Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

July 3, 2008

I’m not feeling very good about myself right now

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:57 pm

A few weeks ago, I learned that I can be a coward.

One day some weeks ago, I had what was started out as a delightful experience. I went to a writing seminar with a well-known, highly-experienced journalist from Fargo for a writing seminar.

It was great. I learned a lot, and not just stuff about good composition. That’s something you can find in any number of sources. We learned some of the myriad little hints and tricks that make the difference between the product of a journalistic education and a real pro.

The presenter was great. He was an older man who spoke movingly about the toll taken on his spirit by covering some horrendous multiple homicides in Minnesota, and some horrific accidents. And he told us about the delight of his little grand-daughter that her beloved grampa was moving just a block away from her when he returned to North Dakota.

He talked about journalistic ideals, with entertaining and inspiring examples from life, and from movies such as Humphrey Bogart’s Deadline USA.

He was not only generous with his advice, but with his time. Since not all of the writing samples we had previously submitted for critique had been delivered, he offered to have us submit samples by email for his evaluation.

Then at the end, he mentioned in passing that he admired Che Guevara.

Think of that for a minute.

He admires a man who:

-Shot a heavily pregnant woman in the belly to make a political point.

-Wrote his father early in his career, “Papa, today I killed a man, and I think I like it!”

-Set up his office with a window above the execution grounds so he could watch the hundreds, or thousands, he sent to their deaths, murdered by his loyal thugs.

-A man whom the goddam KGB thought was too extreme for their purposes!

But perhaps all you need to know about Che, was that unlike his many victims who faced the firing squands shouting, “Viva el Christo Rey! Viva Cuba libre!” or sometimes on a less exalted note, “Shoot you maricones!” Che was captured after dropping a fully loaded automatic weapon, shouting, “I am Che Guevara and I’m worth more alive than dead!”

This man is not alone. Jean-Paul Sartre, Ted Turner, Jack Nicholson, Naomi Campbell, Steven Spielberg are among the luminaries who have made the pilgrimage to the shrine of Che and Fidel.

And still I want to ask, for God’s sake why?

Motive is one thing you can’t know for sure, but I’ve got a couple of ideas.

Perhaps some men who achieve affluence and influence in a free society will never have enough, because they can only have the power and deference of their fellow men that money and fame buy – not the abject fear that the power to kill gives.

And why would they want that?

Though I say it who am one, intellectuals tend to be more than a bit on the wimpy side. They admire strength, they want to be strong, but they don’t know what strength is and too damned often they think strength is brutality.

I despise people like this. I despise them in academia, entertainment, journalism and all areas of public life. I think all decent people should scorn them openly, and their families should be made to feel ashamed of them.

And yet I said nothing – and I despise myself for it.

I could have said, “Oh, you admire a man who… (pick one of the above)?”

Instead I went along to get along. Perhaps, in some small manner of exculpation, I was too shocked by the cognitive dissonance of this kindly, humane and sensitive man worshipping at the shrine of brutality.

And then again, perhaps at the back of my mind was the thought, I am working at the entry level of a profession he is a master of and wields influence in. And I’ve got a family too.

I suppose the Fargo Forum has good reason to think Mr. Haga is a first-class reporter, a great writer, acts according to the high standards we like to think the profession stands for, and his personal opinions are his own business.

So do you think that a man who admires murdering thugs and justifies mass murderer will scruple to lie if he thinks the cause he admires justifies it?

Do you think anyone would have a job in journalism or academica, no matter what his qualifications were, if he told a class, “I really admire that Ted Bundy, he really knew how to treat those %^&*s.”

And as for the state journalism association which sponsors these delightful seminars, to paraphrase Kipling:

If print is print or words are words, the learned Court perpends: —
We are not schoolled by murderers, but only — by their friends.

Note: This also appeared in The Atlasphere http://www.theatlasphere.com/myaccount/login.php?path=/members/index.php

7 Comments »

  1. It’s hard to take a strong stand, or do something brave, if you haven’t thought it through ahead of time.

    This is why militaries practice combat maneuvers over and over – not to desensitize or brutalize soliders (as leftists would have one believe), but just to familiarize troops with the basic actions of fire and maneuver, and make them seem doable even under threatening conditions.

    I understand why you feel a bit ashamed. Don’t. The past is done.

    What you should do now is hone your mental image of yourself as someone who speaks out against government oppression (so that failing to do so will be dissonant), and mentally rehearse what you will say in the future.

    Then, if it ever happens again, you will be prepared – the decision will be precomputed, and all that will be left is the actual execution. Bravery is hard. Unrehearsed bravery is harder.

    TJIC

    Comment by TJIC — July 5, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  2. I suspect that the guy is probably unaware of the atrocities of Che.

    In hindsight, confronting him would not have been the best course of action. The best thing to do would have been to quietly pull him aside afterwards and inform him that, “I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of everyone, but I think that you should know that Che committed x, y, and z atrocities. Hopefully nobody else in the audience knows that, but I suspect that at least some of them do. I don’t know if any of them were offended, but I suspect they are.”

    Comment by Joseph Sixpack — July 5, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

  3. Not a bad idea, but do you think the guy is really unaware of the facts?

    The thing about intellectuals fascinated with thuggishness is, victims in a faraway land, and perhaps of different color, are not quite real to them.

    The archtypical example is George Bernard Shaw, another kindly and gentle man who in his time lionized both Hitler and Stalin.

    Interestingly, this didn’t seem to affect the warm friendship Winston Churchill felt for him.

    Comment by Steve Browne — July 6, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  4. I understand how you feel, on both levels. I’ve often seen people wearing this monster’s image. Whenever I do, I’m tempted to ask why they admire him- is it the cold blooded murders, the apparent cowardice in the face of real danger, the incompetence he usually displayed, the slovenliness, the incessant babbling about Marxist principles, or the destruction of the environment.

    However, sometimes one must swallow one’s own disgust and contempt for his worshippers along with the bile, and do what one must. Politics is something you can’t bring up in every setting.

    But I agree with you- this man would have to be a fool to be unaware of who Che really was. It’s a bit more acceptable from a 20 year old student. Not somebody that was alive when this animal was on the rampage.

    Fun fact: Supposedly, “Che” is just an Argentine word meaning, essentially, “Dude”. He called everyone “Che” and got the nickname. So he was just another leftist student who never outgrew it.

    Comment by gun-totin-wacko — July 6, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  5. I’m going to have to attribute this to incompetence rather than malice, or, rather, ignorance rather than atrocity-worship. As far as they know, and according to the public wisdom, Che Guevara was a freedom fighter – any knowledge they may have encountered about his specific deeds probably washed off them like raindrops off an umbrella, because, as a freedom fighter, he was sure to have done a few violent and nasty things. They’ve never heard the full story and no single fact was ever enough to dislodge the incorrect common perception.

    Another possibility: when he said that he admired Che Guevara, he was using the words “Che Guevara” as code for whatever mysterious positive traits that the man’s modern myth maintains that he displayed.

    In either case, you of all people should recognize that admiration for a thug like Che Guevara does not indicate a well-exercised capacity for deep thought.

    Comment by Mark — July 6, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  6. Without being there, I can’t even guess one way or the other whether he knew about Che’s atrocities. I’ll trust your judgment. Regardless, I still think my approach is better. Rather than immediately putting him on the defensive by confrontation, I’ve found there is a more effective and enjoyable effect from my approach.

    Especially if you are a good actor and can seem sincere, it conveys a message of, “oh no, you poor ignorant fool, you just embarassed yourself terribly, but I want to help you out to ensure that you don’t do it again.” It effectively insults him, makes him feel like a moron, and discourages him from defensively retorting, since he detects no ill will when you pretend to be trying to help him.

    Comment by Joseph Sixpack — July 6, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

  7. When you mentioned this was a media-type/journalist convention, it kind of lessened the impact of this fool’s idolatry.
    Since to this very day, 1-Most journalists are leftist, and 2-They’ve been schooled to worship anyone whose portrayed as a pioneer of Marxist-Leninism, it may have caught you completely by surprise that this “sensitive, intellectual” would laud a flaming Communist to the skies…But I digress:
    In such an environment, any contradiction would have been hotly shouted down by choruses of Bush-Hitler comparisons, charges of “religious-right, Fundamentalist whackjob” and any other noise sufficient to protect the ears of the non-pious.
    As I’ve learned through dear-bought experience, discretion is the better part of valor (For those of you from Miami-Dade Co. FL, that means “An empty wagon rattles the most.” – Will Rogers.

    Comment by Ted — July 8, 2008 @ 12:28 am

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