Equivalency?: Harper’s Editor Discussed Saying He Wanted to Kill President Bush

BushCokeIn 2006 Ben Metcalf wrote:

Before I attempt to fill these pages with my disgust, which the odd reader who knows me will surely expect, I am obliged to address a preliminary concern, which that same odd reader may safely ignore. Some time has passed since I last raised my voice to the multitude, and whereas literary taste does not seem to have advanced much in the interim, and I assume is still arrayed so as to engage only the weak-minded and dull, I find that I am no longer able to discern with any accuracy where the bounds of simple human decency lie. This would bother me even less than does the taste issue were it not for the fact that ground gained or lost in the theater of decency tends now and then to affect the law, and it has long been a personal goal of mine to avoid capture and imprisonment.

I am therefore led to wonder what the common citizen is allowed to “say” anymore, in print or otherwise, and still feel reasonably sure that some indignant team of G-men, or else a pair of gung-ho local screws, will not drag him away to a detention center, there to act out, with the detainee as a prop, that familiar scene in which one hero cop or another is patriotically unable to resist certain outbursts against the detainee and what were once imagined to be the detainee’s constitutional rights. Because I am loath to violate whatever fresh new mores the people have agreed upon, or have been told they agree upon, and because I do not care to have my ass kicked repeatedly in a holding cell while I beg to see a lawyer, I almost hesitate to ask the following question. I will ask it, though, out of what used to be called simple human decency:

Am I allowed to write that I would like to hunt down George W. Bush, the president of the United States, and kill him with my bare hands?

Let me be clear that I have no wish to perform such a deed in fact, nor do I want anyone else to destroy bodily what is, at least in the technical sense, a fellow human being. (Let me be equally clear that the above qualification, although true, is intended primarily as a legal ploy and should in no way be attributed to my claimed pacifism, which today’s prosecutor might find a way to use against me. I would also like excused from the proceedings my personal feelings for George W. Bush, embarrassment and rage, as they could probably be turned to my disadvantage as well.) In truth, I bring neither a message nor a promise of violence. I seek only to gauge what level of discourse is still acceptable in this country by asking, in the hope that I might someday participate in that discourse, whether I am free to posit that it would probably be great fun, and a boon to all mankind, if I were to slaughter the president of the United States with my bare hands.

Almost au courant, isn’t it?  It gets better (or should I say worse?).  Read the rest here before making comparisons to Olbermann, Beck, Limbaugh, or anyone else.

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  • ken vallario

    i have always loved this style of writing, a very legalistic style that employs an endless barrage of disclaimers, describing what one is not saying, so as to clear the ground for specificity. such a tedious attempt to eliminate ‘common’ misinterpretations seems always defensible given the plasticity of language, and reflects a kind of earnestness that appeals to me. within this earnestness is an attempt to speak freely, in an age where doing so has become difficult precisely because language has become, in some way, the ‘operating system’ of our species. and so, to attempt the impossible is itself a kind of bravado, even though many might interpret such styles as timid, i say it is exactly the opposite. here is a writer trying to beat the machine, trying to play chess with big blue, trying to stake out some ground for an informed discussion, where the terms are agreed upon before true engagement….

    now, what might i say about his actual subject…well, only that it is a warranted discussion, and one every pacifist liberal, like myself, should grapple with…

  • ken vallario

    i have always loved this style of writing, a very legalistic style that employs an endless barrage of disclaimers, describing what one is not saying, so as to clear the ground for specificity. such a tedious attempt to eliminate ‘common’ misinterpretations seems always defensible given the plasticity of language, and reflects a kind of earnestness that appeals to me. within this earnestness is an attempt to speak freely, in an age where doing so has become difficult precisely because language has become, in some way, the ‘operating system’ of our species. and so, to attempt the impossible is itself a kind of bravado, even though many might interpret such styles as timid, i say it is exactly the opposite. here is a writer trying to beat the machine, trying to play chess with big blue, trying to stake out some ground for an informed discussion, where the terms are agreed upon before true engagement….

    now, what might i say about his actual subject…well, only that it is a warranted discussion, and one every pacifist liberal, like myself, should grapple with…

  • justagirl

    the editor “would also like excused from the proceedings”. i do-hon’t think so.

  • justagirl

    the editor “would also like excused from the proceedings”. i do-hon’t think so.

  • Honu

    Well, in light of the facts that GW lied us into an illegal war (Downing Street memos indicate the former and the US’s unilateral decision despite the U.N.’s charter for the latter) and the thousands of lives that were lost as a result of the decision, not to mention the war profiteering that has been going on by Bush’s buddies at Halliburton, Bechtel, etc at the expense of the American tax payer followed by the worst recession in since the Great Depression brought on by continued deregulation (that yes, was started years before under Clinton I know…still it happened on Bush’s watch)…I can’t say I don’t understand this guy’s sentiments. I see no justice for criminally negligent behaviour like this so if you’ve been paying attention to all this crap and have a conscience, how could you not have embarassment and rage. And embarassment and rage without an outlet can certainly formulate some nasty thoughts.

    • WhiteRose

      Bush was put into office to deal with unfinished business from the first Iraq War. Not sure on the 9/11 timelines but carpe diem as they say….

      • Honu

        Yes, there certainly seemed to be some kind of daddy syndrome thing with GW and Iraq. Not sure I agree with you on the carpe diem part though.

  • Honu

    Well, in light of the facts that GW lied us into an illegal war (Downing Street memos indicate the former and the US’s unilateral decision despite the U.N.’s charter for the latter) and the thousands of lives that were lost as a result of the decision, not to mention the war profiteering that has been going on by Bush’s buddies at Halliburton, Bechtel, etc at the expense of the American tax payer followed by the worst recession in since the Great Depression brought on by continued deregulation (that yes, was started years before under Clinton I know…still it happened on Bush’s watch)…I can’t say I don’t understand this guy’s sentiments. I see no justice for criminally negligent behaviour like this so if you’ve been paying attention to all this crap and have a conscience, how could you not have embarassment and rage. And embarassment and rage without an outlet can certainly formulate some nasty thoughts.

  • WhiteRose

    Bush was put into office to deal with unfinished business from the first Iraq War. Not sure on the 9/11 timelines but carpe diem as they say….

  • EAGD

    “Before I attempt to fill these pages with my disgust, which the odd reader who knows me will surely expect, I am obliged to address a preliminary concern, which that same odd reader may safely ignore. Some time has passed since I last raised my voice to the multitude…”

    Oh God, JUST GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!

    • Andrew

      I’d suggest reading ken vallario’s comment, but that might be too complicated for you too.

  • EAGD

    “Before I attempt to fill these pages with my disgust, which the odd reader who knows me will surely expect, I am obliged to address a preliminary concern, which that same odd reader may safely ignore. Some time has passed since I last raised my voice to the multitude…”

    Oh God, JUST GET TO THE POINT ALREADY!

  • Andrew

    I’d suggest reading ken vallario’s comment, but that might be too complicated for you too.

  • Honu

    Yes, there certainly seemed to be some kind of daddy syndrome thing with GW and Iraq. Not sure I agree with you on the carpe diem part though.

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