I don't gainsay the danger or destructive power of the man. I still remember Rick Hertzberg's quote just after 9/11 that the attacks were as brilliant as they were evil. (This is from memory: so I may have the precise words wrong. But he well captured the way in which the horror and evil of the attacks were matched by their diabolical ingeniusness.) But as an articulator of a vision, an expounder of "Islamofascism," or whatever the new trademarked word is now, he's about as coherent and comprehensible as a 9th tier blogger or one of those whacks sitting on a stoop in Union Square talking about fascism and Texas oil barons before they get overcome by the shakes or decide to start collecting more aluminum cans.From me, you're going to first catch flak for writing "catch flack."
If my predictive powers are still working right, I'm sure I'll catch flack for taking such a mocking attitude toward this man who has so much American blood on his hands. But this, I think, is only the flip side of the vaunted perch we insist on giving him, a insistence that is a paradoxical part of Bushism. They are tacit partners in creating the world in which we now live.
“Flak” is WW II airman’s slang for shells being fired at you in the air, so to catch a lot of flak is to feel in danger of being shot down. However, most civilians these days have never heard of “flak,” so they use “flack” instead, which originally meant “salesman” or “huckster.” You need to worry about this only if you’re among old-time veterans.When you're showing off your expertise about fighting a war, you ought to get your war imagery right. A flack is a press agent. Hacks -- "writer[s] hired to produce routine or commercial writing" -- know more about flacks and not so much about flak, but they need to try not to let it show.
And as for "I don't gainsay..." I've expressed my feelings before:
I don't know about you, but when I'm reading a judicial opinion and run into the phrase "It cannot be gainsaid..." I feel a sense of revulsion... almost dread. Why is the judge (or clerk) writing like this? Why the sudden desire to sound like a fusty old gasbag? I start mistrusting everything....So when a blogger -- who has so much more reason to write in a crisp, modern style -- uses that expression, it means so much more. It is beyond sheer pretension, beyond fusty old gasbaggage, beyond revolting and irksome. It's not surprising that Marshall goes on to write in a weird pseudo-archaic style with locutions like "he well captured the way" and "the world in which we now live" and jocose, verbose images like "a 9th tier blogger or one of those whacks sitting on a stoop in Union Square talking about fascism and Texas oil barons before they get overcome by the shakes or decide to start collecting more aluminum cans."
Supreme Court justices have only used the word 113 times in the entire history of the Court, but more than 70% of these were since 1950. It was only used 18 times before 1900. (There are also 59 occurrences of "gainsay.") I mention these details because they bear out my suspicion that this is sheer pretension, a modern person's idea of how to sound like you came from the 19th century. I'm irked that the modern Justices ever affect a 19th century tone, and I'm further irked that they lack an ear for it.
And by the way, I can understand slamming bloggers, but the assumption that there are tiers of bloggers is awfully hierarchical, especially coming from Marshall, who is, of course, a first tier blogger. Why the snobbery? Plenty of bloggers with small audiences write very well and convey subtle thinking. How liberal-minded is it to look down on people with less traffic? And what sort of liberal sneers about mentally ill street people?
Then there's: "the flip side of the vaunted perch we insist on giving him, a insistence that is a paradoxical part of Bushism." I like to think that a "vaunted perch" is a fish that you brag about. Feel free to start a blog -- a 9th tier blog -- and call it "The Vaunted Perch." And put a fish in the banner:
I mean I can picture a fish -- either a highly praised or a viciously reviled fish -- flipped over. But if it's a perch of the sort normally found clutched by birds' feet...
... then flipping it over... what would that do? Come to think about it, fish of the perch type looks about the same flipped over. If you want to flip over a fish and have it make a distinctive difference, you should start with a flounder:
And try not to flounder through your next post. Don't founder on your own "ingeniusness" -- whatever that is.