Chapter 17: Regression to the Meme, Ctd.
They teach you stuff in advanced writing classes at college. Secret, weird, initiate-only stuff. One of the things they teach you is what to look for when editing someone else's work. Another thing they teach you is that there really aren't that many hard and fast Laws Of Good Writing. There are plenty of rules, but as Morpheus says in The Matrix, some of them can be bent. Others can be broken.
When editing the work of others it is important to know what effect they are trying to achieve. If they flash a gun in the first act and we never see it again, they'd better have a damn good reason why. If they write themselves into a "Lost"-ish corner of a thousand writhing loose ends and promises that All Will be Revealed, and then the little boy wakes up and it was all a dream, it is acceptable to fling poo at that writer in public forever.
And if they construct what is called a "frame story" --
A frame story (also frame tale, frame narrative, etc.) is a literary technique that sometimes serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, whereby an introductory or main narrative is presented, at least in part, for the purpose of setting the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories...When there is a single story, the frame story is used for other purposes – chiefly to position the reader's attitude toward the tale...
-- it is perfectly within bounds to critique both the frame itself as well as what the frame contains.
The Book of Job is a frame story. So is the Gospel of Mark
Frame begins: Holy spirit descents from heaven (Mark 1:9-11)At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”Then a buncha stuff happens.Frame ends: Holy spirit ascends to heaven (Mark 16:19)After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.
One of the most famous frame stories in classical literature are the tales of pilgrims trying to outdo each other on their way the tomb of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Another terrific example -- "1001 Arabian Nights" -- is a series of individual fictive gem, all are fitted within the frame of Scheherazade trying to save her own life by spinning each of those tales out as a cliffhanger. Edgar Allan Poe used frame construction to serve a couple of important functions:
In Poe's writing, the outside frame of a frame story often has at least one of two purposes, that of manipulating the mood prior to the commencement of the main story, or that of posing the problem and resolution before giving way to what is known in detective fiction as the "reveal", during which the most intelligent character explains to the others how he solved the problem.
Having recently RSVPed in the affirmative to an invitation to an open, public debate over the merits of various aspects of NSA domestic surveillance and the apparent flaccidity of the FISA court, let us leap right into one of today's dialogue.
Here is how The Washington Post reports the issue at hand as follows:
...As we’ve seen in other debates over the NSA’s surveillance, the roll call produced some interesting cross-cutting. Ninety-four Republicans sided in favor of the amendment, along with 111 Democrats. Missing, however, was transparency hawk (and darling of the Internet) Rep. Darrell Issa, who voted to uphold the NSA’s surveillance program.Issa didn’t offer a public explanation for his vote, and efforts to reach his office received no responses Thursday morning.Other committee leaders played a crucial role in rallying opposition to Amash. House Intelligence Committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Judiciary Committee chair Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) spent much of Wednesday making calls to other members.Amash faced stiff high-ranking opposition. The leadership of both parties, as well as the White House, vocally opposed weakening the NSA’s ability to conduct surveillance. But Amash still managed to mount a strong defense — which suggests that momentum is building for critics of the NSA.“The tide is turning,” read an update last night posted to DefundtheNSA.com, a Web site launched hours before the vote by Sina Khanifar, a digital activist. The site now has a list of the complete roll call, divided into two groups: those who voted for the amendment and those who voted against it. Beneath each lawmaker’s photo is a button urging constituents to tweet or call.“They were very worried,” said Conyers of the Democratic leadership, which opposed the amendment along with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “And the fact that they won this narrowly means they still are worried because this thing isn’t over yet.”...
Mr. Charles Pierce describes the issue at hand this way:
Every member of the House leadership from both sides of the aisle voted against the amendment. This must be the "bipartisanship" that I hear so much about on The Sunday Showz. It's certainly reminiscent of the "bipartisanship" that ruled Washington in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when everybody was hiding under the same bed, and the laws got passed that made the NSA program possible in the first place. It seems to be the considered -- and well-nigh unanimous -- opinion of our political elites that democracy stops at the doors of the NSA. I don't recall a "national conversation" that decided anything like that.
Pretty clear how most people see this unusual development: on the subject of NSA surveillance party leaders and party rank-and-file members are at odds with each other. Those are the facts and they are disputed by no one. That is this story, and quite an important and consequential story it is.
But for some people, that is not enough. Not nearly enough.
But for some people, that is not enough. Not nearly enough.
So keeping in mind your newly-minted English comp lesson, take a careful look at this frame that Mr. Greenwald drags into virtually every discussion and tries to bolt around virtually any set of facts --
-- and draw your own conclusions about what Mr. Greenwald wants this story to be.Frame begins: First paragraphOne of the worst myths Democratic partisans love to tell themselves - and everyone else - is that the GOP refuses to support President Obama no matter what he does. Like its close cousin - the massively deceitful inside-DC grievance that the two parties refuse to cooperate on anything - it's hard to overstate how false this Democratic myth is. When it comes to foreign policy, war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, and civil liberties, President Obama's most stalwart, enthusiastic defenders are often found among the most radical precincts of the Republican Party.Then a buncha stuff happens.Frame ends: Last paragraphThe sooner the myth of "intractable partisan warfare" is dispelled, the better. The establishment leadership of the two parties collaborate on far more than they fight. That is a basic truth that needs to be understood. As John Boehner joined with Nancy Peolsi, as Eric Cantor whipped support for the Obama White House, as Michele Bachmann and Peter King stood with Steny Hoyer to attack NSA critics as Terrorist-Lovers, yesterday was a significant step toward accomplishing that.