Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leaders With Facial Hair Are A Bad Sign I

My friend's mom recommended a video posted just a few days ago, October 28, 2010 on TheOakInitiative channel. The basic message of the video, delivered by retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, is that we're in danger of becoming a Marxist nation. My friend asked me for my thoughts on Boykin's comments. I am not an expert in this area. In fact, I probably know only slightly more about it than Sarah Palin does, so all I could do is listen to him, think about what he says, and report back. Hopefully you guys will find it interesting. It will not surprise you that I have a lot to say here, so this will be a multi-part series. Let's hear a little bit about Boykin.

<clip: 00:15 to 00:23>

Ok, pretty standard stuff, establish some credibility with the audience. I don't know anything about anything, but when I hear "Green Beret," I think of a soldier, trained in special missions, creeping around at night with a gun and ambushing bad guys. Is that what he hopes you'll think? I don't know. I'm a social misfit, and I do a pretty rotten job of navigating the subtleties of conversation. If it's not the case that he wants you to think of him like this, then why would he say it? To lead up to the fact that the study of Marxist insurgency is part of his training? I wouldn't think so; he could have just left it at, "I'm a Special Forces officer."

Now you might want to say that I'm nit-picking, but consider: there are a lot of people in our country who automatically have more respect for a guy who's been in the trenches, especially in some exotic wing of the military. Would you have felt differently about him if he'd said, "I'm a Special Forces officer, and I commanded the U.S. Army’s Green Berets"? Maybe, maybe not. If you're the type that automatically respects the political views of a guy who goes out there and risks his life, knowing little to nothing about his education and experience with any bearing on his views, perhaps hearing that he was a commander rather than a soldier would not have the same impact. Why do I mention this? Because I poked around for a bit and found "commander" all over the place, but never anything about him being in the trenches as a Green Beret, even on sites that favor his views.

Also, I assume that he is presenting his best credentials here: an officer in the military who was trained concerning Marxist insurgency. This might seem great for the depressingly huge portion of the U.S. population who think that education is somehow unhealthy, but me, I'd rather he'd said something like, "I'm a political analyst with a Ph. D. from Harvard. My thesis was based on an analysis of Marxist insurgencies and the socio-political trends that lead up to them. I've continued research in this area for the last 20 years and have published numerous related papers in respectable, peer-reviewed journals." What are we to make of the fact that he was an officer in the military with some training? How good was the training? How long did he study? A year? Two years? Ten years? He doesn't say. If it had been ten years, then I'd assume that he'd say so in order to engender respect for his arguments. The fact that he doesn't give any details suggests to me that the details would be unimpressive. If someone is going to make the kinds of claims that Boykin makes later in his video, with absolutely no references to any reputable documentation, then you might hope that he'd be able to point to a solid foundation. Unspecified military training for some unspecified duration just doesn't cut it for me -- it seems that even to begin to understand something as complex as the onset of Marxism would require extensive, long-term study.

Let's hear Mr. Boykin's central thesis:

<clip: 00:23 to 00:31>

Hmm, I have to wonder how many of Boykin's viewers have looked up the word "Marxism" or "insurgency" in a dictionary. Probably not many. I'm sure that far fewer have studied Marxism, or economics, or politics in general, enough even to make an informed judgment about whether a Marxist U.S. would be a good or bad thing. Note that I've never looked up these words either; what I know about Marxism has come from YouTuber DasAmericanAtheist; what I know about politics comes from a couple of college courses and only six or eight books on American history and government over the years. So I'm not claiming to know anything. My point here is that although the purpose of this video, as stated by Boykin at the end, is to encourage us to take political action, we must first decide how much to allow this video to influence the kind of action we take. Does Boykin ever tell us what's wrong with Marxism? No. What could be the point of a video like this that tosses out the word "Marxism" to an audience that barely even knows what Marxism is? I don't want to overstate anything, but this already smells like propaganda, not actual information.

That's Part I. Thanks for watching.

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