30 October 2007 - A Mearsheimer & Walt Halloween
You know it’s Halloween when John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt show up in Harvard Square to tell ghost stories about the evil Israel lobby. Last night the pair of jack o’ lanterns appeared at the First Parish in Cambridge. I couldn’t make it to the whole talk—I was speaking at another event—but my girlfriend braved the crowd of Cambridge crazies and went to hear them speak.
The drum M & W are beating now, she said, is that the Israel lobby was responsible for the Iraq war. And the crowd loved it. They loved it so much that when the question-and-answer began the moderator had to discipline the zealous fans at the microphone. Not a single pro-Israel voice, my girlfriend noted. But she also noticed that W & M seemed a disappointed. No one serious comes to their lectures anymore.
You know you’re on your way out when no one cares enough even to attack your view. On my way back home, I stopped at the church to peek in. The church was half-empty and it had apparently been that way the whole evening. I thought of asking them one of several damning questions, but my girlfriend said: why bother? They shift their ideas to duck challenges. It’s propaganda, not intellectual debate.
Outside, in the Square, a group of fire-and-brimstone missionaries had gathered, preaching against homosexuality. One man stood holding a huge sign: “HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN. CHRIST SAVES YOU FROM HELL.” No one paid them any attention until a pair of gay activists came along with signs of their own: “HEY LESBIAN LADIES: FREE KISSES IN THE SQUARE TONIGHT,” etc.
It was sort of funny, but no one really noticed them, either. There’s a lesson in that, I thought. You can stand up to these completely marginal figures with their nutty ideas, but then again, why bother? There’s an old saying in politics: “Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.” It’s gratifying to realize that when it comes to M & W, most sensible people have already come to that conclusion.