Neoconning Media Eric Altermans

Neoconning the Media

Eric Alterman’s “Neoconning the Media: A Short History of Neoconservatism” is a must-read account of the movement and its main institutions and media outlets.

Alterman lists “half of the New Republic” as among the assets of the Neocons. That’s about right, though I suspect that the other half (In the Barefoot And Naked Blog accounting that would be: John Judis, Spencer Ackerman, Michelle Cottle, Mike Crowley) is not as connected to the editorial direction and especially ownership of TNR as the Neocon half.

Michelle Goldberg at Salon.com isn’t so generous.

This was after all the same TNR that beat the drums in fall of 2001 to get 100,000 American boots on the ground in Afghanistan. (That is my recollection, from the interface of their online website of the time, and it is the tenor of this editorial from those days.) But we didn’t need that kind of troop force there, and, indeed, it would have been counterproductive. What was this mania to occupy other people? Wasn’t it treasonous to want to put our servicemen in harm’s way when the Northern Alliance was perfectly capable of taking Kabul with our close air support? What philosophy of life would cause you to want such a thing? (What ignorance of mountainous, rugged, Afghanistan would cause you to imagine such a thing possible?) Surely it was just a colonial power fantasy, a dream of subjecting brown men to the will of TNR’s editors. You could see Lawrence Kaplan chomping at the bit to go on to occupying Iraq, Syria, and et cetera.

That is the thing nowadays often forgotten about colonialism–its psychological benefits to the colonizing society. There are often material benefits as well, but sometimes those don’t materialize. The psychological ones are a sure bet if the conqueror prevails. Racism functions to give the dominant “races” in society cheap self-esteem (‘at least we are better than those people’). That is why “whiteness” is so powerful as an American construct. Everyone can hope to join the category and become “white” except African-Americans, who must remain Black to keep the system of racial hierarchy going, ensuring that the lowliest of “whites” can feel good about themselves. It is now often forgotten that Irish, Poles, Italians and Jews were not considered “white” when they first immigrated. But gradually they joined the club.

Likewise, colonial occupation gives the occupiers an easy sense of self-worth and powerfulness. Thus the appeal of occupying other countries precisely for those sections of the dominant “whites” in US society that are least secure in their whiteness (e.g. lower middle class Southerners). Much about the Abu Ghuraib torture scandal can most easily be explained in these colonialist/racist terms. Likewise, the sex and power fantasy of white men saving brown women from brown men, which has figured so prominently in the new discourse of American empire, is best explained in this way.