A Soldier's Response to Joel Stein

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Stephanie, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. Stephanie
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    Stephanie Diamond Member Supporting Member

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    http://www.americanthinker.com/comments.php?comments_id=4272

    I got both of these stories from the different addresses off of Michelle Malkins web page


    No doubt readers are aware of yesterday’s LA unabashedly anti-war/anti-soldier column in the Los Angeles Times, “Warriors and Wusses” by Joel Stein. Reuters among others has a piece on the huge fallout, while talk host and blogger Hugh Hewitt interviewed Stein yesterday.

    LTC Steve Russell sent me his reply to the Times, which it may or may not print.

    LTC Russell commanded Task Force 1/22nd Infantry in Iraq (bagged Saddam) and is currently Chief of Tactics at the Infantry School.

    John B. Dwyer 1 25 06

    Here is what LTC Russell wrote:

    Mr. Stein’s commentary on soldier support is remarkable because it reflects more than just his opinion. It may even express a viewpoint.

    While most of Mr. Stein’s commentary is indicative of a man who has enjoyed our freedoms with none of the responsibility (by his own admission), he has at least one point of merit. He does not conceal his true conviction. When one considers those that say they support the troops but not the war, it is hard to distinguish which is more harmful to the soldier.

    Mr. Stein alludes to this as trying to have it both ways and implies this is a moral cop out. He may be right. It can also be viewed as similar to telling the trash man, “Thanks.” It is seldom sincere. It is just so the trash will keep being taken away by someone willing to do it so one does not have to get his hands dirty.

    Mr. Stein’s tragedy is not his clear conviction but rather that he steals freedom from his sacrificing countrymen. He sees no moral dilemma with that—which is indicative of an attitude prevalent among some self-proclaimed, high-browed, educated types that believe there is somehow a moral superiority in non-involvement. To defend his position, Mr. Stein is critical of what he calls ‘American imperialism.’ To borrow what he surely intended as a denigrating analogy, we can indeed see parallels in attitude if not government and conquest.

    Rome had its internal critics. So did Greece. But when the vast majority of Romans began to view the finer points of life as morally superior to the lower points of necessity, Roman youth lost their appreciation for what held Rome together in the first place. Soon, hired or conquered levies replaced Romans in the ranks. Why should Romans fight wars that they could not see any reason for fighting? After all, what impact did they have in Rome?

    Eventually, the theory of a moral superiority in non-involvement met the cold steel of non-theoretically superior sword thrusts from Vandals and Huns that replaced Romans in the Roman empire.

    I take exception to Mr. Stein’s comment about soldiers ignoring their morality. And as a soldier that has served in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, none of those experiences ever made me feel ‘lucky.’ The noble ‘wars’ and ‘fights’ are seldom noble for the soldier. They involve pain and human suffering on a grand scale. Mr. Stein I am quite certain has never killed a man and is proud of that. I have had to kill several men in desperate, close combat while I watched my opponents facial expressions change as life ebbed out of them. I am quite certain that I am not proud of that.

    But what separates him from me is certainly not education. Nor is it conviction of purpose. It is indeed morality. But of a nobler kind. No greater love has a man, than he lay down his life for his friends—even when they act and write unfriendly.

    As an American, I no longer draw a distinction of who qualifies to be one or is best suited to appreciate democracy. After serving nine years overseas and on multiple continents, I do not see white or black or Hispanic or Indian or oriental or educated or simple-minded Americans. I only see Americans. Even the unfriendly kind. And when I am old, I will be able to look in the mirror and know that I acted on my convictions to preserve what others will not. Cannot. Do not. And what I will see is a man with a clear conscience and a moral sense of purpose.

    I am thankful I do not have to look into Mr. Stein’s mirror.

    LTC Steve Russell
    http://michellemalkin.com/archives/004370.htm
     
  2. Stephanie
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    Stephanie Diamond Member Supporting Member

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    Tuesday, January 24, 2006

    Desperate Humor


    EXPLAINING THE JOKE. Everyone's getting all hot under the collar about Joel "I Don't Support Our Troops" Stein, including Michelle Malkin, Instapundit, and a whole array of folks listed here. Exhibit A from Joel's offending column in the L.A. Times:


    I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.

    But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.


    I read it before the other bloggers started noting it, and I have to admit, something about it struck me as "off." So I clicked on his bio right there at the L.A. Times site. Here's what's there.



    Joel Stein is desperate for attention. He grew up in Edison, N.J., went to Stanford and then worked for Martha Stewart for a year. After two years of fact-checking at various publications, he got hired as a sports editor at Time Out New York. Two years later he lucked into a job as a staff writer for Time magazine, where over seven and a half years he wrote a dozen cover stories on subjects such as Michael Jordan, Las Vegas, the Internet bubble and — it being Time and he being a warm body in the office — low-carb diets.

    Being desperate for attention, he has appeared on any TV show that asks him: VH1's "I Love the Decade You Tell Me I Love," HBO's "Phoning It In," Comedy Central's "Reel Comedy" and E! Entertainment's "101 Hottest Hot Hotties' Hotness."

    After teaching a class in humor writing at Princeton, he moved to L.A. at the beginning of 2005 to write a column for the Los Angeles Times. He still contributes to Time and whatever magazines allow him to. But his heart belongs to you, L.A. Times reader. Only to you.


    He's pulling your chain, guys. He wrote the column specifically to provoke the reaction he's getting. That's what he thinks of as humor.

    That's not the end of the discussion, though. He taught "a class in humor writing at Princeton." Wow. That's the funniest sentence in either piece. The whole idea of teaching people to write humor is funny. When you add Princeton as the venue it becomes hilarious. Let me explain.

    Writing things that are funny begins with having a sense of humor. That's not something which can be acquired through the ministrations of a devoted instructor. All the technique in the world fails if an underlying comic spirit is absent. Joel's bio is a great example of this principle. The real purpose of the bio is to let us know how cool Joel is by citing all his glossy resume entries couched in what seem to be self-deprecatory terms. But they're not really self-deprecatory. The punchlines are buried under the thunder of the big names Joel drops one after another like so many lead weights: Stanford, Martha Stewart, Time Magazine, Michael Jordan, HBO, Comedy Central, Princeton, and the Los Angeles Times. Someone who really knows funny would either forego lame jokes to present an arid list of credits or dispense with the name-dropping to communicate a persona rather than a Who's Who entry.

    That's my real problem with Joel's column. It's a sly and superior attempt at humor that just isn't funny.

    So what is, or would be, funny?

    Well, there's no point in over-intellectualizing it the way we might if we were teaching Princeton undergraduates about the subject. Funny is always a change-up. Revealing the unexpected at precisely the moment the audience thinks it knows where you're heading. For example, just showing the banana peel and then the dowager slipping on the banana peel isn't funny. If you want laughs, after you show the banana peel, you have to make the audience forget that it's there before she unexpectedly slips on it.

    Joel doesn't know this. He thinks it's somehow unexpected that a good liberal would eschew the idea of supporting the troops. That's his banana peel. He shows it to us immediately. Then, without even a hint of misdirection or original insight, WE are supposed to play the part of the stupid dowager who obediently slips on his neon banana peel so that the real audience -- i.e., Joel -- can laugh his ass off.

    That's what we call a private joke. It's someting that invariably falls flat when undisciplined and untalented comedians sneak them into movies, shows, and other media.

    Of course, it's not at all unexpected that a liberal might realize at some level that he really doesn't support the troops. That's why various conservatives took the piece too seriously. It's also why the real joke is really on Joel. The fact that he thinks he is making a joke -- at a time when American troops are exposed to real danger, maiming, and death, -- demonstrates that whatever he thinks he thinks, Joel truly doesn't give a rat's ass about the troops.

    The joke's on him. And I'm laughing my ass off. Because despite his name-dropping and other pretensions, he really is a moral idiot. And much more important, he doesn't know sh*t about funny. No wonder he's "desperate."

    And for the conservatives out there, rest assured that Joel Stein is no big villain. He's just a teeny-tiny little villain. A fly swatter is all that's required to deal with him.
     

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