The Free Market Of Moral Outrage

by lizard

I can’t wait until we start killing prisoners for sport, like in the dystopia depicted in the Steven King story turned crappy movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Running Man.

I don’t think we’re that far off, and lately I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s time we just embrace violence. Kill who needs to be killed. I mean Jesus Christ, it doesn’t always have to be such a bummer, does it? And didn’t Obama just prove that to be true, bookending his SOTU with a celebration of death?

In the free market of moral outrage, those of us who go through the motions of expressing concern are free to choose which atrocities to be disturbed by, and which ones to sort of let slide. I wasted nearly a minute of my life tweeting to some guy who calls himself BardOfEarth because he went ballistic over a cat that had its head bashed in and the word “Liberal” scrawled across its dead corpse.

The image of the dead cat is terrible, but these are terrible times, and in the free market of moral outrage I choose to be more disgusted that a Marine can get off with just a pay cut and drop in rank for slaughtering women and children in Haditha than for some sick fuck’s misplaced political rage.

My twitter feed is a mosaic of moral outrage, and I’m sorta getting tired of this woman from #Bahrain. Her father and husband have both been tortured in prison and she’s always talking about terrible shit happening. I’m considering unfollowing her. Or maybe tweeting her that The State killing their little uprising doesn’t blip in the US, because Bahrain lends America its oceanic parking lot for its 5th fleet. And to spit in her face, the president quietly supplies Bahrani royalty with weaponry:

President Barack Obama’s administration has been delaying its planned $53 million arms sale to Bahrain due to human rights concerns and congressional opposition, but this week administration officials told several congressional offices that they will move forward with a new and different package of arms sales — without any formal notification to the public.

In a recent exchange with a fellow blogger, there were some thoughts shared regarding the philosophical opposition to war as juxtaposed to the sometimes vicious behavior of (all of us at times) bloggers and commenters; civil discourse abandoned for mud wrestling, implying an inability to practice what one preaches. Guilty.

Despite my own personal failings, in the free market of moral outrage, I’m gonna continue using my market share of the social media revolution to amplify my personal mosaic of moral outrage. And to make the tediousness of my anti-imperial brand more palatable, I’ll keep offering poetic interludes, like this one, that explores the possibility that at times I behave like a dickish somnambulist:



In poems I sound the call
typifying dissent with words untied to action.

In life I daily fail, same as the rest.
Who can say, from one day to the next, what
will work?

In poems I am the music dancing from word
to word, line to line, changing like a shape-shifter
perhaps in a shed where motes of dust linger
in suspension, where

the diffusion of afternoon light outside animates
the tiny drama of my existence.

In life I yell at my dogs for delaying our progress
when they nose out tidbits from alleyway trashcans.

They glance back at me, only slightly perturbed
by the volume of my voice
which makes me angrier, which causes me
to act stupider, which is why

I promptly leash when I cannot seem to whisper.

In poems I sound the alarm, but cannot disable
the snooze button.

In life too often I wonder if I’m really awake.

—William Skink

  1. cosmicgarden

    I enjoyed this poem a great deal. And in the free market of moral outrage in countless blogs, I’ve been satisfied with spending a bit of my scarce reading time here. Keep up the good work!

  2. Turner

    Can you clarify several things for me?

    Are you opposed to anything vaguely related to what used to be called the “War on Terror”? Were you, for example, opposed to the operations that killed Osama bin Laden and killed a bunch of thugs holding an American citizen and a Norwegian?

    Are you a pacifist who thinks the military should simply not exist? If you are (which is OK with me) I guess I know where you’re coming from.

    • Steve W

      Turner, I just came back from Costa Rica. They don’t have a military and haven’t had one since 1948.

      So they aren’t doing any arms deals with the Obama administration and they aren’t fighting a war on terror since they have no military to fight a war with.

      Do you think Costa Rica shouldn’t exist, because by existing, they embarrass Obama and make him look like he deals arms to despots who kill and torture their own people?

      Thanks in advance for the clarification.

      • Turner

        Steve, sorry but I just can’t follow your argument. When I asked Liz if he’s a pacifist, I didn’t expect a response from someone else talking about Costa Rica.

        Do I think Costa Rica should exist? Huh?

        • Steve W

          I would suggest that you can’t follow my argument because I didn’t pro-offer an argument.

          I’m just wondering if you think Costa Rica should exist since it’s got no military and it isn’t selling arms to dictators to use on their own people (or any people)

          I don’t think Costa Rica is pacifist. I just think they are too selfish to spend their kids education dollars on group think rah rah when they need it for themselves.

          I know that has nothing to do with extracting revenge on Osama bin Ladin and his wives and kids, or on extracting political advantage out of extracting revenge on Bin Ladin and his family, but then again, Lizards post had nothing to do with that either.

          Lizards post to me seemed to have to do with justice and it had to do with self reflection.

          I didn’t see pacifism as an element.

          So do you believe Costa Rica should exist, Turner? i think that’s just as fair a question to ask you as you asking Liz if he believes the military should exist. They are both fair questions.

      • Good to see you back, Steve W. Wondered where you’ve been.


  3. Great work! It touches on the inherent dichotomy of internal vs. transcendent ethics.

    I do not however find fault with the President’s quiet support of the king of Bahrain. If you cannot support him, then there is no leader in the gulf who can be rewarded for helping us keep free trade in the gulf. Should Iran, who has been at war with us since the 1980’s, be allowed to control all weaker countries in the region unopposed? Is the opposition to Iran’s imperialism, also imperialism? Should our sailors spend months in the gulf in a tin can suffering worse conditions than any American prison without the respite or reprieve of a secure port visit in Bahrain in order to appease some citizens who choose to protest the rule of their king? Even when their protest is not because their own freedom is being oppressed, but because of they hate their king’s decision to offer his port for use as an American support base in exchange for money, arms, and American security?

    These are not simple black and white ethical issues which can be easily decided by our own personal ethical disgust and repulsion against the horrors of the violent repression of treason within a country, and the possible use of weapons and war against violent oppression by other nations.

    Living with hard ethical decisions is part of being an adult, and your post expresses an adult attitude toward ethical dilemmas, which can and should be explored and expressed.

    • Steve W

      Rev, for your information, The war started when we engineered the overthrow of the Democratically elected government of Iran in 1959 and installed a brutal monarch who killed tortured and oppressed his people.

      I would say that you probably forgot about that except the truth is you probably never knew this to begin with.

      Americans on the whole are a bunch of uneducated children with no knowledge of the world around them.

      Your post Rev illustrated just how in the dark we are as a people, just how ignorant of everything Amercans really are, on the whole, beyond the constant propaganda we are fed by our corporate masters.

      i pity you, your ignorance of world affairs, and your helplessness to understand the world around you. It can only lead to bad outcomes. Your post shows this quite clearly.

      A people who never learn their history are easily manipulated and powerless to resist.

      • Really? Why then are the Iranians at war with all the other nations that surround them still today? Why do they continue to oppress their people today? I guess they learn well from us, the great American Satan.

        Have you known people who have visited Iran? Have you been to Bahrain? Why do you know that the events of 1959 are the reason that they are now threatening to shut down the international sea way to the gulf? Why isn’t it just because they want power and control over their neighbors (maybe even the world!)?

        The Iranians play the victim very poorly.

        • Steve W

          wrong again, Rev.

          Iran isn’t at war with anyone.

          But I won’t be able to educate you. You would need to educate yourself.

          Good luck!

          By the way, I’m opposed to theocracies in general, whether in Iran, Israel, or the wet dreams of the right-wing Christians here in the US. I’m also opposed to attacking theocracies with our military whether Iran, Israel, or the right wing Christians here in the US

          Here are some pictures of modern day Iran. It’s less work than reading, and I assume that’s a plus in your case.

  4. Iran isn’t at war with anyone?

    What about Iraq? Why have they been fighting Iraq ever since they held our embassy hostage for 444 days? Is that peace? Is it peaceful to plan the assassination of a Saudi official in the United States? Is it not an act of war because it didn’t succeed? What do you mean by an act of war?

    So, I am wrong because I believe these and others are acts of war, and you are right because you have pictures of somewhere in Iran, and you read. What are you reading that turns assassination and hostage taking, and real live combat between Iran and Iraq into peace? Actions speak louder than words, and I am not sure we are living on the same planet.

    • Steve W

      Saddam attacked Iran back in the 1980s and Iran defended itself.

      Since Bush took out Saddam, Iran and Iraq are great friends. They have embassies in each others countries and normal relations.

      That’s the world I live in. I’m not sure where you are stationed, Rev, but it sounds far away.

      i believe that the US has been waging war on Iran ever since we overthrew their democratically elected Premier in 1959.

  5. lizard19

    I’m going to try and respond to a few different things developing in this thread.

    first, I don’t consider myself a pacifist. if someone threatened my wife and kids, and there was no other choice, I think there’s a good possibility I’m capable of killing someone to protect them. the thought of them getting killed is too awful to imagine.

    but families are getting violently torn apart all over the world, all the time, and when it’s our military responsible for doing it, then I think we owe our soldiers and other nation’s citizens a bit of reflection on why it’s happening.

    that’s not going to happen with flag-waving obedience to the official line of bullshit coming from D’s and R’s about why war X, or humanitarian intervention Z, is necessary.

    if we were truly the civilized society we claim to be (we are not), war would always be the absolute last option, when everything else failed. instead, America is an imperial bully, with a disgusting body count derived from atrocious wars that didn’t need to happen.

    what makes us even more despicable is, we never seem to learn, and we never admit to mistakes. like Vietnam. like Iraq. and because we don’t learn, Iran is next.

    Rev Gordish, your statements about Iran are historically ignorant and morally vacuous. unfortunately there are too many people who think just like you do, which is why I have very little hope that another disastrous step toward an all out world war can be averted.

    you talk about acts of war by Iran, but of course you conveniently ignore little incidents like nuclear scientists getting assassinated, and cyber attacks, and economic sanctions, and spying with drones, and foreign funding of Iranian dissident/terrorist groups. if those things were being done to us by Iran, the missiles would already be flying.

    Bahrain is important because the fact Obama is going to push through that arms sale directly undermines the humanitarian intervention scam that’s used to get Democrats to sign off on expanding US hegemony, like NATO’s “liberation” of Libya, and, next, Syria.

    I think it’s incredibly important for us to acknowledge that the US doesn’t spread democracy, it spreads death and violence. and it does so to maintain power and control over foreign markets, in competition with other power blocs, like China and Russia.

    but do you know what families in China and Russia want? they want the same thing I want for my family: a relatively peaceful place to raise their kids, to work and live. I really don’t think what humans want for themselves and their communities really differs all that much. languages and customs may vary, but there is more commonality among the global population than our respective leaders can afford to let us know.

    • “…if those things were being done to us by Iran, the missiles would already be flying.”

      And there you have it, the rub of the whole situation summed up in a single thought. Moral outrage is all relative. America can act as it sees fit on the global scene without fear of significant restraint or consequences because we are number one. We hold sway over most international organizations, we have veto power within the UN Security Council, we hold the purse strings to world financial institutions, we are virtually untouchable. There is no counter-weight to hold America back, we have lost any check which might have balanced out potential American foreign policy actions. There isn’t even an effective internal political voice that can check our actions as the once anti-war left has basically been culled with the election of someone that pretended to be one of them.

      Even when there is moral outrage at some act perpetrated by the US, the echo of those making noise rarely reaches our shores thanks to our inwardly egocentric media. Because the outrage in Pakistan can be brushed off, what is Pakistan going to do when we can cut off the billions we shovel their way to cooperate with us in the War on Terror?

      As G.W once sagely said, “… the American way of life is non-negotiable.” Obviously the way of life in Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, etc are negotiable, otherwise we wouldn’t be tinkering in those countries’ internal affairs in an attempt to shape the world to our desires.

      Iran is reacting to our threats to basically destroy their country’s ability to function through sanctions on their oil industry via our European proxies. Without oil money Iran will fall into a depression far worse than what we have experienced here in the last several years. And thats the point isn’t it? To threaten Iran with destruction and chaos to force them to the negotiating table and convince them its in their best interests to fall in line.

      Remember that we have been down this road before with Japan prior to WWII. We saw Japanese expansion in the Pacific as a threat to our commercial interests and so cut off their oil supply (we supplied 80% of their oil). That effectively meant their war machine couldn’t function, neither could their economy. What was the Japanese response? Pearl Harbor and war with the US, even though that was a choice that ultimately failed it was seen as their only choice.

      So Iran is acting as much in-kind as possible, we cut off their access to oil markets, they will cut-off our access to the oil fields, tit-for-tat. I’m sure the leaders in Tehran know that such a move would not end well for them, but it may be the only card that they are able to play.

  6. Turner

    I’ll try one more time. In your post, Liz, you talked about a “celebration of death” in the SOTU. You seemed to be referring to the deadly SEAL team attack on Osama bin Laden and the equally deadly attack on those who kidnapped an American woman and a Norwegian man.

    Are you saying that these attacks should not have been ordered? Please, if you can, answer yes or no without going off on a tangent about American Empire.

    • Steve W

      I’ll try once more, also, Turner

      In your post to Liz, you seemed to ignore what his post was about and instead focused yet again on your obsession with Liz not passively accepting a culture of death as being an attack on the moral compass of your favorite team, the Obama administration.

      Are you saying that the attack on Osama was justice? Or would you say that it was an act of revenge? Or was it a just good politics?

      Will the attack lead to more peace and less killing in the future?

      Or do you believe the attack will lead to less peace and more killing in the future?

      Or are those questions irrelevant compared to the burning question that possibly consumes your whole life; IE will Obama be re-elected?

      And please answer the question without going off on a tangent about your favorite political super bowl team.

      Costa Rica makes Obama look much worse, daily, than Liz ever could. Costa Rica made Bush look bad, too. Costa Rica makes all of our war mongers look bad, it makes our country look bad. I think your anger is misplaced. You should be mad or upset or concerned or obsessed about Costa Rica, Turner, not Liz.

      Costa Rica proves daily that what Obama says and what you seemingly believe wholeheartedly is a big fat lie.

      Should Costa Rica exist?

      • Turner

        So when I ask Liz to answer a question, you feel the need to jump in and answer for him?

        What I think about killing Osama bin Laden is beside the point. I’m not the one demonizing our president for doing it.

        And your obsession with Costa Rica is borderline nuts. Seek help.

        • Steve W

          i didn’t answer your obsessive questions to Liz, i asked you questions instead, Turner.

          You seem to be at a loss for any answers.

          My guess is you haven’t thought about it much, because if you had, you might have been able to share some answers.

          It’s nice that you don’t have to think about it and can rely on Obama for your answers. A lot of folks did that with Bush as well. That was nice too, wasn’t it?

          Enjoy your slumber.

  7. lizard19

    Turner, speaking specifically about the Bin Laden hit, my short answer is no, it should not have been ordered.

    maybe you can answer a question for me: if trials were ok for Nazi war criminals, why not OBL?

    could it be this man had too much dirt on how the US empire operates when arming terrorists against a common enemy (the Soviets), like the Muhjadeen in Afghanistan? or could it be there was a lack of evidence actually tying OBL to 9-11?

    you know Turner, if people in this country could just suspend their visceral bloodlust for revenge for one fucking second, maybe they could ruminate on the notion that OBL achieved his objectives. he claimed responsibility for the 9-11 attack, provoking costly wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention the abandonment of principals once held as the bedrock of our society, like due process and the protection of citizens against unlawful searches and seizures.

    killing OBL didn’t solve anything. in fact, I would argue, it plays directly into the hands of the extremists who are trying to radicalize young people into carrying out jihad against Americans.

    what’s more believable? that America is a great democracy, a land of opportunity that values the rule of law…or that America is a violent, deceitful nation, willing to violently impose its will on sovereign nations to suit its own greedy interests?

    • Turner

      Thanks for the clear response.

      Your argument that killing OBL radicalized more young people may seem intuitively correct but it is bereft of evidence. It’s what you might want to believe, but how do you prove it?

      9-11, one of the terrorist acts that OBL took credit for, certainly radicalized many young people (see numerous celebratory videos). OBL was their champion. I doubt that killing him radicalized people who weren’t already radicals. It’s unlikely that it stirred up any new hornets.

      • lizard19

        evidence? evidence is so pre-9/11. but I’ll take a stab at it.

        the way the special-op went down in Pakistan has forced Pakistani leadership to take a more hard-line position against the US. whether they want to or not, to save face, that’s been one consequence of Obama’s glorious Bin Laden hit.

        and for those extremists trying to radicalize folks for jihad, they have plenty of evidence that—of the two Americas I presented—we are the latter. there are the pictures from Abu Ghraib, torture, Gitmo, and more recently, that lovely video of soldiers pissing on the corpses of Afghans. all of that comes from how this country has chosen to respond to the attacks of 9/11.

        I don’t think you can deny that killing creates a cycle of violence. where that cycle ends, none of us can say. Timothy McVeigh thought he was justified in the killing of hundreds of people because of Waco, and maybe someday some Iraqi will think he’s justified putting a bullet in the head of Bush or Cheney because they destroyed Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands of people, all based on lies.

        now that America has embraced assassination as a legitimate tool of our foreign policy, we no longer have the moral high ground in opposing such acts of violence.

        • Turner

          I think Pakistan’s response to the killing of OBL has been two-faced: anger at then US publicly but thumbs-up privately. Pakistani officials had no great love for OBL though elements in the military did.

          Esablishing cause and effect internationally is very difficult. But you’re right to point out atrocities committed by Americans — they can’t lead to a good outcome. However, I don’t think the killing of OBL (in my mind, NOT an atrocity) and pissing on corpses should be in clumped together as though they were similar.

          • lizard19

            so you have no problems with assassination as a tool of foreign policy? Nazis can get trials, but terrorists deserve to be executed? how about the three US born citizens that Obama has dispatched from this earth? do you have any problems with that?

            • Turner

              In killing Anwar-Awlawki, another Al-Quada operative, and Awlaki’s 16 yr. old son in Yemen, the Obama administration MAY have violated US law. The ACLU (I’m a member, by the way) has requested the intelligence report leading up to and justifying this killing.

              Post-Iraq, we seem to have evolved from a massive boots-on-the-ground war to narrowly targeted attacks against individuals and groups of individuals identified as (1) being dangerous to our country, and (2) beyond the range of normal law enforcement.

              I’m not entirely comfortable with the situation. But I’m not comfortable waiting for someone like Awlawki to blow up the local shopping mall.

              • lizard19

                if George Bush had killed 3 US citizens, I guarantee you the outcry from the supposed “left” would have been deafening. but team politics dictates that you must be more measured when it’s your guy doing the killing.

                Awlawki wasn’t going to blow up a shopping mall. no, he just incites, and others do the killing, something that I guess is now punishable by death.

                I wonder if you saw the link I put up last week about that Jewish guy calling for the assassination of Obama. maybe he should be summarily executed as well. I mean, why just sit around and wait for these things to happen, right?

                preemptive executions. that’s great. reminds me of another movie (adapted from a story by the brilliant Philip K. Dick) called Minority Report.

                man, the future is going to be so fucking safe with all these future killers stopped from killing by killing them first.

      • Don’t forget that 9-11 didn’t just radicalize people in the Middle East… it radicalized plenty of people right here in America as well, and that is the greatest threat our nation faces as a result of those attacks

      • JC

        The existence of a person like OBL proves that global hegemonies fighting over a strategic asset (the U.S. and USSR fighting over Afghanistan) and the politics of revenge can radicalize young people.

        Where did Osama get his first automatic rifle? From the CIA covertly handing off weapons to “Freedom Fighters” to help them fight the Russians.

        Except there is no loyalty to radicalized fringe militants. They will as soon turn and kill the hand that feeds them as they would fight our enemy.

        Remember Rev. Wright’s words about 9/11? Our chickens have come home to roost.

        9/11 and OBL is all the evidence that I need to know that our foreign policy has been a failure over the years. And that we are creating another generation of youth who will hate any country that has oppressed them. When they will strike back is anybody’s best guess. But the evidence of our actions radicalizing youth will not be immediate. As with OBL, 9/11 was 25 years in the making.

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