Dang: it's late. This is unedited and unrevised; literally, a Bleat.

Cold day; not much to recommend it, really. Went through the motions. They’re fun motions, but motions nonetheless. Showed up at the office for my weekly Hey! I’m Alive! Appearance, only to find the boss gone. I should have brought my camera, taken a picture of myself at the boss’s desk and left a copy on the keyboard, but people get testy about “invading space” and “forcing locks” and all those touchy-feely issues. So I wrote the column, went home, relieved the babysitter – Gnat was napping, which was slightly irksome. I’m paying her for this. I expect her to keep the kid awake! I want my money’s worth!

Controversy in the blogworld over that college op-ed that spit on Tillman. (Original link down due to traffic.) The author had the standard collegiate reflex reaction to calling anyone a "hero" who didn't lead a sit-down strike in the cafeteria to protest worker conditions in Guatemalan fruit farms. Ahh, It reminds me of my days at a college paper –

I should have a graphic for the times when I recount the adventures of my youth:


Anyway: at the college paper we lived in a warm capacious womb, dogpaddling in the amniotic fluid of our unexamined assumptions, writing sentences as bad as this one and thinking ourselves quite clever. These things we knew: Soviet influence in Central America could be blunted by a complete withdrawl of American support; Ronald Reagan was indifferent to the possibility of nuclear war; Europeans were wise rational Vulcans to our crass carnivorous Earthlings, except for isolated throwback horrors like Margaret Thatcher. All new weapons systems were boondoggles that wouldn’t work and would never be needed, and served as penis substitutes for Jack D. Ripper-type generals who probably went home and poured lighter fluid on toy soldiers, lit them with a Zippo and cackled maniacally. A nuclear freeze was the first step to a safer world, because if everyone had 10,237 ICBMs instead of 10,238 we might be less inclined to use them. The Soviets were our enemy only because we thought they were, which forced them to act like our enemy. Soldiers were brainwashed killbots or gung-ho rapist killbots who signed up only because Reagan had personally shuttered the doors of the local steel mill, depriving them of jobs. Of all wars in human history, Vietnam was the most typical. Higher taxes on the rich resulted in fewer poor people. The inexplicable mulishness of big business was the only thing that held back widespread adoption of solar power.

The world outside the campus was crass and stupid and run by the people who went to frats and sororities. Say no more.

That's what I believed. Althought sometimes I suspected that I really didn't.

This was the mid 80s. I was, at various times, the editorial page editor and the opinions page editor, and an op-page columnist for several years. If the guy who wrote that spit-on-Tillman piece had submitted it to me I would have rolled it up, dipped it in starch, and handed it back to him with the request that he jam it up his blowhole. Ungreased. No one on the paper would have run the piece. So what's changed? Maybe we laid the groundwork back then. Maybe we smoothed the path for those who saw America as an ignoble brute, something had to be checked wherever it moved.

As noted here and elsewhere, the fevered rants of the fringe have not only entered the mainstream, they’ve been embraced and amplified. Add to that the non-contiguous information stream problem, and you have an astonishing degree of polarization in the body politic. You say: duh. You say: what’s new. Well, here’s the problem: there seems to be an expectation that the next election will somehow settle everyone’s hash, and we move on from there. But the next election is just the beginning of the next phase of American politics. It gets ugly after next November. If some people think Bush is Hitler now, who will he be in 05 if he wins? Rabid Super Extra-Plus UltraHitler?

If the Dems lose big, then the party fades and slinks away and sulks, much as the Republicans did when they misjudged the zeitgeist and got pasted for it. How the party reacts, and how the ordinary patriotic Democrat voter reacts, I can’t say. Little impact on the local level, that’s for sure. But what about those people who already regard the Democrats as sell-outs and phonies, bought-and-paid-for corporate whores? That’s a subset, the ranting fringe. But you have to wonder what they’ll do if Bush wins They already seem to regard America as a lost cause; they see the fascist caul draped over the land, just as the demented home-grown terrorists of the 60s and 70s saw Amerikkka as irredeemably evil, a thing that had to be killed for The People to live. Most of the ranting fringe – 99.5% – will whine and seethe in the message boards of the Internet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if domestic leftist terrorism made a comeback this decade. It only takes a few, after all. And it only takes a few sympathizers here and there to shield them.

Again: I’m not saying I expect the author of that excrescence to make common cause with Al Qaeda and blow up buildings; I’m just saying I won’t be surprised when a few flaming nutballs take it to the next level. And I won’t be surprised if, 30 years hence, the editor of the college newspaper that published that tripe is a New York Times feature editor who commissions a profile on the bomber to mark his release from prison, or the publication of his book, or his appointment at Columbia. He would be described as a “unbowed” and a “reminder of a turbulent era” and perhaps someone whose “passion for social justice is undimmed.” Then, as now, the faces of the dead would not intrude on the profile. Although they might deign to mention their names.

I said last year that 04 was going to be ugly. I think 05 will be uglier.

On the lighter side! Ah, the things you find when you mistype google.

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c. 1995-2004 j. lileks