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Hullabaloo


Saturday, January 23, 2010

 
Yoo Reviewed

by tristero


When Neil Jordan's masterpiece, The Crying Game, came out, the New York Times published a charming puff piece about the beautiful, mysterious and alluring star of the film. In describing Jaye Davidson, Janet Maslin wrote the piece both as an in-joke for fans and in order not to reveal the Big Secret to those who hadn't yet seen it. Eighteen years later, I still find the piece hilarious for intentionally concealing the single most important fact about the extraordinary talent who created the role of "Dil."

Well, it took them eighteen years, but when it comes to deliberately hiding the obvious, the Times has now outdone itself. And how. Only this time it's not at all charming, nor amusing. On the front page of tomorrow's Book Review, Walter Isaacson manages to discuss John Yoo's latest rantings without once using the word "torture."

Incredible.That's a little like reviewing Industrial Society and Its Future without once mentioning what those theories were used to justify... Actually, it's a lot like that.

Like Kaczynski, Yoo is a deeply disturbed man, criminally so. Both mimic intellectual rhetoric and scholarship to construct elaborate, rambling essays to rationalize their overwhelming compulsion to harm other human beings. Now, this pathological behavior may be interesting to a psychologist studying abnormal behavior, but that is hardly a reason to behave as if they are genuinely serious Men of Ideas worth reviewing on the front page of the Times Book Review. If anything, their dissociated style is all the more reason to draw attention to the cognitive dissonance between their bloodless prose and the obscenely gory consequences of their "ideas."

True, Yoo and Kacynski prefer different kinds of dress and accommodations, just as they prefer different ways to hurt people. Kacynski got his jollies by having bombs he built explode in people's faces. Yoo is a sadist by human proxy: he gets his rocks off letting other people maim and murder for him.

However, Yoo and the Unabomber share much more than an association with UC Berkeley. Indeed, the specific nuances in their preferred means of harming matter very little to their victims who suffered, and still suffer horribly as a direct result of actions these men took. Yoo, like Kaczynski, has a positive tropism for remote-controlled mutilation and murder - ghastly, gruesome violence which he never, ever has to cloud his brilliant, beautiful, hyper-rational mind by having to witness. It's the fantasy that gets him hot: much more satisfying and there's no chance of something...icky spattering on that nice suit he wears.

Isaacson wants us to collude with Yoo and not think too much about the actual blood that flowed from Yoo's memorandums, and the terror. When Isaacson describes waterboarding as an "interrogation technique" - notice: not an "enhanced" technique, just a technique - he shields us, as Yoo shielded himself in his office, from the screams, the agony, and perhaps even the deaths of the victims.

The unspeakably visceral horror of a human being's torture and degradation, and the demented, tormented mind that would seek to justify it: That strikes me as the proper context for examining John Yoo and his writings. What Isaacson has done here, to treat Yoo as a serious person and fail to mention his crimes, is simply disgraceful.

That is hardly all. Walter Isaacson, and the editors of the Book Review, actually had the unmitigated gall to compare Yoo's lunacy to Garry Wills latest book, Bomb Power, as if they were just two different points of view, of equal worth to the curious reader. What next? Fred Phelps' latest screed soberly discussed and compared with Martin Luther King?

To conclude, I note that Isaacson is the president of the Aspen Institute in Colorado. Ahh... I have such fond memories of that town when I was at the Music Festival in the mid-70's - wonderful music, awesome food. And there was more: it was not by accident that Hunter Thompson made Aspen his home. Although by that time I no longer indulged - it badly affected by judgment - Aspen was a great place to score some truly righteous weed.

Given that Isaacson concludes his review with the utterly ridiculous assertion that Yoo understands the trajectory of American history better than Garry Wills does, I guess Aspen still has great pot.

That has to be the dope talking.

[Edited slightly after initial post to clarify Yoo's complicated psychopathology. ]


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