This isn't really the sort of blog where one would go to find commentary on the news, though I certainly air my political opinions in this space. I have tried, in fact, over the last few months to come at political questions through the lens of language. But I wanted to note my reaction to reading this intellectually incoherent piece of self-justifying gibberish by Michael Ignatieff. In his essay, the former Harvard professor equates the "ideological" motives of the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq with the "ideological" motives of those who opposed the war. Apparently, this former political science professor believes in the existence of some non-ideological space from which wise politicians might make decisions. In doing so & by making a faint gesture toward his own -- oh, completely honest! -- misunderstanding of the data in the run-up to the Iraq War, Mr. Ignatieff wishes to excuse his own culpability. To which I say, Go to hell. I remember reading discussions online as Bush was warming up his special little treat for Americans that very clearly laid out the disaster waiting to happen. These were just ordinary Americans -- the ones who have been vilified over the last five years as "traitors" -- who could actually see what was going one. Were they -- were we -- "ideological?" Of course, since it is impossible to be anything else. The point is, we were right & the tribe of Harvard political scientists & their ilk, Washington journalists, & political hacks . . . were wrong. The truth was out there, but it was invisible unless you had the right equipment on your telescope. The right ideology. The essay is a monument to the kind analysis that pretends to be honest, self-aware, objective, anti-ideological, fair, balanced, & politically neutral, when it is in fact epistemologically & morally vacuous. Utterly without content. As analysis, Ignatieff's piece is a simulacrum of criticism, assuming its own disinterested stance while decrying the "ideological" stances of others to the right or to the left. Its very essence is to avoid political commitment. Ignatieff is the representative of a tribe of specters, eidolons, ghosts & blood suckers. Dangerous spirits without substance, who float through the world working their mischief. Their language is a rattle of dry sticks, a rustle of old newspapers, & gunfire. I think we are in rat's alley. Update: See David Rees' amazing take-down of  Ignatieff at Huffington Post.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

3 thoughts on “Gibbersih”

  1. Yes. In essence, Ignatieff is the perfect “liberal” politician — he is trying to be everything to everyone without being anything to anyone.

    I couldn’t bring myself to finish the piece.

  2. “Dangerous spirits without substance, who float through the world working their mischief.”

    I agree about dangerous spirits, but they’re not trying to work mischief: they’re dangerously poor and desperate gamblers always betting the wrong side while simultaneously cheating in ways they think will help them win but which actually guarantee their defeat.

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