The words "libelous" and ‘the New Republic" have a proud history of walking arm-in-arm. Now, in the esteemed tradition of [former TNR writer who peddled fiction as fact] Stephen Glass, The New Republic has stooped to a new low, publishing a piece that calls for violence, torture, and even death for leading leftists who dare oppose Bush’s war on terror and the slaughter in Iraq.
Author Tom Frank — clearly from the Glass School of Journalism the New Republic has made famous — described sitting in on an anti-war panel sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, the Washington Peace Center, the DC Anti-War Network and other groups.
After having heard the 100 plus attendees cheer sentiments like "Money for Jobs and Education Not For War and Occupation," Frank became so riled up, he unloaded a deranged harangue about the suffering he would like to rain upon people daring to organize against this war. After Stan Goff, a former Delta Forces soldier and current organizer for Military Families Speak Out, expressed sentiments like "We ain’t never resolved nothing through an election," Frank’s jag began. Clearly too doughy to do it himself, Frank started to fantasize about a Teutonic strongman who could shut Goff up.
Frank writes, "What I needed was a Republican like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] who would walk up to [Goff] and punch him in the face."
As the panel continued, every cheer and standing ovation seemed to set Frank deeper down a path of psychosis. After International Socialist Review editorial board member Sherry Wolf asserted that Iraqis had a "right" to rebel against occupation, Frank upped the ante in his efforts to intimidate anyone considering entry into the anti-war movement.
He wrote, ‘these weren’t harmless lefties. I didn’t want Nancy Pelosi talking sense to them; I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through the wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation."
Later, when Wolf quoted Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy’s defense of the right to resist, Frank was sent into such a state of panic, he once again dreamed of the mighty hand of state repression, writing, "Maybe sometimes you just want to be on the side of whoever is more likely to take a bunker buster to Arundhati Roy."
Interestingly, Frank didn’t have the guts to slander another one of the panel speakers, exonerated death row inmate Shujaa Graham. Graham, who has been moved to speak out against the torture of Iraqi prisoners by intimately connecting their pain with his own experience of torture in California’s death row, escaped Frank’s pen. I guess it’s hard to pose fantasy threats of torture and death toward someone who has actually looked it in the face.
We can write this piece off as just another one of the smarmy New Republic 20-something writers getting his jollies slamming the left. We can say that Frank — his entire piece an exercise in poorly executed humor, ill-written grammar, and awkward phrasing — just forgot to break his Prozac in half that morning. But there is something far more insidious at work here.
This piece is yet another effort to intimidate and silence people who aren’t willing to toe the "party line" espoused by Democrats and Republicans alike that the death of 1,400 US troops and 100,000 Iraqi civilians is somehow justified. Frank’s piece is an exercise in hate and intimidation. To be quiet in its face is to give ground in a period when we have precious little to give.
Therefore, this is a call for people to e-mail The New Republic and let them know what you think about humorous musings on killing Arundhati Roy or torturing Stan Goff. Let them know that a disgraced magazine will not intimidate us, especially one with the credibility of The National Enquirer. Let them know that we will publicly debate Tom Frank or any of their 20 something post-graduate hacks on the merits of this war anytime and any place. This is the only way to deal with darkness: shine as bright a light as possible — right in it’s face.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to let them know what you think. We are also considering a picket of the New Republic Offices, for those interested.
DAVE ZIRIN’s new book "What’s My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance in the United States will be in stores in June 2005. You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing email@example.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.