Friday, August 26, 2005


Week's Best Rant #2

Matthew Heidt at Froggy Ruminations has a fine rant, The V-Word, focused on Chuck Hagel and his shameless posturing on how Iraq is “the same as Vietnam.”

Matthew captures the essence of the Rant, and makes the best first choice of any good Rant: he picks a subject that really deserves one.
In the immortal words of Tony Montana in Scarface, Hagel is “a pig that don’t fly straight.” But a pig that should know better.

The implication in making the Vietnam analogy is that the United States should somehow follow a similar path that failed completely in Southeast Asia… pull our troops out now. Not only did we shamefully and unnecessarily lose a war, we subjected millions to torture, re-education camps, and genocide. But hey, so what, right?
A really good Rant includes a very strong comparison – sometimes overdone but always compelling. For weaker arguments, this is where one inserts the infamous Strawman. (A strawman, favored device of lightweights like Paul Krugman or Juan Cole, is where you create a false representation of your target’s point of view, made weak and frail enough for your to pummel into oblivion.) In better cases, such as here, the comparison fully exposes the basic fallacies of the object of your scorn.

Matthew concludes this Week’s Best Rant with the best of all best rants: a zinger ending:
By the way Chuck, if the Kos Kidz successfully enact the Final Solution to the moderate Democrat problem, then there are only going to be two places to find votes. The Republican party or the seething pool of cowardice that remains after the moonbats are done. I don’t think they’ll like you anyway.
UPDATE:Froggy alerts me to another one of his Rants, a really fine one. If I had seen this one, Froggy's post on the protest outside Walter Reed would have been a runaway. (Ed. went to the right blog, in any case.)

Honorable mentions:

Mark A.R. Kleiman writes a Note to Juan Cole. An excerpt:
10. If the case had involved a male Nigerian anthropologist studying the culture of the Mississippi Delta and a white female Mississipian acting as his guide and informant, would you similarly blame the Nigerian if her relatives, or the remnants of the local Klan, had decided to string him up? Would he, too, have been culpably "naive," "foolish," and "ignorant"? If not, what makes the morally significant difference between the two cases?

It seems to me, Professor Cole, that you have allowed your contempt for someone infringing on your scholarly turf without appropriate credentials to combine with your hatred of those who support current Administration policies in Iraq in a way that has blinded you to the ordinary human decencies. And it seems to me that you owe Ms. Ramaci-Vincent an apology, and your readers a more accurate statement of the facts.
However enjoyable, this piece of comeuppance pie for Professor Juan Cole is not a rant, and therefore, can’t be the week’s best. Way too constrained, polite, measured, sober, and was updated with a potential near-apology. Not at all unhinged. Disqualified on that basis.

Via MurdocOnline, this piece of first-person comeuppance is better. Digs into Professor Cole with alacrity, with the added significance of being penned by Steven Vincent’s widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent.

Well-deserved, well written, and withering critically, this falls short of the typical rant by being an entirely justified piece of self-defense for a man no longer able to defend himself. Worthy of mention and appreciation, but not really wild or mean enough tpo qualify as “rant.”

Linked to by one of my posts, this piece by Jason Van Steenwyk has a lot of the ingredients of classic rant.

Strong and emotional compare and contrast. Reference to Hitler. Trivialization of the views of one’s opponent. Graphic evidence in opposition to the subject of the rant. A tone of moral superiority. Excellent train of argument. Best concluding line:
And any veneer of occidentalism with regard to the status of women in Iraqi society is nothing more than a ring in the snout of a pig.
Vodkapundit, the source of many good rants, starts out with a real contender.

Good premise, “Pat Robertson is an idiot.” Better, point out obvious hypocrisy:
As if you didn't already know, Pat Robertson is an idiot. Not only that, but he's a hypocritical idiot. If we were so hot for toppling dictators, he really ought to stop making millions of dollars off them.
Links point to numerous stories of shady businesses seemingly designed to take maximum advantage of financial exploitation possible through African dictatorship. (Colonialism, anyone?)

Insult is always a key component of a type of rant, generally compelling. Good dose of sarcasm, “Now, if Chávez were sitting on a pile of war diamonds rather than oil, that might be a different story.”

James Lileks wins an honorable mention for providing what amounts to, “How not to write a rant” when sending email. My suggestion, think about breaking one or more of these rules, and you're on your way to Rantsville. An example:
The term “wingnut” is not as harsh and cutting as you might expect. Personally, I don’t like any of these terms – moonbats, repugs, democraps, etc. (Except for “idiotarian.” I like it because it’s ecumenical.) They’re usually shorthand for broad concepts held by people whose views on other matters may be divergent. Not very helpful. In any case, have you tried to use a wingnut? They’re quite handy if you want to tighten something and you don’t have a wrench. I assume it’s short for “right wing nut,” but if you look at a wingnut, it has two wings. Left and right. You could say it understands both wings, even though it prefers to turn in a clockwise direction.
Violate some or most or even all of Lilek’s rules here, and you’ll have one really fine rant. Consider those guidelines for next week.

Links: Basil's Blog, Mudville Gazette, Outside the Beltway, Indepundit, Wizbang

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