There's a small lefty group blog here in Los Angeles called Martini Republic that always has its knickers in a knot about something. A couple of months ago one of their posters, Joseph Mailander, referred to L.A. blogger Patterico (who just won the 2004 Wizbang Best Blog Award) as a "chronic bar-flunker" — an odd insult considering that Patterico is a deputy district attorney. A few weeks ago, they were in high dudgeon because our local media site, L.A. Observed, had left them off some list of L.A. political bloggers. Earlier this month they were fuming because L.A. mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg had dared place an ad on "rightwing warmonger" Roger Simon's blog.
"As most habitual readers are well aware," they noted huffily, "Martini Republic does not accept political advertisements." I remarked in their comments that I wasn't aware Martini Republic didn't accept political ads, just assumed they didn't get any, which I suppose was kind of nasty but also maybe a good deed; the MR folks work themselves into a lather pretty regularly about me and other L.A. bloggers they deem too far right — including, absurdly, disappointed Kerry-voter Mickey Kaus — but they obviously put a lot of effort into the enterprise and almost never get comments, which always makes me feel a little sad.
But recently they jumped the shark, as we say here in Hollywood, with their laughable conspiracy theories about the pro-democracy blog Iraq the Model. They also finally got some attention. A couple of weeks ago, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil, two Baghdad brothers who run Iraq the Model, visited the U.S. courtesy L.A. businessman Jim Hake's Spirit of America, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to spread democracy through Iraq via charitable goodwill projects.
The highlight was a half-hour visit with President Bush in the Oval Office. But the brothers also came to L.A., where blogger/screenwriter/mystery author Roger Simon and his wife Sheryl hosted a reception at their Hollywood Hills home. I was there, along with L.A. bloggers Mickey Kaus, Charles Johnson, N.Z. Bear, Bill Whittle, Armed Liberal, Moxie, and the Drudge Report's Andrew Breitbart.
Now, Mailander has had a CIA bee in his bonnet about Iraq the Model for some time. This summer he called it "such an obvious Langley-intern project" in the L.A. Observed comments, a zany notion that L.A. blogger Xrlq dubbed "Joseph and the Amazing Tinfoil-Colored Dreamhat." So he was rather touchingly thrilled when prominent lefty blogger Juan Cole credited him and MR for "an extremely important posting" that noted that Iraq the Model's "choice of internet service provider, in Abilene, Texas, is rather suspicious, and wonder[ed] whether they are getting some extra support from certain quarters."
You might assume that a pro-America, pro-democracy Baghdad blog would be considered a good thing across the political spectrum here in the U.S., but unfortunately you would be wrong. Lefty bloggers complain that most Iraqis are not as pro-America as the Fadhil brothers, which might be true (although Omar and Mohammad — who, like Saddam and his crew, are Sunni — argue vehemently to the contrary). But so what?
Should we have refused to support the French Resistance in World War II because so many of their countrymen sympathized with the Vichy government? Or — a better analogy — if some Americans had tried to discredit anti-Nazi, pro-U.S. Germans after the war (because after all, Hitler had the support of the masses) should they have expected anyone here other than the American Nazi party to take them seriously?
At his L.A. gathering, Roger Simon asked Omar and Mohammed about Cole's suggestion that they're really CIA spies. They laughed, and made motions to pull off masks like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible. No, they added, they are not backed by the CIA. "People also used to accuse us of not being really Iraqi," Omar said. "Then finally they had to admit that, OK, we are Iraqi."
"I've called Andrew Sullivan 'excitable,'" Mickey Kaus noted a few days later. "But Cole makes Sullivan look like Brian Lamb." Jeff Jarvis, who like Kaus is also a Democrat, noted that in the bad old days, "when people disagreed with those on [Cole's] side of the political spectrum, people on the other side implied that they must be backed by the Soviet Union." Michael Totten, a liberal who voted Republican this election, did an excellent job deconstructing Cole's accusations, observing that "Juan Cole would rather align himself with anti-American Iraqis like the blogger Riverbend... I have no idea why he expects conservatives and centrists to do any such thing. Most people in this world don't reflexively side with those who hate them."
I agree, except I would also say that I have no idea why he expects Americans in general to do any such thing. But then, I admit I can be naive. I keep wondering, for instance, why those furious about the Right's antipathy toward gay marriage, and who still see American women as an oppressed class, are making common cause with Islamists who regard women as chattel and think homosexuals should be crushed beneath walls.
I did come across a good explanation in David Horowitz's new book Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. Horowitz's theory is "the utopian future that embodies the idea of 'social justice'" connects radical Islam and its sympathizers with yesterday's Marxists: "It is this utopian vision that provides radicals with the standard of judgment that condemns the actually existing world, no matter how decent it may be." So therefore America and its friends, like Iraq the Model, are automatically suspect.
Still, I keep half-expecting the Martini Republic folks to show some sense of humor, or at least proportion, about themselves. But they never do, so I've begun to think that teasing them is like poking a small animal with a sharp stick.
The MR post that Cole linked to is even wackier than Cole's paraphrasing of it. They never explain exactly why the Texas company that hosts one of the Iraq the Model domain names should raise eyebrows, but it is called CIATech Solutions. Never mind that in this case, CIA stands for Complex Internet Applications. An MR commenter suggests that "it might be a good idea to contact the journo who wrote that USA Today article" that first brought Iraq the Model to mainstream media attention: "Could be...they were 'tapped' and put on the payroll by one of the spooks floating around Baghdad."
A few comments down, the USA Today reporter, Cesar Soriano, weighs in ("in between fits of laughter") and reports that, for the record, "I have never had any contact with the CIA regarding the blog story." (Well, but that's just what he would say, isn't it?)
It's all beginning to remind me of Jim Treacher's description of the Dan Rather defense: "Prove I'm Not Queen of the Space Unicorns." Jim emailed me: "Your buddy Joseph must have had a fit when IRS records came along."
— Catherine Seipp is a writer in California who publishes the weblog Cathy's World. She is an NRO contributor.