August 19, 2013

Why did a Time senior editor tweet "I can't wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange"?

The editor, Michael Grunwald, drew a big pushback and quickly deleted it, and that's easy to understand. The interesting question is: Why did he say it in the first place? The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf says that Grunwald is a type of radical ideologue that is not normally recognized in America — not an extreme leftist or rightist — but someone who seems to be a pragmatic centrist.
Grunwald's tweet took a lot of centrists by surprise, as if it was way beyond the pale. And I think it was! But it didn't surprise me. It was totally consistent with his ideology for him to write, "I can't wait to write a defense of the drone strike that takes out Julian Assange."
Before he deleted the tweet, he fought off some criticism, saying "Thanks for your input, Don't Tread on Me crowd" and linking to an article he'd written titled "Tread on Me: The Case for Freedom From Terrorist Bombings, School Shootings and Exploding Factories/The past few months show that the government must protect the public even if it has to limit individual rights."

Friedersdorf says:
No single violation [of rights] is fatal, but Grunwald appears oblivious to the danger of undermining the culture, and to how radical it is to call for one-off departures of convenience from long established norms.... Grunwald was advancing a far more radical proposition: that a painstakingly developed, widely accepted, longstanding process should be abandoned in one special case. He invoked "the republic will still stand" language to make himself seem like a pragmatist....

Grunwald seems to stand for whatever it is that he and the authorities think is best in a given instance, to hell with any procedural constants or absolute checks on power, like the Bill of Rights, getting in the way....  He trusts those in power not to abuse it, is averse to absolute liberties (like the one about not being deprived of life without due process of law), and regards established legal and prudential protocols as overvalued formalities that gets in the way of pragmatism.

22 comments:

Sam L. said...

Grunwald: "I guess you could call me a statist."

Exactly, and from which all follows.

MadisonMan said...

There is no one more worthy of my contempt than someone who wants to be perfectly safe. That target is an illusion that can only be approached by sacrificing everyone's freedom to be left alone.

traditionalguy said...

The procedures of the Law are the rule of law.

Stalinists never see why they should ever be restrained by any law. Their stance is Might Makes Right.

But why when a government goes to war with its citizens, disarming them and assasinating any troublesome men seems so right. So they propose we Trotsky!

Sayyid said...

Funny. We used to call them "statists" on nice days, and "fascists" on mean days.

If omnipresent government is the new "centrism," what, exactly, is it the center between?

AaronS said...

He's ready to defend it no matter what the justification given by the government. He's sure it will be defensible. I suspect this has more to do with a religious faith in the people making the decisions rather than an ideology.

Rocketeer said...

I'm trying, I really am, but I have to admit that I am completely failing to see how Grunwald's tweet evidences - or Friedsdorf's piece depicts - pragmatic centrism. I'm quite serious. I don't see it. Is "pragmatic centrist" just what the smart people are calling folks that pine for tyranny now?

Bryan C said...

"...Grunwald is a type of radical ideologue that is not normally recognized in America.."

Oh, I think we recognize his type just fine. We just don't like them much.

bpm4532 said...

Nothing says, open minded like making your mind up waay in advace.

Terry said...

The obvious parallel in government office to Grunwald is Obama.

Birches said...

I just assumed he was being sarcastic. I guess I misjudged that one.

MartyH said...

Would he write the defense for a Republican President as well? Or would he write that a Republican President killing Assange proves that Amerika was governed by a lawless, fascistic ruler who is shredding the Constitution?

Robert said...

I really don't think "pragmatic centrist" is the right term. He used the term "statist" as in someone who thinks government is the cure for everything, and that sounds about right.

RichardS said...

Does "Pragmatism" necessarily cut that way? Didn't Mussolini like William James because Pragmatism can justify anything, so long as one's right thinking peers think it is what is necessary/ justified here and now?

And in this context is it worth remembering that Obama was worried, briefly, that he might lose, tried to limit the discretion of anyone else who might happen to be the C in C.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/world/white-house-presses-for-drone-rule-book.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

Obama seems to combine Pragmatism with a sense of entitlement, or perhaps self-righteousness, literally understood.

traditionalguy said...

Grunwald needs to study the real history of The Marxist Man of Steel. Being his supporters only makes a Stalin Marxist very nervous you you having some appearance of power too...the next stop for you is arrest, a show trial to confess nonsense followed by being shot. Oddly there is no Law to stop a Stalin.

traditionalguy said...

The ironic thing is that supporters of Marxist One man ruler such as Stalin in Russia are the first ones that the paranoid Tyrant has purged by a show trial complete with made up confessions and then shot that night. It seems that there is no legal process at all.

They cannot believe Comrade Obama would do that to them...it's all a mistake.

Hint: being too close to the leader makes the leader fear you.

Henry said...

From Friedersdorf:

Now, no one thinks of Time as a magazine that publishes radicals. But Grunwald's article fit comfortably in its pages, and he cited the article to explain the thinking that made him eager to defend a murder.

This is right on target.

Enough run-of-the-mill democrats have convinced themselves that Obama is a pragamatic centrist, that they have no discernment left over. It is a very small leap from trumpeting the Obama agenda, in all its centralizing, technocratic, hubristic inhumanity, to assuming that his extra-judicial excrescences must be A-OK as well.

The violation of rights that Friedersdorf calls out only bubbled into common awareness with the NSA scandal. In reality, the indulgence of power and blindness to process is intrinsic to every one of Obama's domestic priorities.

Liberals who think Obama is a centrist are already in free fall. It is no wonder that events have no purchase on their trajectory.

He had you at healthcare.

Mark O said...

a "pragmatic centrist?"

Hide the women and children.

L. Ron Halfelven said...

As always, the "no existential threat" argument is deployed here in a highly selective way. The Republic has also survived a fair number of school shootings by now, but Grunwald still reserves the right to freak out about them. It's always the other guy who's supposed to shrug and say "eh, bien".

RecChief said...

isn't this where all the moral relativism being pushed on us over the last 40 years? Isn't this result, with farther to go down that road, what some of us have been warning about? I think Grunwald would also be in the "The constitution is an outdated document" camp.

rcocean said...

Who's more irrelevant Conor or Time Magazine?

You make the call!

Kirk Parker said...

Time Magazine is more irrelevant.

Duh!

(Was that supposed to be a hard question or something?)

Terry said...

Henry's comment was epic!