November 12, 2001

James Lileks' range of writing is too varied for me to consider him a warblogger, but he has definitely produced some of the most insightful and crispest commentary I've read about the war during the past few weeks.

I had already been familiar with Lileks' work, mostly his syndicated columns and his "Institute of Official Cheer, including The Gallery of Regrettable Foods ("Where the past comes to life -- so we can promptly beat it to death again."), when I came across his Daily Bleat on his website. The Bleat is essentially Lileks' diary, dealing first and foremost with his attempts to keep his daughter Natalie ("The Gnat") away from Barney, and if he has time after that, with his commentary on whatever's on his mind.

So a long section about Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library, coffee makers, or a hilarious description of the Dramatic Typing in the new show "24" will be followed by something like this:

"A number of people have sent me some URLs for sites that show Afghan casualties. I appreciate the links, but I’m not certain what I am supposed to do with this information. It’s odd how the very people who often decry the superficiality and image-driven nature of modern culture are often the first to use pictures to change minds. Well, I do know this:

I’m sure the people behind these sites had one devoted to opposing Taliban atrocities prior to 9/11 - in fact, I don’t doubt that they had extensive sites concerning Taliban atrocities. Surely a person of their evident smarts knows the difference between killing civilians as a deliberate matter of state policy and killing them, by error, in the prosecution of war; if the latter bothers them, the former must have occasioned all sorts of website protests. I’m sure the makers of these sites would have put up extensive collections of dead-body from the WTC collapse if the US had not gone to Afghanistan. I’m also sure that they prefer sanctions and diplomacy - unless those sanctions actually hurt civilians, in which case they’d have to be lifted.

I know these things must be true, because the people who make these sites surely do not believe in a moral equivalence between the US and the Taliban. They’re much too smart for that . . ."

What really got my attention was this past Friday's dissemination of "Virtuous Defeatism: [the belief system that says] since it is impossible to do the perfect thing, scorn must be poured on anything that does not attain perfection." It's too long to excerpt, but it's about the third or fourth really strong piece by him in the last few weeks, a string that would make The Bleat worth reading even without his digressions about the creepiness of Dr. Seuss.

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