On Reader Requests and, Also, Iran

From a commenter named Greg:

My only comment would be that you tend to wear out certain topics…By now, we all know how you feel about Bush (utter contempt!), the Patriot Act (hate it!), Intelligent Design (hate it, too!) and gay marriage (love it!)

These predictable topics give you the ability to post the kind of opinions that your predominantly liberal audience loves to hear. They are red meat for the following you have built up in recent years.

I would be curious to see your take on some more diverse topics…Take religious extremism, for example: not Christian, but Islamic. Why aren’t you more concerned about Iran’s president, who is now banning Western music, and claiming that the Holocaust never happened?

To address the first two paragraphs first, I couldn’t possibly care what people are tired of me writing about here, or (alternately) whether what I write about here serves to sate the liberal needs of my audience, because I don’t get paid here and I don’t write here for anyone else but me. This is a free buffet, people: Eat as much as you like, but what you eat is what I choose to serve up. If you don’t like the menu, either wait until I get bored with a subject and write about something else, or just move on. The basic philosophy of the site is the same now as when I started: I write whatever I feel like writing. It’s right there in the title.

Having said that, if you are bored with me yammering on about Bush or gay marriage or writing or anything else I yammer on about on a regular basis, well, I do take requests. I do this formally during the Reader Request Weeks I’ve been doing annually for the last few years, but there’s nothing stopping you from asking my opinion about any particular subject at any particular time. Heck, I like taking reader requests because then I don’t have to spend much time wracking my brain wondering what the hell I’m going to write about today. Now ,you run the risk of me opining on something I don’t know jack about, but per the site disclaimer, I’m not going to let a little thing like complete ignorance stop me. And besides, me making an ass of myself makes for a lively comment thread. And isn’t that what everyone wants?

So, please: If you ever find yourself saying, “Christ almighty, I wish Scalzi would yabber on about something else already,” now you know what to do: send in a request. E-mail is best, but you can drop it in a comment thread if you like. Don’t be shy.

Now, as to religious extremism: Generally speaking, I think it’s no good, no matter which iteration of God one is being extreme about. As to why I’m not concerned about Iran: Who says I’m not? Is concern not a responsible position to take when a nuke-acquisitive country is being led by a Jew-hating Holocaust denier? And I think that Ahmadinejad’s cute little game provoke-and-deny is profoundly obnoxious; really, when one is walking about saying Israel should be wiped off the map, or that the Holocaust didn’t exist, it’s not exactly credible to goofily backtrack a day later and play some variation of the “it was taken out of context” card, especially when you’re back at it a few days later.

I have some suspicions that some of this is a ploy of some sort, a variation of the North Korean gambit in which one acts insane in the hope of extracting placating foreign aid of some type (in this case, involving nuclear power). Unfortunately for Iran, their variation of the North Korean gambit involves poking Israel with a sharp stick, and there’s only so long Iran will get away with that before Israel takes that stick and jams it hard right back into Iran’s eye. Israelis are prepared for the moment to let diplomacy do its thing, but if you don’t think they don’t already know how they’re going to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions, I suspect you’d be wrong on that.

Personally, I’m also inclined to see where diplomacy leads us, but then again if one day I woke up to find Israel had launched a multipronged air attack on Iran, I would be neither surprised nor unsupportive of such an action. Israel is a small, tough, paranoid guy in a bad neighborhood, and you don’t mess with small, tough paranoid guys without expecting to pay for it. It’s a measure of my confidence in Israel that I’m not as concerned with Iran as I perhaps should be. I expect that if things get to a certain point, it’s going to be Israel who takes the initiative, not anyone else, and certainly not the US. The military has enough going on as it is, and I don’t think that even Bush can make an argument for us opening up a third front in the Middle East.

Whether any of these assumptions have any relation to reality is another subject entirely. I welcome corrections to my worldview, and also, more requests of entry topics.

31 thoughts on “On Reader Requests and, Also, Iran

  1. Indeed. Just because I’m not writing about it here, doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. My entire life is not in evidence here.

  2. Well, it’s not Ahmenadjan’s extremism that depresses me. I knew what he was when he was elected, it’s not as if he was hailed as a liberal by anybody.

    What depresses me is that Iranians, again and again, voted for progressive politicians, and they were always powerless to change things on the face of a Constitution that is unshakably teocratic. Until the theocracy managed to put a stop even to the small advances, so that we’re now back to banning rock music.

    The Iranians may, even, have elected the current wanko. In any event, most opposition candidates were stopped from running.

    So I’m neither surprised nor dismayed that the man elected because he was a hardliner proved himself to be, indeed, a hardliner. I’m dismayed and depressed because, even when people try to make the best choices, their voice is supressed and betrayed.

  3. Nice try, Scalzi. You 1) are liberal, and 2) haven’t previously posted condemning Iran. From this we can deduce that you love Iranian fundamentalism. Nice try on the save, but its a no go.

    We can also deduce that you love cannibalizing republican babies, or that you at least do not condemn such practices (you are liberal, and have not posted a condemnation of republican-baby-cannibalism on this blog, therefore you love republican-baby-cannibalism). Don’t try to squirm free of my piercing criticism by writing a fairminded and thoughtful essay condemning it, or trying to explain that this blog is not the sum and total of your mental processes. We all know that the only real thought you have on republican-baby-cannibalism is the eternal debate on serving the ribs with white or red wine.

  4. It seems like a pretty dangerous combination when you’ve got one country denying the Holocaust ever happened, but stating it certainly should be done to it’s neighbor in the near future, while it’s neighbor is a nuclear power with a history of pre-emptive attacks, with the saying “Never Again.”

  5. Patrick:

    Republican babies are so gamy. Democrat babies are much more tender. Besides, everyone knows liberals eat their own.

  6. Do liberals eat their own, or do they mearly release them into the wild to grow free as nature intended?

    On a side note, The Inquirer is reporting on here on the Diebold hack attempts. In short anyone with access to the memory cards can alter the vote without detection.

  7. http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003924.html

    “I couldn’t possibly care what people are tired of me writing about here, or (alternately) whether what I write about here serves to sate the liberal needs of my audience, because I don’t get paid here and I don’t write here for anyone else but me.”

    http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/003912.html
    … You may resume your campaign of e-mail harrassment.

    Have you considered that your blog may be offending fans and disuading people from buying your books? This is always a risk when you publish an opinion blog. However when you state your opinions in a way that denigrates people with different opinions you will lose more readers and invite antagonistic comments.

    It is possible to state an opinion positively without denigrating folks with a different opinion. For example if you don’t like Bush’s policies you can advocate alternative policies and explain why they would be better than current policies.

  8. Ummm…if I can take the rhetorical risk of speaking for Mr. Scalzi in response to the numerical string’s comment….

    Yes, its possible that the tone of this blog could drive away potential readers. On the other hand, I’ve only bought and read John’s books because of the tone of his blog – and I often disagree with him!

  9. 123456789:

    “Have you considered that your blog may be offending fans and disuading people from buying your books?”

    Yeah. I don’t care. If people find that reading here cuts into their enjoyment of reading my books, quite obviously they should stop reading here.

    “It is possible to state an opinion positively without denigrating folks with a different opinion.”

    Clearly you’ve not read my opinion on this matter, either.

    To be blunt: I don’t want your advice on how to run my personal site. It’s my site and I will do whatever I damn well please with it. This is not negotiable. If you don’t like it, you don’t need to come back. If you can handle that, you are of course welcome to stay.

  10. If folks want “Fair and Balanced”, clearly the blogs of random individuals are not the place to look – they should go to Fox News.

    Personally, I find that Republican baby ribs go best with a delicate red wine…

  11. As others have stated…some of us are more inclined to pick up John’s book BECAUSE of blog writings.

    I may not always agree with Senor Scalzi’s scrivenings, but I find them well thought out and food for thought. That, and I find it far more digestible than most blogs that have anything resembling political commentary…by many factors of 10.

  12. How hard is it to find blogs writing about any particular issue on any given day? Why must Greg read about Iran on John Scalzi’s blog, when there’s a perfectly appropriate venue for his interests at Little Green Footballs? Seriously, let people write about what they want to write about, since that generally means they have something interesting to say about it.

  13. The comments in this and other blogs reflect the general decline in civility in this country. Instead of talking about ideas and policies affecting all of us, it tends to attack the comment posters. Remember the guy who campaigned that he is a “uniter not a divider”? America is not only divided between Democrats and Republicans, liberal or conservative but fragmented to include tree-hugging, animal rights activists and even extreme earth liberators. I’m not advocating groupthink which a lot of people confuse with moral or ideological stand. Just imagine what non-Americans are thinking right now. We are becoming more fragmented than the Baltic states and hatred is being fanned. This is the mentality that leads to war and genocide.

  14. I’m surprised you would use the word “paranoid” to describe Israel. To trot out the well-worn cliche, it ain’t paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

  15. Eric Berlin:

    “it ain’t paranoia if they’re really out to get you.”

    It’s well-justified paranoia, in any event.

    Lee:

    “The comments in this and other blogs reflect the general decline in civility in this country. Instead of talking about ideas and policies affecting all of us, it tends to attack the comment posters.”

    I can’t speak to other blog’s comment threads but as to the ones here: Horsepuckey. People in these comment threads can be very strongly-opinionated and they certainly attack other people’s ideas, but by and large they don’t attack other people as people. Go through the comment threads here and you’ll see most people are talking about the ideas, not denegrating the people who have presented them.

    I mean, hell, the commenter I have the most vehement exchanges with here is Claire Light, who not only is a friend of mine but was actually a guest blogger for me in July. So by and large I reject the proposition that most commenters here are more interested in whacking on each other than talking about ideas — and I advance the proposition that most commenters here are grown up enough that they can handle a discussion that is both substantive and, shall we say, rhetorically vivid.

    I do agree that occasionally someone will wander by and vomit up a gout of condescension, and my response will often be to pound on them for it. Also, if I think someone is talking entirely out of their ass, I don’t see the value in not telling them so in just those terms (and then explaining why). These people either go away — I’m difficult to top in a condescension competition, if I do say so myself — or they learn to moderate their responses, and we all go on. I prefer it when they learn to moderate their own responses, because we get more fruitful discussions that way. The good news is that most commenters here grasp that and do it.

    Now, Lee, it may be that the rhetorical level of discourse here is not to your liking, but I’m fine with it, and it’s my hole in the wall, so what I say goes. If things get too off track for me I’ll rein them in (see the comment thread rules). But by and large I’m content my commenters are smart enough and interesting enough to let them follow their train of thought.

  16. Just imagine what non-Americans are thinking right now. We are becoming more fragmented than the Baltic states[...]

    This non-American is almost concerned about the lack of news about the fragmentation of the Baltic states. Those pesky Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, with their Russian and Polish minorities! Can’t we just get along?

    I would personally like to know why I can’t seem to be able to buy Scalzi’s books in Finland. Is this a government conspiracy? And why didn’t I stop the man at Interaction to say hi? Oh, I know, I only found out about him – d’oh! Love the blog. Will use Amazon.

  17. Veering from fairness back to Iran for a moment, I wish I was as sure as you of Israel’s ability to pull off another Osirak.

    Osirak v1 was a pretty amazing feat in and of itself. It’d be much harder to repeat because there are Iran’s farther away, and there are half a dozen hardened targets. But most of all it won’t be a surprise. Twenty-five years ago, Iraq didn’t imagine such a thing was possible let alone likely. Today, it’s all but expected. And win or lose, Iran’s left with ballistic missiles that can strike back at Israel.

    I hope and pray that you’re right, that Israel can pull another rabbit out of the hat. I’ve got a lot of friends and family living in Israel. (And I don’t think a nuclear-armed Iran is good for the US, or anyone else either.) But I’m nowhere near as confident as you are.

  18. The comments in this and other blogs reflect the general decline in civility in this country. [...] We are becoming more fragmented than the Baltic states and hatred is being fanned. This is the mentality that leads to war and genocide.

    Or, even worse, melodrama!

  19. I’m surprised you would use the word “paranoid” to describe Israel. To trot out the well-worn cliche, it ain’t paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

    The cliche is “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”

    Or at least, I’ve never heard your cliche before. Maybe it doesn’t live where I do.

    At any rate, if they are out to get you, the paranoia isn’t schizofrenic. But it certainly can be paranoid…
    (From Merriam-Webster.com)
    1 : a psychosis characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations
    2 : a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others

    Def 2: note the “…OR irrational…” to see that irrationality (or insanity) are not required for dictionary adherence to paranoia.

    The question is then, “Is Israel excessively suspicious and distrustful?” Hard to say really. They’re awfully suspicious and distrustful, but have plenty of reasons to be. Not the least of which is “Iran exists.”

  20. There are times when I am profoundly grateful for not being in a position of power. This could get very, very ugly very, very fast.

    From the Iranian government’s point of view, they can unify their government by unifying the populace against an external threat: the evil Israelis and their equally (or even more so) evil American allies/puppet masters/puppets. The question is: are they serious, or are they just “waving the flag”? I personally am of the opinion that they are dreadfully serious about building nuclear weapons and using them against their enemies, Israel and the U S of A being very high on the list.

    This being the case, if I was an Israeli or American general, I would be thinking VERY seriously about a preemptive strike. As an American general, I would keep this plan in my desk and dust it off wistfully every once in awhile: political support for such an attack would be impossible to achieve.

    If I were an Israeli, I would consider it to be very likely that my government would give me the go signal: the question is, how big a piece can I bite off? I would personally try to level all the known nuclear development sites AND kill as much of the current Iranian leadership as I could manage. Dunno if the Israeli leadership would go for that last part, although they appear ready to sign off on the nuclear plants. Realpolitik is not diplomacy, and it is sure to raise a stink elsewhere: might be worth it though, if there was a reasonable expectation that the next government would limit itself to nasty speechmaking.

    The real problems will start AFTER the Israeli first strike. Unless the Israelis use nukes, an option that I consider as being EXTREMELY unlikely and INCREDIBLY ill advised the Iranians would almost certainly counterstrike with whatever missiles they have. This will be a very interesting field test: we have a fair idea of what missiles they have, but there is, as far as I know, a certain amount of uncertainty about what payloads are ready and how many missiles will successfully launch on short notice. There is further the accuracy issue, a difficult matter to test until they are actually used. There is also the matter of targeting do they shoot for Israel or the much closer and much more unpopular American bases in Iraq? After all, the Americans are currently controling the shortest air routes between Israel and Iran and any air attack launched by either side has to at least be overlooked by the Americans to succeed.

    And, of course, if they hit us, what will we do? I suspect wringing our hands and making peaceful noises will once again briefly go out of fashion and we will do something rather extreme.

    Given our current leadership, this could get really, really, bad.

    An awful lot of people could end up dead or worse over this B.S. I am really glad that none of this is my responsibility

  21. I can end the debate right now by pointing out that ribs, no matter their political provenence, should be served with either beer or hard cider, not wine. Wine is simply too fussy to drink and the glasses to hard to hold onto when eating food whose sauce involves your entire forearms. Diners at Chez Swift should stick with paper-labeled bottles or thick-handled beer mugs, for safety if nothing else.

  22. Soni, if only you would use a dry rub instead of a sauce, you could drink whatever you wanted.

    So there.

  23. I Beg to Differ…Notes of Caution


    Now ,you run the risk of me opining on something I don’t know jack about, but per the site disclaimer, I’m not going to let a little thing like complete ignorance stop me. And besides, me making an ass of myself makes for a lively comment thread. And isn’t that what everyone wants?

    Yes, that is what everybody wants ;)… That said firstly because I have never posted before this just wanted to say first found out about your blog from your book (OMW) and not the other way around as it seems with many other people. Since then has been a pretty regular stop for me in my daily browsing when I want something a little more “light” funny, and “sci-fie.” I thank you for that John Scalzi (and for your awesome books, keep it up! ;).

    All that said…I can definitely say I do not agree with your “opining” along the lines suggested by our seemingly r.w. reactionary friend…

    When your opining has to do with Hurricane Katrina, or b*sh (his name itself is vulgar enough for what it represents), etc. I can say I agree with you almost 100% but I definitely do not here (plus it has to do with international politics so definitely means I have to say something ;)

    I am not arguing at all in defense of President Ahmenadjan (I mean who can?…well sure there is somebody…) nor am I some sort of Israeliaphobe (though I definitely see many problems with American foreign policy vis a vis the aforementioned country as well as human rights abuses in said same)

    I will provide you with links to some articles that might temper your seeming “armchair bombing” enthusiasm in the case of Iran and see what you and others might think…

    Enjoy!

    ==================================================
    A million martyrs await the call

    What’s behind Iranian leader’s anti-Israel rant

    Iranian Nuclear Power Crazy? Think Again

  24. That’s a pretty astute analysis of Iran’s recent actions, I like the poking stick analogy.

    In Time recently they ran 10 Questions For Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

    We’re out of time, but I want to keep going until…

    We’ve gone one minute over, actually.

    O.K., but I have two last questions.

    This is very common, I think, in America, isn’t it? To ask for more.

    … at which point the interview inconspicously drew to a close! It underlined his worryingly arrogant attitude and self-image, for me. Maybe I’m hearing things he wasn’t saying, but surely he knew the audience he had and how his interview would be analysed.

    Matt Stover’s metaphor would be particularly appropriate advice to Iran’s President: “If you’re gonna play Poke the Bear, you better keep in mind that the bear doesn’t give a shit it’s just a game.”

  25. Reville Radical:

    “When your opining has to do with Hurricane Katrina, or b*sh (his name itself is vulgar enough for what it represents), etc. I can say I agree with you almost 100% but I definitely do not here”

    Well, and if you did, you would probably be, and that would be awkward for us both, I would think.

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