Beinart attacks bloggers (the world yawns)

Re: Free Speech ... Remember?

Wow, what a shocker. Peter Beinart, the "liberal" who said the left was blinded by Bush hatred when they refused to embrace the illegal invasion of Iraq (gee I wonder what Peter says about that now?) now attacks -- gasp -- liberal bloggers. Talk about a one-trick pony.

"Last week, I went searching the liberal Web for discussions of Idomeneo. The Deutsche Oper, a Berlin opera house, had recently canceled the Mozart classic because it feared Muslims would react violently to a scene featuring Mohammed's severed head. Germans declared that free speech was under siege. The New York Times covered every wrinkle. Right-wing websites buzzed. And, on the big liberal blogs, virtual silence ...

Blogging thrives on outrage (see, for instance, my colleague Martin Peretz's outraged blogging on the affair at tnr.com/blog/spine), and the Idomeneo closure just didn't get liberal blood flowing. And why is that? Perhaps because it didn't have anything to do with George W. Bush. "

Does he attack them for something they said? No. He attacks them for something they didn't say, and then, with his newfound ability to read the minds of the collective blogosphere, he deduces the reason for the alleged silence: They hate Bush too much to discuss anything else.

Perhaps bloggers were to busy writing the horrific wars that are killing thousands of innocent people to care about what the insufferable Marty Peretz is blogging about.

And speaking of irational hatred: One can critisize excessive distaste for the president if they choose, but he is the most powerful man in the world, and I would argue that no amount of scrutiny -- especially given his lack of transparency and candor -- is too much to place on the most radical US president in recent memory.

But if Peter Beinart and the rest of his New Republic bretheren went after Bush as much as they did "Blogofacists" (a lovely TNR-coined phrase courtesy of Lee Seigel) -- maybe they would do some good, and save their flailing magazine.

Ezra Klein of The American Prospect responds to Beinart's piece. He notes correctly that the right-wingers who Beinart praised are not free speech advocates, but simply eager to smear Muslims.

Would these bloggers be advocating free speech if Jesus was mocked? I doubt it.

"[T]he merry racists over at Little Green Footballs aren't pumping the Idomeneo controversy because they're deeply committed to artistic freedom. These are David Horowitz acolytes, after all. They're doing it because it furthers their other political ends. They're doing it for the same reasons Bush noticed the oppression of Afghani women after 9/11, or the right remembered Hussein had human rights abuses when they decided to attack Iraq. Painting Arabs as beastly and illiberal fits their expansionist political agenda, which calls for sustained, often violent confrontation with the Arab world.

Few liberals want any part in that foreign policy agenda. And so few liberals have any interest in buttressing the administration's supporting arguments. Too many recall how their genuine concern and outrage over abuses in Iraq was conscripted in service of a misguided, heavily politicized, war that included human rights abuses of its own. Given a government that thinks nothing of suspending Habeas Corpus, is criticizing the Deutsche Oper likelier to protect free speech or deploy bombers?

Here's a test: The empty opera house may be a suboptimal outcome, but is it worse than kidnapping children for force marriage in Kyrgyzstan? How about the death of an unjustly imprisoned journalist in Turkmenistan? Or the government-supported death squads in Guinea?

No. It isn't. But that's what the right wing is focusing on. And that's what Peter Beinart is bashing liberals with. Liberals are morally remiss for paying insufficient attention to an opera house's decision, but not for ignoring bride kidnappings, murdered journalists, or marauding governments. The agenda behind that odd prioritization isn't difficult to divine, and it's to the credit of the left that they refused to offer aid and comfort to those seeking its partial assent in their clash-of-civilization fantasies ... And those selectively decrying the absence of liberal outrage should select a more worthy, and less destructive, targent. Unless, of course, it's the outrage, and not the abuse, that interested them in the first place.

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