October 06, 2002
Max Sawicky Has A Little List

Max Sawicky has finally stooped to do a tiny bit of the research he should have done before he wrote his piece, and provided evidence he claims will back up his assertion that warbloggers "hail" Oliver North "as an American hero". His whole reply is worth a good fisking:

AXIS OF WEEVIL. You never know what will set people off. Perhaps it's just the awesomely burgeoning power of MaxSpeak. Maybe it's the collapse of the N.Y. Yankees, or the heartbreak of psoriasis. One never knows. I was on a rant about the utterly fallacious descriptions in bloggerdom of what Reps. David Bonior and James McDermott said in Iraq. I compared it with the benign view of a person like Ollie North, whose response to America's terrorist enemies in at least one case was very different.

Actually, one good way to set people off is to tell lies about them. Another is to refuse to apologize or even to admit it when you are caught out. Still a third is to make other people do your homework for you.

The Weevil One demands I supply quotations from warbloggers to justify my assertion that North is hailed as a hero by warbloggers. I have already acknowledged that the term 'warbloggers' was more general than I wanted to be. Right-wing bloggers would have been more apt. I still think W is being too literalist. My point was the general reception of persons who had some encounter with the nation's enemies. There is little doubt that Ollie was hailed as a hero by the Right after his testimony in the Iran-Contra affair. This of course was before the advent of the Internet as a mass medium. He later obtained the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Virginia and nearly defeated Chuck Robb. This was well before the proliferation of blogs. His celebrity seems undimmed, although he is not nearly the news item he used to be. For one thing, he doesn't look as good as Ann Coulter in a leopard mini-skirt.

The part about how he should have said "right-wing warbloggers" instead of "warbloggers" in general is mere misdirection: no one thought he was alleging that 'Hesiod' or 'Atrios' or 'Dr. Menlo' is a North fan. "His celebrity seems undimmed, although he is not nearly the news item he used to be" looks an awful lot like an obvious contradiction in terms: surely the less often in the news, the less of a celebrity? The whole argument is faulty: North is on the right, was hailed as a hero by many on the right, 'warbloggers' are all on the right (ooops, not really), therefore they must be fans. Too bad the evidence does not in fact support the argument. And too bad Sawicky isn't honest enough to admit it.

Perhaps the Weevil-doers believe there is a disconnect between the Right and right-wing bloggers. I very much doubt this. I have collected a few links by bloggers with positive references to Ollie North. None use the word 'hero,' and none go overboard with praise. But I think it's hard to see North as a pariah among right-wing bloggers, although he certainly deserves to be. Here's a little list:

In fact there is a very deep and wide disconnect between the part of the Right that hails North as a hero and the parts of the far Right, moderate Right, solid Middle, moderate Left, and non-moonbat Libertarians that have weblogs and are routinely dismissed as 'warbloggers' because they support war on Islamicist terror and (in most cases) war on Iraq. The list Sawicky provide does not include hot-links, in some cases links only to the front page, and includes no specific anchor links (the #80628105 part at the end) for the many Blogspot entries. I guess that would have been too much work. I have done lazy Max's work for him and supplied all that information. I had never heard of most of the blogs quoted, and none treat North as "an American hero". Here are the results (casual readers may wish to skip down the next unnumbered paragraph):

  1. Junk Yard Blog (4/17/02):
    "Ollie North suggested last night on Fox that Saddam was really behind the renewed violence in the West Bank. No surprise there, . . . ." JYB quotes something North said as unsurprising: not much of a recommendation.
  2. I Can Blog! (3/17/02):
    "Ollie North reminds us that West Point celebrated its bicentennial yesterday." Mere factual reference, proving only that he reads North and approves of celebrating military anniversaries.
  3. Kevin Holtsberry (4/10/02):
    "Ollie North live and in person
    Just got back from a lunch where Ollie North spoke. Say what you will about the man but he is charming, funny, and intelligent speaker.
    He told a hillarious story about being searched at an airport before anyone realized who he was. It involved him with his shoes and belt off, his bag emptied on the table, and state troopers frisking him! An, in hindsight, ill-timed joke about an underwear bomb le[d] to most of the trouble." Positive, but not exactly hero-worship.
  4. Hose Monster Blog (7/30/02):
    "When celebrities came to our campus to pitch their particular causes or give speeches on various subject material or whatever, our paper usually managed to steal about an hour away for an interview and pictures. During my four years of college, I had the change to hang and listen to Jerry Springer, Patricia Ireland, Oliver North, Wyclef Jean and Tori Amos, among others (I don't remember all of them). Good times. On the whole, they seemed to be pretty cool people. I especially enjoyed talking with Patricia Ireland and Oliver North." Quite positive in a non-partisan way: I imagine neither Patricia Ireland nor Oliver North would be particularly pleased to be paired with the other.
  5. JamesReubenHaney.com (7/13/02):
    "OLIVER NORTH TELLS AMERICANS to "Go to Israel, you cowards." Quoted with approval by a blogger in (I think) Ireland I'd never heard of.
  6. Kevin Kelley-Media and Policy Review (google only). Since Sawicky provides no workable link, and doesn't say what search string led him to this "google only" page, I'm going to assume that this is the same as #8 until proven otherwise. False reference?
  7. Real Clear Politics (10/6/02):
    This is nothing but a long list of editorials by various people in various journals. Several of them are by Oliver North. Since when is including someone in an index a sign of hero-worship? Bare link: not pertinent.
  8. Kevin Kelley-Media and Policy Review (8/23/02):
    Kelley is quoting an e-mailed rant from a friend named Mike Craychee, apparently not a blogger:
    "Oliver North had a great piece the other day on Hannity and Colmes where he laid out the reasons for Europe’s resistance. He claims that when we attack Iraq and get to the chemical and biological weapons plants we’re going to find that European companies have been selling Saddam the means and technology to manufacture his weapons. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the teeth?"
    Kelley's only comment (on this and much more) is "Nice work Mike!" Second-hand, and therefore non-pertinent.
  9. The Internet Monk:
    A link to North's page at the Washington Time in a long list of other links. Bare link: non-pertinent.
  10. Cato the Youngest (9/3/02):
    'Cato' quotes a North article at length, and then says "North is right" and comments a bit more. Positive, and I've certainly heard of 'Cato' and may well have linked to him now and then, though he's not on my blogroll (not yet, anyway). This is the best evidence offered so far, and still falls far short of hero-worship.
  11. Reductio ad Absurdum / Kevin Whited's Reason Forum v4.0 (9/28/01):
    "On rare occasions, Oliver North is spot on; this is one of them." Quite a back-handed compliment: obviously Whited is not much of a fan in general.
  12. Libertarian Samizdata (1/24/02):
    "And, once again, it looks like the US military that is taking the battle to the enemy in the shape of the formidable Colonel Oliver North who has rather brusquely told the United Nations exactly where they can stick their 'Global Tax'" Positive, and from a well-known site, but as Aristotle said "one swallow does not make spring". And calling someone "formidable" is a long way from hero-worship.
  13. Neo-Libertarian News Portal (7/11/02):
    This is quoted from a friend who is an Army ranger, and apparently not a blogger. It is number 10 in a list of 13 items in a rant on "What Civilians Can Do For The Military":
    "Don't try to discuss politics with a military member or a veteran. We are Americans and we all bleed the same regardless of our party affiliation. Our Chain of Command, to include our Commander in Chief...the President... (for those who didn't know) is all that we acknowledge. We have no inside track on what happens inside those big important buildings where all those "representatives" meet. All we know is that when those civilian representatives screw up the situation, they call upon the military to go straighten it out. The military member might direct you to Oliver North. (I can see him kicking your butt already.)" Second-hand, and therefore non-pertinent. North is not treated as a good or intelligent man, but just someone who could kick your butt. I imagine he could kick most of our butts.
  14. Dean Esmay (7/24/02):
    "If I could makeup my own candidate he’d be part Ross Perot, part Jessie Ventura, part Pat Buchanan and part Oliver North." This is from a comment on Dean's World by someone named Skylar Colfax (perhaps not his real name). Dean did not write it, and it is therefore invalid as evidence.
  15. Power Line (9/1/02):
    "Two pieces of commentary in today's Washington Times, one by Cal Thomas and the other by Oliver North, discuss the fact of, and reasons for, European opposition to taking on Saddam Hussein. The Europeans seem to be relying on the doubts of certain American luminaries, while those luminaries rely on lack of support by the Europeans. I am married to a European and most of the Europeans I know are charming and cultured people. Yet the Europeans as a group have been wrong about almost every major issue (the Cold War, Hitler, socialism, religious freedom, etc.) for as long as anyone can remember." Uses a North article to back up his own statements. No sign of hero-worship.
  16. Regnum Crucis (8/23/02):
    "Oliver North sounds off on the NEA's 9/11 guidelines
    In case you've forgotten, he's described Abu Nidal/Sabri al-Banna (the Libyan-employed bin Laden of 1980s) to Congress as the most evil and depraved human being he's ever known. Given Abu Nidal's record of activities, I'm not really surprised, but Ollie seems to have a personal beef with the guy that comes from the fact that the Abu Nidal Organization, at the request of their Libyan master Qaddafi (whom Chomsky seems to think is just misunderstood; scroll down), tried to kill his family." Merely factual, unless quoting North is sufficient to refute one's argument. And this seems to much more a Christian blog than a warblog. (Regnum Crucis is Latin for "Reign of the Cross" or "Kingdom of the Cross".)
  17. Antioch Road (5/12/02):
    Links to North's Mother's Day column in the Washington Times: "Oliver North, on Mother's Day, celebrates those women who have chosen life for their children, rather than abortion." I see a lot of heroine-worship by North and the blogger, but no sign of hero-worship by the blogger. In any case, this is another Christian blogger I'd never heard of. (I don't mean that as criticism, here or elsewhere: I'm just pointing out that there are tens of thousands of blogs out there, and Sawicky can't seem to find more than a very few prominent ones that even mention North, or any prominent or obscure ones that treat him as a hero.)
  18. The Ville (9/14/02):
    ". . . in his column, Oliver North has revealed the details of Euro-business complicity in re-arming Saddam with nuclear and chemical weapons." Nothing particularly positive here, unless you call quoting your source shameless.
  19. Sasha "la Blogatrice" (3/29/02):
    "I must admit that I'm not normally a fan of Oliver North, but his column this morning on the cluelessness of our European allies is an eye-opener." Like #11, she gives with one hand and takes back with the other.
  20. The Ben File (Ben Domenech) (9/20/02):
    "Two weeks is all the time one campaign needs for a piece of news to change the flavor of a campaign, and I believe that a two week ad blitz or grassroots assault sometimes makes up the entire difference in the margin of victory. Every political scientist worth his stripes will tell you that Oliver North lost the 1994 election to Sen. Chuck Robb in the last two weeks of the campaign. The same is true of the Paul Coverdell/Michael Coles, Jim Bunning/Scotty Baesler, and Harry Reid/John Ensign Senate races in 1998, as well as the Mel Carnahan/John Ashcroft race in 2000."
    Mere factual reporting: Is North so vile that Domenech can't even mention his Senate race in a list of races decided in the last two weeks?
  21. Insignificant Thoughts (9/29/02):
    Vincent M. Ferrari quotes an article by Tammy Bruce in Frontpage, an article in which Bruce quotes North. Second-hand: Bruce is not a blogger, and Ferrari shows no sign of hero-worship directed at North, unless you count quoting someone who quotes North as such.
  22. Joyful Christian (4/19/02):
    "Oliver North treats us to the words of a true American hero." As with #17, we have North and a blogger indulging in hero-worship of a third party, in this case a heroic veteran, but no sign of North as an object of same. Not pertinent, and not (I'm guessing from the name) a 'warblog' but a Christian blog.
  23. The Daily Brew (6/5/02):
    As someone has already noted in Sawicky's comment section, this is a left-wing site. It recommends Media Whores Online as "the best site on the web". Here is what it says about North: "Oliver North noted in his autobiography, that every time he tried to do something about terrorism links in the Middle East, he was told to stop because it might embarrass the Saudis." An obvious case of using one right-winger as a stick to beat others -- not undeservedly in this case. Second-hand, not on the right, not pertinent. Sawicky should have looked at it before he posted it.
  24. Tao of Pauly (7/21/02):
    "Cowards is an article written by Oliver North for the Freedom Alliance. Ollie writes about Israel and how Americans are cowards for not visiting and spending their money there. I agree. It's what I call the pussification of America." He then gives a rather eloquent excerpt. Maybe I should start reading North. Just kidding! A strong recommendation, though far from hero-worship, from another very obscure blogger.

The first thing to notice about this list is the total absence of anything that comes particularly close to adulation or hero-worship. The second thing to notice is who is not on the list: InstaPundit, DailyPundit, PejmanPundit, VodkaPundit, Asparagirl, Megan McArdle, USS Clueless (Steven Den Beste), Spleenville, Andrew Sullivan, James Lileks, Sgt. Stryker, 'N.Z. Bear', Little Green Footballs, the Volokhs, Yourish, Blair, Layne, Welch, Chapman, . . . I could go on, and probably should go on, so no one will fell left out, but it's obvious that all the more prominent 'warbloggers' are conspicuous by their absence from Max's little list. The only 'Myelin Top 100' blog that makes the list is Libertarian Samizdata (71), which is a group blog. The only other 'Myelin Top 500' blogs on the list are JunkyardBlog (187), Kevin Holtsberry (246), Ben Domenech (326), and 'Cato the Youngest' (432). And none of these shows much evidence of anything that an honest man would call hero-worship.

To put it another way, at the moment I have permanent links to 163 bloggers on my blogroll, most of whom could be called 'warbloggers'. ('Les 120 Journaux de Blogdom' is way over 120 now, but I like the name.) If we subtract the very few like MicroContentNews that generally avoid politics, there are roughly 160 'warbloggers'. Of these, only four (2.5%) are on Sawicky's list, and one of those, as we have seen, is a ringer (Dean Esmay). The others (JunkyardBlog, Libertarian Samizdata, and Sasha "la Blogatrice") are hardly unqualified admirers. So I for one not only do not hail North as a hero, but don't even link to anyone who does.

A. E. Housman somewhere says that "authorities must be weighed, not counted". I have a solid brick of lead -- the silence of the major warbloggers -- on my side of the scale, and Sawicky can't understand why his pile of feathers does not weigh more. Look, there are 24 of them, against only one lead brick! (Or 23 of them, if you leave out the one he counted twice.)

Weevil also refers to my assertions about lies told in re: Bonior/McDermott, challenging me to name names. I see no need to personalize and inflame the issue. Any sensible person can read my argument about the Bonior/McDermott remarks and with little trouble find statements by right-wing bloggers that fit my description. Anyone who claims there are no such remarks has not looked hard, or is just telling a new lie.

The second sentence is an obvious lie: Sawicky personalizes and inflames just about every issue he touches, as in the comparison of NRO articles to "a succession of turds floating downstream", which I quoted in my original post. And I'm still waiting to hear just what lies were said by which warbloggers about Bonior and McDermott. Even a link to someone else's argument would do, though I hope Sawicky would spend the 10 seconds necessary to make it a hot link instead of just printing it on the page.

Weevil threatens to conclude that I "just make shit up" if I don't come through with the goods. I have tried to steel myself to face this ominous possibility. It will cause me pain, since I like his bugs.

He doesn't care whether people know that he makes things up? I am not surprised. All in all, dealing with Max Sawicky is a bit like dealing with Michael Bellesiles: even when he offers evidence, it's not actually evidence, just stuff that looks like evidence until you examine it. Of course, Bellesiles at least offered his fraudulent evidence up front, and didn't have to be asked to produce it for us.

Of course, we all refuse to link to M*rk K*nr*d the neo-Nazi, but Sawicky's suggestion that Oliver North is so beyond the pale, such a "pariah" (his word) that we are forbidden to link to him when he says something true and important sounds a little bit like a blacklist. I wonder who else is on Max's little list of those who may not be quoted or referred to. And I wonder how many on the left have proven themselves equally unworthy but continue to be treated with honor and respect.

Sawicky's statement that warbloggers "hail" Oliver North "as an American hero" started out as an error. Since he refuses to withdraw it, and utterly fails to come up with evidence supporting it, it is now a lie. Some minor 'warbloggers' and Christian bloggers quote North with respect and even approval. Major 'warbloggers' ignore him. No one Sawicky has been able to come up with treats him as a hero. In the future, we would all be well-advised not to believe anything Max Sawicky says on any subject, even when he offers evidence purporting to back it up, unless we have time to check that evidence for ourselves.

I wish I had known that someone named 'Joey' (no e-mail or web-page) was also checking Sawicky's references, since it would have saved me a lot of work. His results are now posted in Sawicky's comment section, and he comes to many of the same conclusions as I have -- and as anyone who examines the evidence with an open mind would. Even before 'Joey' posted his comment (#4) at 1:09 PM, Sawicky was trying to shut down discussion by saying in comment #3 (12:58 PM) that "this topic has been sufficiently ventilated". Trying to put a stop to an argument before anyone has finished examining your evidence is just not right.

One final note: Besides checking his references, Max Sawicky should probably avoid trying to make jokes. He seems to think that "Axis of Weevil" is an original bon mot of his own, when it's been a standing joke at Possumblog and elsewhere for many months. The Axis of Weevil is the Possumblogger's list of bloggers who either live or have lived in Alabama. I know it's confusing that the Axis of Weevil is run by a possum and I am a mere member with no special privileges, but it's so. (Since possum is Latin for "I can", I always thought it would make a good slogan for an Alabama Latin Club, and that T-shirts with possum pictures and 'POSSUM' slogans on them would be a lot of fun. But I couldn't get anyone else to go along.)

Three months ago, I had a vivid illustration of the limits of Sawicky's sense of humor. I wrote a little squib about the fact that in modern Polish, the word that means "Latin" also refers to obscene slang used by hoodlums. (Of course, we Latinists prefer to call them 'hoodla'.) I facetiously demanded an apology for this slur from the entire Polish nation, including Sawicky, on behalf of Latin teachers and all Latin-speakers who have ever lived. Max responded (comment #3) with what looks like a totally unironic apology.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at October 06, 2002 03:38 PM

This is funny in its surging humorlessness.

Weevil: boo!

Posted by: Poliphilus on October 6, 2002 04:01 PM

How is one to refute a dishonest opponent? Only by dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts, as I have done. And there are at least two jokes, which is two more than 'poliphilus' has provided. He only tries to evade the issue by introducing irrelevancies.

Posted by: Dr. Weevil on October 6, 2002 08:15 PM

Interesting selection of "warbloggers" and "evidence."

One wonders, if someone describes another w/ the phrase, "Even a broken clock is right twice a day," whether that would also be interpreted as praise, or even "hero-worship."

Posted by: Dean on October 6, 2002 11:22 PM

I regularly quote source articles at length, because I hate posts that consist of a link and a suggestion to "go read this". I like to give my readers enough of a sample of the article that they can decide for themselves whether or not to go there. The fact that I happened to quote North at length is no particular mark of approval.

Riyadh delenda est!

Posted by: Cato the Youngest on October 7, 2002 12:53 AM

Unbelievable. He actually includes bloggers who say they hate the guy, but are obliged to admit he's right on one occasion, as being Ollieheads.

I would offer that, like a stopped clock, Sawicky may himself be right on rare occasions. But that doesn't make me a Maxspeak fan -- and please don't hold me actually being able to name one of those rare instances!

Sawicky is without a doubt an unqualified jackass.

Posted by: Bill Herbert on October 7, 2002 10:14 AM

I went ahead and posted my own entry on the Oliver North Admiration Society. Just trying to help Mr. Sawicky out...

Posted by: Andrea Harris on October 7, 2002 01:43 PM

Perhaps we could all help poor Mr. Sawicky in the future by prefacing or following our references to people with admiring or disparaging words or phrases. "The dastardly Mr. North said in his column today that . . . ." would, perhaps, help Mr. Sawicky discern that the writer is not favorably disposed to Mr. North.

Posted by: Paul Graf on October 7, 2002 02:24 PM

FWIW, I think the guy's a piece of shit. Yeah, he was the scapegoat for the more powerful people who ordered him to do what he did, but the fucker helped sell arms to our enemies. He didn't have to do it, and his career would've been over had he refused, but them's the breaks. In the end, he decided his career was more important than principle, which is understandable to a degree. You don't get to where he was at by being a boy scout. You do it by being conniving, charming and willing to throw scruples out the window if you can get away with it and it helps advance your career. After spending most of his adult life choosing promotional neccessity over principle, he probably didn't see his actions vis a vis Iran-Contra as objectionable. It was just another rung on the ladder to his Star and greater influence.

Posted by: Paul on October 7, 2002 08:59 PM

Oliver North is the best baby boomer in the world. He is my idol. I find it very offensive when people who don't like him put him down because he is a true American hero. I love him. His wife Betsy is very lucky to have him.

Posted by: Taylor on April 4, 2003 10:55 AM