Updated: Jun 27, 2020
I was outraged by Tom Cotton’s op-ed, but not by the Times’ decision to print it.
My reasoning: if a US Senator is advocating fascism, I want to know about it. And I want all other Americans to know about it too. I want THE WORLD to know about it.
But I don’t expect my opinion to be the final one any more than I would give the last say on this matter to anyone else. And that would be true even if people like Cotton were successful in overthrowing the Constitution and intimidating most people into an official silence for some dismal period into the miserable foreseeable future.
Anyone laughing at that prospect, this concern? Anyone think it’s “Funny, Snowflake?”
Still agreeing that Cotton’s op-ed should have been published doesn’t mean I disagree with every criticism of the Times. Yes, the op-ed was newsworthy. And yes, I’m glad that Cotton betrayed himself this way. But The New York Times exerts immeasurable influence. They must be held accountable. Is the primary question one of context?
The op-ed is still being published on the Times website, but now with a disclaimer indicating that it never should have been. (Interesting...) Then there’s the confession that it *could* have been published some note of “context”. I suppose one version of fairness would have every op-ed “contextualized” in some way.
But what way?
I’m thinking of the late Arte Johnson on the old show “Laugh-In”. Much opinionating (including the one you’re reading now) could justifiably be contextualized as “Interesting,but stupid.”
How should they have contextualized Cotton’s? “Interesting, but scary.” “Interesting but disgusting?” “Interesting but outrageous?” “Interesting but fascist?”
Interestingly, when Arte Johnson make his LAUGH-In comments, he was usually lurking behind a shrub dressed as a NAZI German soldier.
Very interesting . . .
But here I am, making light of (AT LEAST) two problems.
One, a US Senator is unafraid to outwardly call for a fascist clampdown, knowing he has the support of 40% of the US population when FORTY PERCENT was the final ceiling on electoral support for Hitler’s party (before it could outlaw legitimate elections).
The second is the thorny problem of WHAT TO DO about this clear and present danger of fascism keeping in mind that what public officials say in public is often tempered compared to what they say in private. (And then there’s the question of how what they say and think and hear influences what they DO...)
But, oops! There is a third problem too. Or is this really the first one? It’s the problem of what the Times did - or what it should have done. Just how should the press and “the media” (including the “social”) handle the attacks on fact, truth, and democracy from people in official positions of great power who are supported by others who control vast resources. How should they “mediate”?
Interesting, but not so funny.
But some of us can’t help but laugh at what we cannot understand, or encapsulate into a clear principle or ringing slogan. (That doesn’t mean we should hold those who don’t find laughter to be soothing as contemptible, as “snowflakes”.
Yes, the Times could have refused to publish the op-ed (as such) while reporting fully on the contents of its submission with ample quotes from Cotton’s essay as well as plenty of counterweights from people with more commitment to the Constitution and to the concepts of democracy which give any“the rule of law’ its legitimacy. A false controversy over “free speech” would ensue in the right-wing press. (Isn’t it now?Who can keep up?) But that only “solves” the problem in hind-site. Or, probably not.
Other dilemmas are bound to impact us soon, probably many of them all at once.
What else is new?
Democracy can only improve by criticizing itself. Democracy can only survive by relentlessly interrogating itself. The enemies of democracy see this correctly as a weakness. The supporters of democracy see it as a weakness too, but we also claim (without conclusive evidence?) that this particular weakness is also its prevailing strength. (Interesting, but . . . ?) We have NO CHOICE but to claim this contradiction as a mysterious and empowering paradox. (kinda like the “Trinity”?) We have no choice but to be (“strangely”?) inspired by it. It may stink of blind faith, but it is only the admission we can’t see EVERYTHING clearly.
We need to help each other. (Snowflakes and hard hats. Liberals and conservatives. Cool cats and hot heads. Woke or groggy.)
Let’s hope enough of us clearly see the threat posed by people like Cotton (and Barr, and trimp and so many others). And let’s hope we keep faith.
How we keep the faith,if we do, will be beyond “interesting”.
It’s going to be a “fascinating” ordeal. (No outcome is guaranteed.)
And keep in mind that “fascism “doesn’t really rhyme with “fascinating”, and that fascism also like the Spanish Inquisition in that “NOBODY”ever“really” expects it.
*********************** Joe Panzica is the creator of Democracy STRUGGLE'S. He is also the author of the unpublished Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass and is working on a second novel: I Want to be Evil.