I Said Good Day, Sir!

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Memo to Scott Johnson of Lakeville: YOU ARE DUMB.

Time to kick it old-school. Been a while since I've done one of these - a stupid letter to the editor. That's mainly because the Star-Tribune's letters page has steadfastly refused to break much new ground in the field of expression of retarded opinion lately. The usual, boring tropes have dominated, plus it's election season, so they're printing tons of identical "X IS GREAT AND Y SUCKS VOTE FOR X" letters.

Which is why Scott Johnson of Lakeville struck me as a breath of fetid air. Anyone who's been following modern political debate in the Information Age knows there are certain tools of the trade employed for specific effect. So it was with great amazement that I watched Scott Johnson systematically misuse a good-sized handful of those tools in just one letter.

What raised Johnson's ire enough to cause him to write in was another letter to the editor. That letter had ALSO used one of the standard tools, the hypothetical comparison. Now, I hate the hypothetical comparison. It's used to imply that people who support policy X would oppose policy X if it were implemented by some group they did not like. You know, the "You Democrats would love tax cuts if Ted Kennedy were pushing them." That kind of thing. Anyway, you can get the essentials from Johnson's letter, so it's ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"An Oct. 5 letter writer stated, 'Imagine the outrage if Iran declared its right to seize any American, hold him or her indefinitely, and without the right to challenge.'

Perhaps this writer is unaware of what happened on Nov. 4, 1979, when Iranians took control of the U.S. embassy in Iran and held U.S. citizens and diplomats hostage for 444 days. Furthermore, Iran's current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was allegedly among the hostage takers.

Where is your outrage now, sir?"

Last things first, the Sir Gambit. The Sir Gambit always cracks me up. The Scott Johnsons of this world think that by throwing those three letters in there, they can elevate their little letters page squabble to the height of the Lincoln-Douglass debates. But it's more like putting a powdered wig on a chihuahua. Sir.

The main gist of the letter, of course, is the same kind of thing we saw a lot last week with the Foley stuff. You undercut the other side's moral high ground by pointing out that, at some point in the past, they supported something that's at least superficially similar to what they're bitching about now.

Except here, it makes no sense. The original letter writer was complaining about the Torture and Gutting of Habeas Corpus Act of 2006. Which deals with the government sanctioning the indefinite detention of prisoners. Scott Johnson would have us believe that the Iranian hostage crisis was the EXACT SAME THING. Yes, a mob of students overtaking an embassy and grabbing hostages (even with the tacit approval of the government) is just like Guantanamo.

Which is ridiculous on two counts. First, it's obviously not the same thing at all. And second, if it WERE the same thing at all, then Scott Johnson is saying that the US government is just as bad as the Iranian hostage takers, who we're supposed to be outraged at. Which I'm guessing isn't Scott Johnson's point, as the "Ahmadinejad was a hostage taker!" bit is old rightie demonize-Iran rhetoric from last year.

But if I could pose one question rhetorically to Scott Johnson, it'd be this - why are we supposed to be outraged about the Iranian hostage crisis again? It ended 25 years ago. It doesn't even work as a strawman argument, because even on the crazy fringes, you'd have a hell of a time coming up with some lefty saying "It sure was a good thing those students held Americans hostage for over a year." That'd be like finding a right-wing commentator who supported the Japanese internment camps.

Where is his outrage now? It's THEN. In the early 80s, where it belongs, right next to the leg-warmers and Michael Sembello. Where it belongs. Anyone expressing outrage now about the Iranian hostage crisis is just some moron trying to shove his square point through a tiny, round hole, and should be mocked accordingly.

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