June 20, 2006

When the World Goes Mad

I have a sneaking suspicion that Fafnir, the Medium Lobster and Giblets are spending endless, carefree days at the beach, or otherwise engaged in suspiciously suspicious suspicious activities. I think I may need to have a chat with Mr. Gonzales about this matter. Very intermittent posting over at Fafblog. Suspicious, right? It seems so to me, even though I am usually a remarkably, even naively, trusting fellow. But we live in dangerous times, and those Fafblog folk sometimes strike me as downright odd.

After grappling with my disappointment upon finding that the last post is still dated June 13, I reread that last entry. In his inimitably brilliant fashion, Giblets explains the true nature of the evil represented by those who committed suicide at Guantanamo, and of our enemies more generally. Who else but Giblets can tear aside the secrecy that seeks to shroud the dastardliness of those who "break their bones on helpless guards' fists, and waterboard themselves to their heart's content," and who "launch[...] unprovoked assaults on innocent American bullets"? No one, that's who. Well, maybe Fafnir. On a good day.

But a couple of sentences struck me with a bit more force on this second reading: "'Oh but Giblets there are dozens of innocent prisoners in Guantanamo' you say because you are a namby-pamby appeasenik who suckles at the teat of terror. Well if these Guantanamo prisoners are so innocent then what are they doing in Guantanamo?" Absurdly lunatic, and wonderfully funny in one sense. And yet...

This is probably an obvious point, one that many of you have already thought of. But I think it deserves emphasis. This is actually and literally what those who defend the existence of Guantanamo and the numerous surveillance state intrusions of the Bush administration argue. It's the flip side of the argument that says, in one form or another, "We're at war. Sometimes civil liberties have to be curtailed. The balance between liberty and safety must be struck somewhat differently. And if you're not doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about."

The unavoidable implication of that last statement, which usually is left implicit, is that if you are in Guantanamo or if the government comes after you in some other fashion, then you have done something wrong. Otherwise, you wouldn't be in trouble. It's usually left unstated precisely because, when it's offered in anything like the manner Giblets states it, its ludicrousness is immediately apparent. (I've discussed these kinds of arguments in favor of the growing surveillance state -- which is a major step on the road to full-fledged dictatorship -- from a different perspective in this post.)

I didn't title an essay from a couple of months ago "Lunatic World" for no reason. In the insane universe of the Bush administration, where the meaning of words and morality itself are entirely inverted, and where Bush's most zealous advocates sometimes achieve a brief advantage simply by overwhelming us with the weight of impenetrable incoherence and lunacy, satire can sometimes find only an uncertain, faltering foothold. It can be difficult to satirize a world that has gone mad.

And when satire becomes close to impossible, we are in very serious trouble. As, indeed, we are. But I hope Fafblog returns to regular business very soon. They are more than up to the challenge, and we need their wisdom. And in addition to being deliriously funny, they seem positively sane compared to those who lead us. Which, I suppose, also tells us something about where we are.