Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The leftist commenters on right-wing blogs – not a group that should be considered representative of progressives in general – often make oversimplified claims about the war on terror: that Bush should have “worked with our allies more,” or built highways and hospitals, or sifted through the conflicting information to know that 9/11 was coming. I imagine there are equivalent oversimplifiers on the right, complaining that if we had just smacked the Saudis around a little more we wouldn’t be having these problems. When I respond to these writers at all, it is to simply note that they are oversimplifying, and real life is a much more plus-minus, risk-benefit deal than they suggest. I would have thought it unfair to make the claim that lots of progressives think like that. The thought has crossed my mind that there is a fair bit of unrealistic, comic-book thinking on the left, but I put it aside as unfairly critical on my part.

Guess not.

I find this speculative article deeply troubling. Others have found it amusing in its ridiculousness, or irritating in its fatuity, but the implications of this particular foolishness unnerve me.

Quick summary for those not clicking through: an imaginary timeline of how things would have gone in America if Al Gore had been elected president in 2000. Sample entry – September 11, 2001:
At the Houston, LAX and Minneapolis International airports, seven Saudi and Algerian men were forbidden from boarding their flights after airport security personnel found box cutters, wire and other banned items on their persons. These men turn out to be the remnants of the band of Al-Qaeda's September Plotters; all the others had been caught in the FBI's sweep of the flight schools.

Armed with this evidence, Gore demands and gets Congressional authorization to send US troops to Afghanistan. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough ridicules the idea that "idiots with box cutters" could take over an airliner. Rush Limbaugh claims that "Gore is sending our young men and women off on a wild goose chase." Bill O'Reilly, William Kristol, and Ann Coulter demand that Gore invade Iraq, even though none of the would-be hijackers is Iraqi or has any connection to Iraq or to Saddam Hussein.
The timeline is quite detailed, with a considerable series of actions that President Gore would probably have done. They all work out brilliantly.

Entertaining a few hypotheticals is hardly unhealthy. Such imaginings are how we learn from the past and hope to do better. We apply such retrospectives to events small and large. When they become very detailed, however, they move progressively farther from reality. To look at the Al Gore or Democratic Party statements from the campaign or from the previous administration and guess that President Gore would very likely have done A instead of B is quite legitimate. Playing that hypotheitical out over subsequent known events might be a little speculative, but not useless.

This would be too over-the-top as a comic book plot. What, the hero never makes a mistake – knows all, sees all? Even Superman doesn’t do that. This uninterrupted success wouldn’t make it as a sports movie. Its sports equivalent is not even the private fantasy of three steals and three treys in the last minute to win the championship; this is the kid fantasy of winning 100-0 in your driveway. This is not a sexual fantasy of seducing a movie girl – this is dreaming of the Patriots cheerleaders as your harem.

If you want to have those fantasies, fine, that’s your business. But putting them forward as an actual possible history is a little disturbed. We don’t say these things out loud. We don’t admit that we think there is any possibility such unrealism is true. There are social filters in the frontal lobes which should prevent you from displaying how poor your contact with reality is. These filters have been overridden in this case.

Even weirder is that this is not particularly an “Al Gore is brilliant” fantasy. The information is presented as if the hypothetical actions would be rather commonplace, even obvious. Why, any number of Democrats, and maybe even a few Republicans, could have accomplished all this, if only it weren’t for that idiot Bush! You fools! How can you not see that putting us in charge and just letting us do what we want will make everything right with the world? Wars on Terror aren’t difficult! You just need to have good people in there and it all happens automatically.

It’s actually worse than this.
Firedoglake is a big-name lefty blog with lots of traffic.
The writer spent a lot of time putting this together.
Very few of the commenters notice that this is insane.


Anonymous said...

In my alternate fantasy universe, an asteroid hits the Atlantic ocean, wiping out all major cities on the eastern seaboard (NY, DC, etc). Bush is home in Crawford, TX and is safe from the destruction. The impact triggers huge earthquakes causing CA, OR and WA to slide into the Pacific. Freed from the anchor of moonbattery, the reshaped America starts a golden age of peace and prosperity founded on strength and pragmatism.

Maybe if I close my eyes and wish real hard and click the heels of my ruby slippers three times, it will happen. -cp

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Gee thanks. I'm 50 miles from the Atlantic.

Teri said...

It's interesting that they say that he saves the economy. If Gore had his way, we'd all be grubbing for food with sticks. But at least then we wouldn't be responsible for "global warming".