Barry Eisler

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Criticize Govt = Hate America?

Back in Tokyo after three weeks on the road promoting Fault Line, drained as usual after these things but happy. Not much of a break this time, either, with the Japanese version and the Rain Fall movie coming out this month, but these are quality problems and no complaints.

Got a whole lot to write about and not much time, so today, just one thought. I've been surprised by the amount of mail and reviews of Fault Line dismissing the book (and me) as anti-American, far left, etc. I don't want to give away anything essential to the plot here, but I think it's okay to say that in the book the US government is involved in a number of illegal activities, including assassinations. At which point, two questions present themselves.

First, is it not true that the USG is involved in illegal activities, including assassinations?

Second, why would pointing out that the government behaves illegally make one anti-American? At a minimum, such an argument would have to equate the government with America. Is this true? America = the government, no more, no less?

This is a worldview I find difficult to understand. When did the government come not just to represent America, but actually to *be* America, in the minds of people who think criticism of the government and hatred of America are the same thing? Adding to my befuddlement is my sense that the people advancing this line of argument typically call themselves conservative. Among their rank, of course, is Grover Norquist, a fellow who famously declared his desire to shrink the government to a size where he could "drown it in the bathtub." I don't understand -- how could someone hate America so? Where's the outrage?

Tell you what: I love my country, but frequently can't stand the government. Trivial example: one night just last week, heading to a bookstore in Tyson's Corner, VA, from one in Reston, I pulled into the toll booth to the Dulles toll road. There were two booths: one labeled Exact Change, the other, Full Service. Lacking change, I chose the latter. But -- surprise! There was no attendant. I couldn't back up, so I had to drive through, past the camera and the alarm bells. Five minutes later, I repeated the process at the exit ramp. I'm sure I'll be getting a stiff set of tickets in the mail later this month. I'm equally sure the people who designed this system did so with full knowledge of how it would work, just to collect revenue. I think they're all a bunch of government squeegee men. Does criticizing them mean I hate the entire polity, society, and culture of Northern Virginia?

It's easy for me to criticize and sometimes even loathe the government while at the same time loving the country because it's so obvious to me that the two are distinct. For others, apparently... not so much.

Other news: Fault Line is big in the blogosphere! The novel's been covered in The Huffington Post, in Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory on Salon, in Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, in Scott Horton's No Comment on Harper's, and in Obsidian Wings. It's an honor to be mentioned in these blogs, all of which feature prominently in the novel, all of which I regularly read. Give 'em a try -- they're well worth reading.
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Blogger Joshua James said...

I actually thought, too (without giving anything away) that a critical view of "soft" liberalism was definitely present in FAULT LINE as well ... which is kind of what made it work so well ... no one really gets off the hook.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 7:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Shawn R said...

I've always thought that criticizing the government (at every level) is a responsibility, and proves how much you hold your country dear. We invest a tremendous amount of authority and power (knowledge, financial, etc.) in the people who run our governments. They make our laws, interpret our constitution, collect our taxes and manage public funds, oversee our infrastructure, and perform a vast array of services that affect every citizen's daily life.

The opportunities for corruption are everywhere, as we see constantly. Each of us has a responsibility to hold our elected officials and every government employee accountable for the actions they take in our name and on our behalf, using our collective resources.

Giving the government free rein, not asking questions, not letting others know about your concerns, is an abrogation of a citizen's responsibilities. Apathy, willful ignorance, and unquestioning compliance are more "hateful" to the country than criticism, because those are the characteristics that can lead from a republic to a dictatorship.

We should hold public servants to the highest standards and we must let them know when their actions are not acceptable. And when they don't listen, we should also have the right to express our frustration and anger with them through criticism.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 8:21:00 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Shawn is the man! He hit it right on the button.

God Bless America and our right to speak our minds!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 6:03:00 PM  
Blogger PBI said...


Saw you got mentioned at Greenwald's blog, and was sure you would be pleased as the proverbial punch!

As for your alleged anti-Americanism, I suppose the only thing you can do is start writing scripts for "24" in which Joe the Plumber saves Jack Bauer's bacon, shows him how to torture better, and then installs Sarah Palin in the White House. (Yeah! That ought to do it...)

Sensen No Sen

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 7:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holding views contrary to American policy isn't equal to being anti-American. Emotional reactions to perceived political positions are ridiculous and should be met with derision.

(Damn - I was hoping to see Jon Stewart clips of the Obama Administration changing the GWOT to OCO in this blog today... maybe next time.)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger JA Konrath said...

I like the word "squeegee."

Sunday, April 05, 2009 3:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought mistrust of government was a prerequisite to being American. Our founding fathers mistrusted government, and new that in time their creation would become much like the one they revolted against. And it has. The depth of corruption, lack of ethics, and flagrant disregard for law are not only worse now than ever before, they are also more transparent.

Politicians lie to our faces now, knowing that we know its a lie, and knowing that they'll get voted for because of one or two wedge issues despite the fact that the far left, the far right, and all the 'straights' stuck in the middle agree on this: WE DON'T TRUST THE GOVERNMENT.

Of course, with the new administration, a post like this is enough to get me put on a watch list. If I mention Ron Paul they'll probably arrest me on suspicion of belonging to a militia. Oops, guess I shouldn't have used that word either. Big government gets bigger every day kids, and they are watching us.

Sunday, April 12, 2009 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Schaz said...

I'm partway through Fault Line. So far, I think you've played fairly with both sides of the arguments (which in today's world makes you an enemy of both).

I'm enjoying the arguments for the conflicting worldviews. But I'm finding it difficult to like any of the characters. I hope at least one of them turns out worth rooting for eventually.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 9:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just finished Fault Line. I also thought you encapsulated both "liberal" and "conservative" views (btw, not too sure what these words define). Unlike an earlier comment, I thoroughly
enjoyed your characters, thoroughly enjoyed the conflict, both familial and ethical, and completely agree that not trusting the govermnment as well as not trusting "mainstream" media does not make me unamerican. I love my country but feel it is not only naive but seriously STUPID to watch 30 minutes of network news (which actually is close to only 10 minutes of "news") and think you are informed.

Saludos, fifiluli

Sunday, May 10, 2009 12:27:00 PM  

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