Classic Self-Parody Courtesy Jonah Goldberg (w/Update)

Full post here. This is great:

I should also say that some of the attempts to turn the lapel flag thing into a de mimimis issue leave me underwhelmed as well. “It’s just a lapel pin!” seems to be a common refrain among liberals flabbergasted that they’re on defense about all this. I understand, at least when the frustration is in good faith. But it’s really not just a lapel pin any more than the flag is just a piece of cloth at the end of a stick. Even flag burners acknowledge this point, which is why they burn flags and not blankets or bar towels. If John McCain wore a confederate flag lapel pin, very few of these people would be saying “it’s just a lapel pin.” Symbolism matters. Symbols stand for something. That’s why we call them symbols.

I seem to recall something about McCain and the Confederate flag…..what was it.

Oh yeah (my italics):

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CNN) — Former GOP presidential candidate John McCain called for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from atop the South Carolina Statehouse on Wednesday, acknowledging that his refusal to take such a stance during his primary battle for the Palmetto State was a “sacrifice of principle for personal ambition.” (April 19th, 2000)

To be fair the criticism isn’t really of McCain as it is of the media and the double standard and the lack of recent historical memory (a la Goldberg).

Update I: Per Matthew’s comment, if it was unclear that I didn’t get this, yes the main point of Goldberg’s post was about symbols and how symbols matter and you don’t go treading on symbols lightly and act like hey no big deal it’s just a symbol. Agreed.

I still disagree with Goldberg’s take on Obama relative to this, but on the symbols matter front, agreed.

Given that I have a 2,000 year old symbol of Roman execution and torture and the hope of Christian salvation (cross) united with a roughly 3,000 year old Indian symbol of the nature of reality (Karmic wheel) tattooed on my back I think I understand the power of symbols. Literally, in the flesh.

I feel it is a tad pedantic I have to mention that at all and seems to me some bad faith on the part of my interlocutor, but so that’s all square, there it is.

My parody point was that I found it quite amusing that in the midst of that argument he ends up creating a hypothetical to prove his point that inadvertently has him reviving an actual historical event that plays poorly (worse than Obama?) to McCain. JG ends up in a pile o’ actual historical flag issue dog s–t because of his (unnecessary) hypothetical. It’s only that much better because it actually has to do with a flag and with the Confederate flag even (the one mentioned in his hypothetical!!!). That he would not at all find any irony in that comparison is for me classic. To mix my metaphors, talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Or the clavicle or the frontal lobe maybe.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 9:29 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. Why don’t you spell out how this is (you choose) “classic”, “self”, or “parody”. I’m afraid the way your mind works is not the least self-evident.

    It is amazing to me (and this is a long-running reaction) how willfully you ignore basic, common sense. The point is that symbols matter. It is there, in black and white. That is all.

    Yours is the dramatization of the highlarity of the “teacher: you can’t step in the same river twice; student: you can’t even step in it once!” school of commentary. Yours being the student, of course.

  2. I understand the point about how symbols matter. I just find it very amusing that in trying to make that simple point Goldberg ends up making a “what if” that actually undercuts his own argument and makes himself look rather foolish in my eyes.

    Here’s what I mean.

    Yes of course if John McCain wore a symbol of white supremacy on his lapel people would rightly say that it isn’t just a pin. And people who correctly go bat shit crazy over it.

    The equation of that hypothetical with Obama’s situation of course assumes Obama meant everybody who wears a flag-pin, which I don’t think he did. If as Obama says he was referring to politicians and how they used the flag as a cover instead of thinking and voting based on US security (which he takes to be more important to the definition of patriotism than only wearing a flag or worse using it as cover), then presumably Obama gets the point about symbolism quite well. Though in a different manner in which Goldberg is referring to.

    So I think the analogy first off is a poor one and doesn’t work.

    That would be the end of it, except that Goldberg writes as if there is no actual historical event even semi-closely related on this issue involving McCain. As opposed to this hypothetical he conjures up. But unfortunately the hypothetical he sets up accidentally stumbles upon and trips backwards over the actual event that they did take place.

    Double irony alert given it’s Goldberg and his constant refrain about conservatives have and must pay for their sins but progressives never do theirs.

    The event in question recall in which McCain well understood the power of flag symbols and lied publicly in order to advance his career politically, going as he himself admitted against his own conscience, to support the symbol of white supremacy. For some votes. While at the exact same time triple tragic irony alert his adopted Indian daughter was being called a “black baby” in the same state as a political tool against him. Which btw worked, since symbols matter.

    Does that say anything about McCain’s “character”? Should I decide to vote against him because of that?

    Oh, but of course Obama’s case is so very different (or is it the same? I’m confused now).

    Symbols do in fact matter and they can have positive as well as negative effects.

    Sometimes symbolism overrides principles. And if you take Obama at his word–which you I doubt do–but if you do (since we’re allowed hypotheticals here) then he made a stand of his principles over the symbolism which McCain did not.

    And such a standing up for principle is itself symbolic.

    peace. cj

  3. Snicker. Normal, common sense dictates “stop” when, in arguing against a point, you concede the truth of the point. But I know that normal, common sense doesn’t seem to apply to your values. So I snicker at your display.

    Regarding the wholly unrelated McCain thing you are enmeshed within:

    Yes, it reflects poorly on his character.

    Did he, though, call his critics “liars”?

    And, no, I don’t take any politician at his word when he/she is on the defensive. The job description is to say anything in moments like that. Anything necessary to put out the fire.

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