Have been sitting here insomniacally for the last two hours musing about the fuss over Kos and Kathryn Cramer’s comments on the Fallujah killings of last week. I think Cramer comes out better; she posted some irresponsible speculations, and then withdrew them and apologised for it. In my line of work we come across the sort of links that she thought she had found all the time; sometimes the evidence we have is not sufficient to publish, although we may feel (or have it on good, non-attributable authority) that we’ve got it right. Putting an account of the entire research process on-line, including accounts of false leads or insufficiently supported leads, would be, er, foolish, as she has now discovered.

Having said that, the threats of physical violence she has been getting are disgusting, and it’s absolutely weird that the nutcases who are harassing her are now objecting to the fact that she retracted and withdrew her original comments.

Kos is a somewhat different matter. He has his own sincerely held views on Fallujah, based on his own personal experiences, which make uncomfortable reading even for people who generally agree with him. The specific direct action that his right-wing opponents succeeded in doing was to persuade several of his advertisers to pull their sponsorship of his site. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of it, that sort of tactic (as opposed to the death threats which he has also received) is surely fair enough. As a student activist I supported the boycott of Barclays for their involvement in South Africa, and of Nestle because of their campaigns against breast-feeding (the latter quite a sacrifice because I live on Nescafé). If you dish it out you have to be prepared to take it, and it seems that Kos is indeed prepared to take the consequences of publishing unpopular views. That too is fair enough; I disagree with what he said, but I think it would be a poorer world if he was prevented from saying it.

Some years ago – eight, to be precise – a friend of mine was threatened by the listowner of a political discussion list, most of whose subscribers had a different point of view to ours; he had sent her a private (if somewhat rude) email which she then posted to the list, with the comment “Do with him as you will”. He and I signed up to her list ourselves, and over the next weekend we both responded to every post, putting our point of view. This of course generated a lot of traffic from people who disagreed with us and weren’t used to an argument. And even more from the subscribers who came in on the Monday morning to find that they had 300 messages in their inboxes (those were more innocent days, when this was unusual). We were basically kicked off the list in the end. Legitimately enough, in fairness, though it did expose the pretensions of the list owner (and many of the subscribers) to openness and tolerance as the hypocrisy they were.

What troubles me about American political discourse, though, is the sheer gulf between the two sides and the intransigent nastiness of the debate. Death threats and threats of violence appear to be standard fare from some parts of the right. I don’t notice the same sort of tactic being used by lefties against right-wing commentators; maybe I’m not looking hard enough? And I also don’t notice more moderate right-wing commentators feeling under the same pressure to distance themselves from their violent political allies as the left have been to distance themselves from Kos, who has not actually directly threatened anybody.

Our work email is down, but I shall go in now and try to finish the infamous Kosovo paper.

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1 Response to Insomnia

  1. mizkit says:


    I do like her. She and the young woman playing Castle’s daughter on the eponymous show are possibly the most awesome redheads in show biz right now. 🙂

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