Saturday, 31 January 2009

Smug, Sleazy, And Wrong

So, originally, I had no intention on commenting on the spat between Jessica Alba and Bill O'Reilly. I mean, Alba was clearly right, and Sweden was neutral in WW2, but it's not like catching Bill-O spouting grotesque factual inaccuracies is particularly difficult, any more than it is finding examples of his thuggish bullying or ludicrous violations of basic logic. [1]

Then Jules Crittenden weighed in with a post that's wrong on several levels. Most involve the fact that his argument is transparently idiotic:
Might want to ask the Norwegians what they think about Swedish neutrality.
Why? Is an unpopular fact no longer true?
But let’s have some Swedes tell us about the neutrality they carefully maintained in difficult times as a result of policy decisions to seek a positive trade balance with another northern European nation, rather than engage in non-lucrative, potentially hazardous resistance operations.
Gosh, that sounds like they were neutral. Carefully so.
Great Britain, Australia and Canada chose to fight for others, at great cost.
This would only be relevant in an attempt to demonstrate Great Britain, Australia and Canada weren't neutral. To my knowledge, not even O'Reilly has attempted to make such an argument.
there is no such thing as neutrality when the fundamental sovereignty of peoples and civilization itself is at stake. Sweden, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, doesn’t matter. When the world is on fire, neutrality is the skirt under which selfish, cowardly nations hide.
Crittenden is claiming that anyone who doesn't follow one specific (and not widely recognised) definition of neutrality is "stupid"[2]. Actually, he isn't, since by his definition Switzerland wasn't neutral either and O'Reilly wrong too, but that apparently doesn't matter since it presents no opportunity to post pictures of an attractive woman in various states of undress. No, only Ms Alba must be schooled for her "mistake".

That's where we get to my other problem with his post. If Crittenden wants to argue the toss about the technical definition of neutrality during a global conflict, then he should by all means feel free to have at it. Calling people stupid for not following his particular definitions is ridiculously over-the-top, but that just makes him childish (in fairness he admits this in an update, though in pretty much the most juvenile way possible). What bothers me is that he combines his inconsistent, sloppily-composed arguments and his playground language with the suggestion that Alba should just stick to looking hot (all whilst accompanied by lascivious photographs). It's altogether too close to the standard sexist BS that a woman can't be simultaneously smart and sexy, and shouldn't even try. I'd be uneasy about the approach Crittenden took even if Alba had said something stupid (claiming Germany was neutral in WW2, for example), but given that her comment correlates with the vast majority of historical thinking, and the definition of "neutrality" as it is widely understood, the entire post seems to be based on attacking an attractive woman because she refused to be browbeaten by a powerful man.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I am compelled to admit that I too find Jessica Alba hot).

[1] I still can't decide whether to label the condition suffered by those who think situation X totally outrageous, morally bankrupt and worthy of significant punishment, but the slightest alteration makes it suddenly beyond any reproach. On the one hand, should it be "O'Reilly Syndrome" for lambasting Britney Spear's mother for "allowing" her teenage daughter to become pregnant and then going after those who made similar comments after Sarah Palin's teenage daughter became pregnant (difference: Sarah Palin "supervised" her daughter's dates)? On the other, perhaps "Ashcroft Syndrome" is a better name, after the latter flew into apoplectic rage at someone suggesting it is inconsistent to claim Americans water-boarding foreigners is an acceptable interrogation practice, but foreigners water-boarding Americans should be tried by international war crimes tribunals and sentenced to a decade of hard labour (difference: pouring water into the mouth rather than forcing it in).

Actually, on reflection, I might go for "Ashcroft Syndrome" purely because "O'Reilly Syndrome" would imply a total inability to understand the basics of rational thought and the habit of sending out TV crews to ambush those who point your stupidity out.

[2] Of course, within twelve lines he tells us that Sweden needs to do more to make up for having been neutral in WW2, so I guess he doesn't intend for us to put too much stock in his alternate definition.

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