Monday, January 24, 2011

Vicarious Victimization

Kevin Drum has a nice rundown of tweets concerning a small drama yesterday at the Marine Corps base at Quantico, VA.

The only thing worse than this kind of narcissistic grandstanding is the ongoing self-righteousness of Glenn Greenwald. It isn't bad enough that he acts as if we were already a bureaucratic police state; his persistent view that his interpretation of the Constitution is the only legitimate one, while certainly an effective courtroom tactic, has turned off this former daily reader (parenthetically, were I ever in need of a Constitutional specialist in a court case, Greenwald would be the first person I would choose as an attorney; someone as big an asshole as he is would be a plus for any legal team). Specifically, it isn't so much his pose as the sole True Defender of the Constitution that bothers me as much as his nearly daily harrumph at some "outrage" that is perfectly intelligible, although perhaps not always forgivable, as part of the normal behavior of states. Whether it's the allure of power of the inertia of bureaucracies, all the things he huffs and puffs about make sense as long as one understands that no Administration has ever followed the Constitution perfectly, nor will they. Further, since there are neither penalties nor even serious political repercussions for officials violating either the law of Constitutional mandates, there is no incentive other than virtue - always in short supply among bureaucrats and officials - to do so. One would think that, as an attorney, he might just understand that.

Hamsher, on the other hand, is a different case altogether. The level of invective and sheer nastiness she used increasingly during both the 2008 Democratic primary, as well as the health care reform debate became too much for me. Further, her penchant for sheer fantasizing about the nature of the political opposition - only those who agreed with her were true Reformers; those who disagreed or took a different position were all corrupt, evil human beings - reached a level of self-parody that would have been humorous were it not for the fact that it revealed a streak of narcissism that, with events yesterday, proved that even left-wingers aren't immune from being fantasy-prone.

Pvt. Manning is being held in solitary, 23-hour lockdown. One can set aside questions regarding his hus guilt or innocence and still understand why the military might be wary of allowing him too much contact. He has admitted, publicly, that he has passed classified information to an individual, Julian Assange, who also has been quite public that his intended use of that information has not been in the best interests of the US. Whether or not Pvt. Manning is guilty of a crime, his public statements confirming his actions are to enough to make intelligible the military's decision to limit, as strictly as possible, his contacts outside detention. Furthermore, the complaint that certain visitation privileges have been revoked, well, Pvt. Manning is being held in prison. They can decide who can visit and not visit, and change their minds, for all sorts of reasons.

Some could argue that the MPs should have acted in a different manner; perhaps their superiors should have been less ham-fisted in their approach. Certainly, it has given Ms. Hamsher the opportunity to claim that she, too, like Pvt. Manning, is a victim of police-state tactics. Having one's car impounded is, obviously, right up there with being disappeared by authorities, being tortured, having one's interactions monitored and restricted by official decree. I can see why she is in such an uproar.

On the other hand, it seems to me this is a pretty clear signal to those who have lost any perspective out of sympathy for Pvt. Manning's actions that the military justice system will conduct its business in the manner it deems fit. Jane Hamsher is not a victim of a corrupt, repressive system. She was inconvenienced by parts of a system whose internal workings she has impugned, insulted, declared outside American legal and constitutional bounds. It seems to me they were sending her a bit of a message, one she might well be too dim to understand. When you bait the bear, sometimes, the bear wins.

Virtual Tin Cup

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