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[Watch this space for: Pentagon and Petroleum, The Media is only as Liberal as the Corporations Who Own Them, Wash Down With, and Recalcify]


Thursday, May 30, 2002


Last Friday, I put forward this idiot as the most repulsive and least informed of the active warbloggers. Alas, I did so incognizant of the existence and output of James Lileks. Fortune decreed that I should live elsewhere than Minnesota, largely sparing me exposure to the dullard. The Washington Post, which I do read, has in the past run Lileks's column. I certainly read it somewhere along the line, though it made so little an impression on me I cannot recall the occasion. I've done some reading - midway between cursory and comprehensive - this afternoon, and have concluded that it wasn't merely the case that the Post (and, by extension, myself) caught the Minnesotan on a bad day. The man's output is comprehensively bad, and never does he cut a figure that is anything more than futile.

He was always a bad writer, but he was not always the war mongering, cave-scouring scaredy-cat he is at present - at least not fully. The earliest Lileks offering catalogued by Nexis is an overwritten January 28, 1988 paean to football and male bonding. The piece sounds innocuous enough, and it in fact is, though troubling signs of what was later to come can be divined. Lileks says that male bonding shares little with bonding as conceived by campus feminists, and that only "drunk" or "Russian" men hug. Real men like Lileks, who later tells us he brings croissants to the gathering when he and his manly men buddies assemble to watch football, are content to "fist fight" and "hit one another." Any third-year psych major could tell you that someone so profoundly alienated from his fellow men and so uncomfortable with his sexuality as to eschew all non-violent interpersonal contact with other males is in for serious trouble at a later date. Why even in that very piece Lileks allowed that recently "some random drill bit in [his] psyche hit a gusher of testosterone." That testosterone would continue to gush, occasioning Lilek's aggravated male-pattern balding and war mongering fury in later years.

By May 9, 1990, Lileks was filing pieces on his feats in the weight room, perhaps readying himself for "the Iraqi dustup" at that remote date. He mostly offered advice to prospective gym members, though he did spend a few paragraphs pondering "The allure of muscle men." Inoffensive material on the face of it, though a closer reading and the boon of hindsight again find suggestions of the rage that would characterize Lilek's later career. "A couple of years ago," he allows, "I spent every day at the gym," though he tells the readers he has lapsed. "When I stopped going to the gym, I began to feel myself shrinking." His physique no longer impressive and his strength departed, the columnist's sense of personal impotence mounts. It's impotence of that sort, as Edward Said has noted, that drives those damn towel heads to detonate themselves outside Israeli discothèques, though Lileks is no Israel Shahak, and the obvious goes unrecognized.

I must remind my readers here that the above symptoms presaging Lileks later homicidal mania were evident only in certain writings. He was able to repress his various psychoses against outward detection, and was even able to commit several wholly sane - if remarkably dull - thoughts to paper. It must be stressed that he was not the twisted psychopath he is today. This, after all, is a man who spent the years immediately before and after the Gulf War wowing readers with such non-bloodthirsty pieces as "WHEN IT COMES TO THE CHOICE FOR TIES, WIDER IS BACK 'IN'" and "TOPPERS: RECALLING AGE OF HATS." A patient fully yielding to dementia would be unable to meditate at any length on these pedestrian subjects, though a classical Freudian would no doubt rub their hands over Lileks's admission in the hats-themed piece that he finds his "small feet lost in Dad's big shoes." Not a Freudian myself, I will let that pass without comment.

By 1993, though, Lileks had grown markedly deranged. In an August 15 Plain Dealer article he bitterly denounced Texas authorities for forbidding patriots in and around Austin to own "spud guns," improvised weapons that use potatoes as ammunition. He was just a few short years away, as will be seen, from discoursing on Black Helicopters.

Later that same year the Newhouse News Service which syndicates Lileks would foist upon the innocents of the Times-Picayune one of Lileks's more Unabomber-like efforts. In "BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE HITLER," Lileks breaks into song, modifying the words to a popular Christmas carol to instead describe Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Lileks does more than that though. Thinking deep, he explains the appeal of Zhirinovsky to the Russian electorate (called, in part, "certified idiots"), and in doing so anticipates his own post-September 11 persona: "Like any country that has had its keister whipped to the consistency of frothed milk, Russia is full of people convinced that some innate national greatness has been thwarted by the cruel trick of history. They cry DADDY MAKE THEM STOP BEING MEAN [emphasis in the original] until some cozening swine crawls out of the sewers and kisses the national owwie." The line between prophet and madmen has seldom been as blurred as it is here.

On October 13, 1994 Lileks came out of the closet as an advocate of the casual slaughter of sand niggers. In wondering "WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IRAQ?," Lileks tells us in the most direct fashion what was "central failure of the Bush administration: insufficient bloodlust." He would pen additional pieces in the same vein that year, including a notable one in which he slipped into Strangelove mode and explained Yugoslavian indifference to American opinion on how their country should be ordered by saying that less-than-total war was irresponsible and that "the only way to send a message is not to leave anyone alive to hear it."

As promised, the Black Helicopters began appearing in Lileks column on June 1, 1995. Lileks pondered Bosnia's plight and NATO's stubborn refusal to kick ass, as well as the question "WHERE'S A BLACK HELICOPTER WHEN YOU REALLY NEED ONE?," which is also the piece's headline. Even the most conservative clinician can see the development of dementia praecox, and continued monitoring of Lileks until 1997 would certainly have resulted in his institutionalization on filing November 13's "SADDAM MAY BE PREPOSTEROUS BUT HE'S DEADLY, NOT LAUGHABLE." Lileks stages an extended telephone conversation therein between George Bush I and the Iraqi strongman, at the conclusion of which Hussein would "laugh, hang up, and get back to thinking of names for his chemical-weapon bomber. EBOLA GAY [I wish Lileks hadn't provided the emphasis himself, but he did]." This would disturb the hospital wardens supervising Lileks endlessly, as it not only demonstrates his morbid contemplation of the grotesque and fantastic, but also because he introduces the word "gay" in so curious a context. Anyone else and it would have been an obvious play on words. For Lileks - he who bonds with his fellow man by "hitting" them as noted above - the name is telling.

My readings in the Lileks canon took me only as far as April 1, 1999. The man should go back and re-read the piece, though his demonstrated inability to make proper sense of an unambiguous photograph leads me to believe that the task is beyond him. Other morons practicing the ignoble art of the warblogger may want to have a go at "ORIGINALITY IS THE FIRST CASUALTY OF WAR," which despite its dateline seems to be anything but an April fool's joke. Lileks, the least original warblogger in active practice, chastises his fellow members of "the chattering class" (how novel!) for endlessly invoking Hitler, questioning the virtues of isolationism, their general ignorance of history, and their unwillingness to send American ground troops in to be shot full of bullets. I trust that when Lileks says he is saving himself for the coming skirmish in Iraq that he intends to land his ridiculous ass in Baghdad to practice what he has been preaching for years.

• • • • •

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