American civil war. Said Atrios:

...I've found it to be a fairly consistent them among many gun nut libertarians (who I call "might makes right" libertarians) that they fantasize about the breakdown of civil order and the rise of Road Warrior style society. It's weird.

This observation reminded me of something that British writer Doris Lessing (who I have quoted before) mentioned [emphasis added]:

When I was in Zimbabwe in 1982, two years after Independence, and the end of that appalling war that was very much uglier and more savage than we were ever told, I met soldiers from both sides, whites and blacks [who described their experiences]....It was a fighting that demanded great skill, individual bravery, initiative and resourcefulness - the skills of a guerilla, talents that through a long peace-time life may never have been called into use. Yet people may suspect that they have them, and secretly long for an opportunity to show them. This is not the least of the reasons, I believe, that wars happen.

This underlying longing to prove one's worth in a seemingly transcendant fashion - in a way that our otherwise mundane lives might not allow - leads to much illicit war fantasizing and vicarious titillation. Just consider the delusions of grandeur of the war-bloggers and other pundits who frequently imagine themselves - mere rhetoricians - to be actually engaged in the fighthing itself. The "War on Terror" has been rather accommodating along these lines.

Relatedly, most people imagine themselves to have the skills, bravery and other attributes that would enable them to achieve great battlefield heroics if pressed into such circumstances. Nobody thinks of themselves as dying in war, naturally. The death part is for the supporting cast, not the protagonist, so our imaginations can run wild with our own self-gratifying storylines.

For most, though, there is also a certain level of fear and trepidation that accompanies the latent war-lust. So instead of enlisting in the armed forces, the vast majority opt to stay secure in the comfort of their everyday lives. Yet within the safety of this milquetoast milieu, the warrior fantasies percolate to the surface in the form of hyper-violent screeds laced with faux-bravado as can be read on far too many war-blogger sites. Not to mention the voyeuristic excitement at the spectacle of war as beamed to our TV and movie screens and, as Atrios noticed, the nurtured fantasies about the "breakdown of civil order and the rise of Road Warrior style society."

If you want a case in point, please check out the over-the-top nature of this manifesto for the "910 Group" - a reference to the day before 9/11, I believe. Some excerpts [emphasis added]:

The Great Islamic Jihad is certain that Western Civilization is about to come to an end.

Islamic Fascism looks forward to the rule of the new Caliphate, in which the whole world will swear submission to Allah and bow five times a day towards Mecca. It aims to kill or enslave every person who will not accept its twisted vision of Islam. With the help of its allies among the world’s dictators and within our own media, it is confident that it will achieve its goal.

But even as this beast tears at our throats, a new defensive force is being born, a determination to preserve all that is good and right and true within the Western world. Even as we are abandoned by our leaders, by the sophists in our academies, and by the propagandists of our major media, ordinary people are connecting with one another, and are ready to stand up and defeat those who would destroy us.

Here in the 910 Group this force is symbolized by the Phoenix, reborn from the ashes of the World Trade Center in order to resist the onslaught of Islamofascism. [...]

We are an international movement, with members in India, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Denmark, Norway, and Canada, as well as the U.S.A. We comprise a self-selected group of people who share common goals: to oppose Islamic Fascism wherever it threatens us, and to promote the emergence of liberty in all the dark corners of the planet where ordinary people are degraded and oppressed.

Wow. I came across this site via Atrios again (though Sadly, No! has the pictures). But guess who gave it the grand ole Instalanche? Well, the Road Warrior of the blogosphere himself, Mad Glenn.

There are barbarian hordes amassing at the gates my fellow citizens. But fear not, a coalition of bloggers (yeah, bloggers!) will protect us from the impending onslaught. Clad in their pajama-mail armor, and armed with their +5 vorpal keyboards, these intrepid souls are manning the ramparts to beat back the Moslem hordes. I don't know abou you, but I feel safer already.

Seriously, though, somebody give them back their dungeon master guides, or buy them a copy of WarCraft, so they can channel their overactive bellicosity into something less destructive. Somebody could get hurt. And I'm not talking carpal tunnel alone.

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