Two highly-entertaining online debates have been raging of late: one between Jeff Jarvis and Eric Alterman over the identity of the pro-war Iraqi bloggers and another pitting University of Michigan professor Juan Cole against the National Review's archconservative pundit Jonah Goldberg.
Jarvis, whose BuzzMachine used to be at least mildly informative and entertaining until the recent fracas, apparently has decided to make a name for himself in blogosphere by adopting the timeless prisonyard gambit of picking the biggest guys out there and attempting to cold-cock them. Unfortunately this sort of strategy only works if you can actually hold your own in a fight, something Jarvis clearly can't do beyond histrionic cries of righteous indignation and (when he's really backed into a corner and he knows it) name-calling.
Essentially what Jarvis tried to do was call Alterman on an off-the-cuff remark he made on a talk show about pro-Iraqi blogs being possible CIA fronts. Never mind that the CIA does far more devious shit than this for breakfast, but Jarvis went ballistic nonetheless, basically accusing Alterman of sentencing bloggers sympathetic to the United States to death. Of course in order for such a charge to stick you need to pretend that merely being pro-occupation wasn't going to get you killed in the first place, something Jarvis conveniently glosses over in his own fluff-job promotional bits he's done for the contrarian Iraqi bloggers.
And at the end of the day what's going to make you more likely to become a target - being feted by President Bush in a highly-publicized White House ceremony or having some guy on cable T.V. say that it's possible that your blog might be CIA disinformation? Hmmm. Let me think about that one for about a nanosecond. But Jarvis goes and totally shoots himself in the foot by excoriating Alterman in a manner that could have been ripped straight out of Mel Gibson's translation of the Gospels about the blood of the (not dead) Iraqi freedom bloggers being on the hands of Eric Alterman - and presumably his children, and his childrens' children as well. We all know the internet is supposed to be a rapid-reponse kind of medium, but you'd think Jarvis would have run this bit past a friend of the Hebraic persuasion before going after a Jew for blood libel.
Before settling on the slightly lower-profile Alterman, Jeff Jarvis first attempted to score points by picking a fight with Juan Cole, who is Professor of History at the University of Michigan and whose Informed Comment is one of the best English-language blogs out there about the Middle East. Or perhaps I should say "trying to pick a fight," because Cole rightly deemed Jarvis little more than a nuisance and didn't even bother to respond to the latter's venomous and unprofessionally personal attacks. His cutesy habit of referring to Cole as "Professor Pondscum" should tell you all you need to know about Jarvis' desire for serious debate and in fact probably tells us more than we want to know about his apparent inferiority complex when it comes to people and ideas outside the milieu of Entertainment Weekly, no offense to the magazine or its readership intended!
Instead Cole saved his time and energy to parry the attempted broadside of Jonah Goldberg, whose neoconservative bombast heavy on the freedom-lovin' but frightfully short of any factual content might play well with the Kool-Aid Drinkers sounds like the load of nonsense that it is when dissected by a real thinker like Cole. It's a pity that the good professor has to waste any time or energy at all dispatching an idiot like Goldberg, but at least he does so with wit and panache:
If Jonah Goldberg had asserted that he could fly to Mars in his pyjamas and come back in a single day, it would not have been a more fantastic allegation than the one he made about Iraq being a danger to the United States because of the nuclear issue. He made that allegation over and over again to millions of viewers on national television programs, to viewers who trusted his judgment because CNN and others purveyed him to them.
Jonah Goldberg is a fearmonger, a warmonger, and a demagogue. And besides, he was just plain wrong about one of the more important foreign policy issues to face the United States in the past half-century. It is shameful that he dares show his face in public, much less continuing to pontificate about his profound knowledge of just what Iraq is like and what needs to be done about Iraq and the significance of events in Iraq.
The coup de grace, however, is when Juan Cole merely prints a reader's email which asks of Goldberg the simple question - if he's still so rah-rah about the War on Terror and the Iraqi Crusade for Freedom, why isn't he signing up to help his comrades on the ground where it counts, especially now that the regular troops are battle-wearied and bloodied and the reserves are running thin? To which Goldberg offered up the laughably lame excuse:
As for why my sorry a** isn't in the kill zone, lots of people think this is a searingly pertinent question. No answer I could give -- I'm 35 years old, my family couldn't afford the lost income, I have a baby daughter, my a** is, er, sorry, are a few -- ever seem to suffice.
Rarely has the hypocrisy of the neoconservative Right ever been so concisely on display. It must cheer the armed forces to no end that they are being egged on in this war by a bunch of self-serving cowards such as Jonah Goldberg. What a cruel joke that it was the jingoistic fiction served up by folks at the National Review and elsewhere that sent otherwise well-meaning men and women off to their very real deaths. But then again they haven't earned the moniker of the "101st Fighting Keyboardists" for nothing...