NABA NABA hey! December 23, 2007

Something is very wrong with Mona Charen. That’s obvious to anyone who reads her repugnant recent column and it’s apparently obvious to Charen as well. She’s even managed to creep herself out with her eager defense of torture and thus her self-esteem is at an all-time low.

So Charen does what many of us do when we’re feeling deservedly ashamed and repulsed by our own failures: She looks for someone worse with whom she can compare herself favorably. As the great moral philosopher Thornton Melon said, “If you want to look thin, hang out with fat people.”

This practice provides a useful measurement of the gravity of one’s situation. Charen has searched the globe, looking for someone, anyone, who might make her look good. Unable to find any obvious moral inferiors in this hemisphere, she finally settles on al-Qaida. Triumphantly, she points to an al-Qaida torture chamber discovered last May and gleefully recounts the atrocities that were committed there:

The room contained torture implements including hammers, whips, meat cleavers and wire cutters as well as a crude torture manual, displaying various methods of inflicting unbearable pain. These included using a blowtorch on the skin, gouging out eyes, using an electric drill to cut through a hand, and many more.

See? Don’t you see? Charen never personally took a blowtorch to someone’s skin or gouged out anyone’s eyes. She’s Not As Bad As those people. Sure, she might be a loathesome apologist for techniques learned from the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazis* and Stalinist Russia, and she may be actively and aggressively undermining the sacred American and journalistic principle of innocent until proven guilty, but look at those people — they’re even worse!

I am certainly willing to concede that point. Mona Charen is correct: She’s Not As Bad As al-Qaida. Nor is she yet anywhere near As Bad As any of those regimes — the Inquisition, the Nazis, Stalin, North Korea — from whom she thinks we should take lessons in interrogation techniques and military justice.

Charen has lowered the bar so far that the bar is no longer even visible, yet she still expects us to be impressed that she made it over. Well, whoop-dee-frickin’-doo.

The bad news for Mona Charen is that life doesn’t work this way. Our success or failure as human beings is not graded on a curve. The existence of people like Timothy McVeigh or Jeffrey Dahmer or Uday Hussein does not give the rest of us a free pass to get away with everything this side of mass murder or cannibalism or serial rape. Countries, cultures and governments aren’t graded on a curve either. It doesn’t matter if your government looks good when compared to Kim Jong Il’s or Turkmenbashi’s — that doesn’t make it a healthy democracy or a free and open society.

The NABA NABA pinheads like Mona Charen aren’t really trying to convince you and I that they’re good people. They’re trying to convince themselves. And they’re failing. They know this is nonsense. They realize that their claim — we’re Not As Bad As the worst people you can think of — is just about the saddest, flimsiest, least-impressive claim one could make.

Settling for second best is unambitious and uninspiring. Settling for second worst — and trying to pretend you’re proud of it — is just pathetic.

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* Godwin can bite me. This isn’t a Nazi analogy. Charen advocates, as a matter of American policy, the explicit imitation, adoption and refinement of forbidden interrogation techniques once used by the Third Reich against its enemies. There’s nothing analogous about it.

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