So yesterday I was reading an article by Conrad Black’s bulldog, and, surprisingly, I was all nodding along like, “you tell ’em Mark!” And Mark Steyn, with his Eurabia bullshit and all that is one of the least convincing or pleasant conservative commentators, so this was very surprising indeed. This was the article, by the way, which is about US military expenses being too high and being on the wrong thing – too much nation-building, COIN and the like. And look, I realise there is a part in there where he insinuates that choosing to use a country’s money to take care of its own citizens rather than kill the citizens of other countries is a deep moral failing. Yes, I know. And people wonder why epistemic closure exists! Here’s what I mean: if you’re used to Mark Steyn, this doesn’t bother you, because he does it all the time for one thing, and for another, I don’t know that he really means it – it’s just his signalling that he’s a conservative and prefers spending money on what conservatives prefer spending money on. And if you’re a conservative, you go “oh, he’s just signalling he’s one of us” and if you’re not a conservative but you’re used to it you say “oh, he’s just signalling he’s one of them” but if you’re not used to reading conservative opinion pieces, you might actually work through his insinuation and go “oh my god, he’s saying that using the government’s money to take care of its own citizens rather than kill other people is a deep moral failing! How revolting! Why would I read something like that?” – and you’d end up not reading Mark Steyn. Which, again, in the case of Mark Steyn, you’d probably actually be better off, but that’s not the case for all conservative writers, so it’s not a good reaction to have. This is one case where I suspect the equivalence isn’t false, by the way. I’m pretty sure that reading LGM as a conservative, for instance, you’d be convinced that all the authors are terrible people that you should avoid having anything to do with. Hence epistemic closure.
But anyway, I powered through all that and was with Mark Steyn until this part:
I would hazard that the recent video of U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses is a coarser comment on the same psychosis, and the folly of fighting a determined and murderous enemy by distributing to your officers bulk orders of that charlatan’s bestseller Three Cups of Tea. There is a logical progression from three cups of sweet tea to those acts of micturition that the Pentagon would do well to ponder.
And yeah, I spent the whole previous paragraph talking about how we should learn to ignore shit like this, and I know Mark Steyn is trolling here, but consider me successfully trolled. Because what the fuck? Okay, three cups of tea is a shitty book, I get it. Also, I guess the grade-school level wordplay – you drink tea, then you go pee-pee, haha, funny, okay, I would actually prolly try to make a joke like that too. But the thing is, as an opinion, this is just complete nonsense, and I have enough faith in my mental faculties that having tried on this joke and seen that it leads to a claim that’s absolutely preposterous, I would then go on and not make that claim. Not Mark Steyn. Because what he said basically amounts to this: the reason that US army soldiers acted in a shameful manner is because we try to teach them respect. Or, more prosaically, the blame for corpse-pissing should lie with those that insist the army avoid doing stuff like corpse-pissing. I can’t write a take down of this opinion because it is completely nonsensical. Either his opinion of the U.S. military is unbelievably low (does he think the military does the opposite of what it’s told to do? Then why hasn’t it bombed Washington DC yet?) or he is just spouting completely unconnected crap without thinking what he is saying. Mark Steyn: does he even think what he’s writing? I swear it’s enough to make me not want to read any conservative opinion pieces anymo … oh, wait.