In 1941, Ezekiel Bulver recounted the story of how, at the age of five, his destiny was determined when he heard his mother say to his father – who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third – “Oh, you say that because you are a man.”
“At that moment,” Bulver recalled, “there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.”
And so it still is today, nearly 70 years after C. S. Lewis imagined Ezekiel Bulver and coined the term “Bulverism” as an explanation for so much of the bat-crap craziness that passes as rational discourse. As Lewis put it, “you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became to be so silly.”
Sound familiar? It should – it has been the modus operandi of the teabaggers ever since Obama was elected. Their selective outrage is, well, outrageous. They seem to have conveniently forgotten all that transpired before that fateful election. Where were they a decade ago when China captured our spy-plane and its crew? Have they forgotten how that incident politically emasculated our curious-but-white George in the first few months of his presidency? Have they forgotten how the President of the Free World was reduced to reading “My Pet Goat” to schoolchildren as he waited for an excuse to re-assert his machismo? Have they forgotten how he used September 11 to foment his two misbegotten wars that are still spending this country into bankruptcy?
Forget, for the moment, the odd amnesia of our tea parties. They are mostly Republicans (and a few blue dogs) anyway, nimrods draped in faux patriotism, masquerading as something else to gloss over their obsolete prejudices and abject failures. There are signs that Bulverism is dying. Truth does still set us free, sometimes. After a century of trying, we are going to finally catch up with Europe and Canada and Japan and Israel by providing better access to healthcare for all Americans. All the racist rants and fear-mongering about socialism and communism and impending godlessness did not stop the Democrats from doing what the rest of the world has already figured out how to do. Huzzah, huzzah. Hooray for us!
But perhaps the most remarkable evidence that Ezekiel Bulver’s “great truth” is in desperately poor health (ironic, n’est pas?) lies in the arena of America’s foreign policy. For too long now, any criticism of Israel has been deflected by simply accusing the critic of anti-Semitism. Any discussion of systemic brutality, ethnic cleansing, or illegal occupation was never considered seriously because it was easy to dismiss as hopeless bigots all who dared utter such. The simple narrative endured, that the bullied Palestinians were somehow to blame for the Middle East’s schoolyard bully. In these last few weeks, however, there are new indications that more and more Americans are beginning to question the merits of our carte blanche endorsement of all that Israel is and does. A few brave souls from the screeching chorus of our once-vaunted Fourth Estate castrati are finally daring to peek behind the façade of our national love affair with Israel.
Here are some examples of stunning clarity in the midst of Bulver’s obfuscations. Robert Wright, in his New York Times commentary “Against ‘Pro-Israel’” (March 23): http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/23/against-pro-israel/ or http://nyti.ms/cGq61C
Wright’s commentary includes a link to the statement of General David Petraeus (CENTCOM commander) before the Senate Armed Services Committee (March 16):
Lara Friedman and Daniel Seidemann, in their Foreign Policy Magazine article “Jerusalem, settlements, and the ‘everybody knows’ fallacy” (March 19):
Mark Perry, in his Foreign Policy Magazine article “The Petraeus briefing: Biden’s embarrassment is not the whole story” (March 13):
Juan Cole, in his Informed Comment article “Top Ten Reasons East Jerusalem does not belong to Jewish-Israelis” (March 23):
And the list could go on and on. Is it springtime in America for clear thinking and honest self-examination? Our national landscape is littered with wackadoodles and wingnuts, a mob of fearful and angry people ripe for the picking by those who see in their passion and energy a pathway to political power. Our religious landscape is likewise strewn with superstitious zealots eager to hasten Armageddon, men and women who have been fundamentally “left behind” from the mainstream of international, progressive social compassion and cooperation. It is surely too soon to know if Bulverism is terminal or just ailing, but there are clear signs that a season of change is upon us.