Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Life Imitates Mark Steyn

“Conservative” has been carelessly appropriated by the media to mean no more than the side you’re not meant to like. Attorney general John Ashcroft is a hardline conservative, but so, according to the press, is the Taliban and half the Chinese politburo and the crankier ayatollahs.

Canada is calling for the arrest of an Iranian prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, be arrested if he sets foot in a civilized nation. The cleric is charged by Canadian officials for the 2003 torture death of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, Zahra Kazemi, in an Iranian jail.

I was listening to this story on Morning Edition today (audio here), and got the subjective impression that they were being tougher on Iran than usual. The victim in this case was a woman, a Canadian, and a journalist--so to a male American news-consuming cynic, that might account for the heat.

Then, I caught a snippet wherein the NPR reporter said that Mortazavi is widely considered one of the most "conservative" Iranian officials. Uh-huh. Not "radical", as in radically transgressing the norms of civilized jurisprudence by imposing medieval tortures on innocent victims. But "conservative", as in "'conservative' is just another synonym for 'bad dog!' in the news media."

Well, I guess that shows they were really angry about Iran's dictatorship, and that's something, at least.


  1. Tag him, gag him, and bag him off to the Hague.

    Think about it: the more we feed international criminals to the Hague, the greater becomes the appetite.

    Soon our American war criminals will begin to look appetizing.

  2. Well, from the online Mirriam-Webster dictionary:

    Conservatism: (3) the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change.

    You're complaining about the usage of the word in its original, dictionary sense.

    Remember, "conservative" as an appellation for the US political movement was originally a slur by progressives. It was appropriated by Goldwater, and has since begun to take on the "positive" connotation that it currently has. Just as with "queer" for "strange or odd," the appropriation of an insult doesn't make the original definition vanish in a puff of linguistic smoke.

    Calling Mortazavi a "radical" would remove the useful ability to distinguish between two different sorts of extremists. It's important to recognize the difference between a Mortazavi and a Stalin---they're both monstrous, but have differing appeals to their supporters, and must be deterred differently.

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