Thursday, April 09, 2009

In the church of the poisoned mind

Barney Frank has long been a favorite whipping boy of the Radical Right. Although not telegenic and prone to brusqueness, he still is a smart guy, with facts, details, and policies that are very progressive.

He spoke at Harvard Kennedy School forum Monday night, and was ambushed by a right-wing Fox plant student who asked a dishonest question. Here's the exchange:

Student's name is reportedly Joel Pollak. We're pretty sure it's the Joel Pollak who writes this pro-Israel anti-everyone else blog:
Speaking of violence, it’s worth recalling what Israel did in Gaza in response to sporadic Hamas rockets. It killed upward of 1,300 people, many of them women and children; caused damage estimated at $1.9 billion; and destroyed thousands of Gaza homes. It continues a radicalizing blockade on 1.5 million people squeezed into a narrow strip of land.

At this vast human, material and moral price, Israel achieved almost nothing beyond damage to its image throughout the world. Israel has the right to hit back when attacked, but any response should be proportional and governed by sober political calculation. The Gaza war was a travesty; I have never previously felt so shamed by Israel’s actions.

"Sporadic" rockets? Try thousands of rockets and mortars over a sustained 7-year period. 1,300 people? Women and children? Estimated by whom? Blockade? I have never previously felt so shamed by America's "newspaper of record," not since Bob Herbert's bogus claims of racism and phallic imagery in last year's American presidential campaign. Cohen's swallowed the propaganda and regurgitates it for all to see.

Ok then. And last year he posted this at the NextRight:
Compare to On JohnMcCain, you can find a lot of great information and get ads and e-mails but you can't design too much of your own content or connect to other users. In contrast, TeamSarah operates like Facebook. You can create your own page and find friends and all of that. No wonder it has tens of thousands of members already.

The danger of using a networking approach is that you get just about anybody on your site. So Obama has antisemites and 9/11 Troofers and all sorts of offensive people on his presidential campaign page. If the media cared to vet him at all, this would be a huge scandal. But with good editing (and Obama has cared as much about editing as he has about credit card fraud) you can keep the crazies out.

And this re: Mr. Pollak:
Another Harvard student promptly defenestrated two of Pollak's claims, in a letter to the Post. "Mr. Pollak claimed that the maps in 'Al-Kitaab' do not include Israel. There are three maps in the book: On Page 13, Israel is represented without the West Bank and Gaza. On Page 389, two historical maps (from the Ottoman era to World War I) predate Israel's existence."

And more about Mr. Pollak, who seems to be earning a reputation as a movement conservative beacon:
Other interesting reactions to Joel Pollak's zany oped in the Washington Post are surfacing. Many refute his characterization of a standard Arabic textbook, Al-Kitaab, as propagandistic. Far from being based on facts, his piece exposed the currency of anti-Arab bias. Even esteemed outlets like the Post drop the evidentiary standards for gobbly-gook such as Pollak's.

Pollak, a research assistant for prolific torture advocate Alan Dershowitz, was recently called a "precocious neo-con" by Phillip Weiss. The journalist dismissed Pollak's analysis as "condescending" out-dated Orientalism.

The Atlantic's Matthew Yglesias hit back at Pollak with a sharp, satirical riff applauding his courage to "speak truth to weakness and stand up for the view that as narrow a range of opinions as possible should be expressed in America." [The comments section of his blog are quite illuminating as well -- one commenter used the book at the US Military's Defense Language Institute.]

Seriously, just do the obvious Google search and you have plenty of material to document the earnest yet narrow view of reality that Pollak endorses. For him to take on Barney Frank with an empty quiver of knowledge shows, once again, the vapidity of the Right.

Dude, I hope your 15 minutes were totally awesome. Because now you're going to have to find a gig at the New Republic. Or Pajamas Media. And I hope you don't think you're entitled to unemployment, because that's only for Lefties. Democrats. Liberals. Remember, your side opposes benefit extension? Better not be asking the government to help.