WOOF! Watchdogs of Our Freedom

ON KILLING THE BAD GUYS (A defense of America’s most underutilized foreign policy option.)

In "April is the cruelest month" forum on April 28, 2020 at 11:30 am

In which WOOF’s editor in chief, Old Bugler, expresses his up-to-the-minute-if-frustratingly-excursive views on nothing but 100% guaranteed genuine news, mostly in the annoyingly officious third-person, as befits his station!   

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In what follows, your limitlessly bloodthirsty senior editor intends a discussion of the comparative advisability of killing people–bad people, that is–despite the long dominant view that appeasement through negotiation and concession is invariably the more desirable course, commonly said to render long term fruits never achievable by violence. Your humble editor submits that policies based on this axiom routinely disappoint, while violent reactions to violent aggressions (when situations permit and diplomatic gains seem unobtainable) almost always prove effective at rendering troublemakers less troublesome, while resulting in considerably less retaliatory awfulness than is customarily predicted by diplomats, or their allies in the punditry. If pressed, your editor will cheerfully provide skeptics with a compendium of pertinent examples, omitted here because this article focuses on a particular instance in which brute force was effectively substituted for conventional statecraft. First, however, we review circumstances in which diplomacy, qua diplomacy, fizzled infamously. Besides highlighting the approach’s intrinsic deficiencies, we hope also to adumbrate the case for diplomacy’s unseemly alternative: Killing the bad guys.

Showtime at Camp David

Somewhat ironically, Clinton’s instincts failed to alert him to the reality that the guy with the table cloth on his head was just there for the photo ops.

President Clinton’s desperate yearning for a foreign-policy legacy more noteworthy than his bombing of a Saharan aspirin factory to distract national attention from Monica Lewinsky, drove him to convene Middle East peace talks at Camp David in July of 2000. Particularly gifted mnemonists will recall Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat traipsing through the Maryland woodlands, posing for photo ops with an effervescently confident Bill Clinton, and otherwise occupying the world’s time and attention toward no actual purpose. In reality, of the three leaders wandering those woods, Clinton alone nurtured authentic hopes for a meaningful outcome. Ironically, his disillusionment commenced in a flash of heightened optimism when Prime Minister Barak unexpectedly shifted to an unprecedented negotiating tactic–call it inspired acquiescence–and yielded to the entire roster of Arafat’s demands. But, then, Ehud Barak understood Arafat–Clinton didn’t.

Thanks for the food…

“Yasser, you keep fallin’ behind, there, buddy–is that .38 weighing your butt down?”

Certain that Barak’s surprise concessions guaranteed an historic breakthrough, an ebullient Clinton sought out Arafat, only to receive (however belatedly) his first object lesson in reasoning with maniacs. To Clinton’s dismay, the ill-shaven Palestinian glanced over the proposals, freshly reconfigured to accommodate his entire slate of demands, and promptly rejected them. At that moment, and for the first time, Clinton must have fully comprehended the absurdity of the entire conclave. The peace talks collapsed, leaving the New York Times to put the best face possible on the implosion, reporting that, “At the end of two weeks of marathon negotiations with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians, a visibly fatigued President Clinton announced today that they were unable to reach an agreement ‘at this time.”’ In reality, Clinton’s very real fatigue was ascribable to attempting the impossible: conducting good-faith negotiations with a psychopath. Clinton, a product of the progressive weltanschauung, naively endued Arafat with the traits of a statesman–but Arafat was never a statesman. To paraphrase the late Roy Rogers, he just played one on TV.  Clinton’s blindness to that fact denied him a vital tactical insight: Yasser Arafat wasn’t in Maryland to achieve peace and prosperity for the Palestinian people. He cared not a farthing for that. He was there for the prestige, the press coverage, the photo ops, and the free food.

On to Pyongyang!

Clinton pressed gamely ahead with a similar diplomatic effort, this time producing some immediate political benefits including an applausive Washington Press Corps, a legion of foreign correspondents indivisible in their admiration of Clinton’s geopolitical brilliance, and a cavalcade of stunning international optics.  But those optics, gripping in their day, are no longer replayed in celebration of what journalists once hailed as a foreign-affairs miracle. They are locked in the media’s black vault of non-events, together with sundry other embarrassments staining the progressive record.  And who today recalls the woman who single-handedly disarmed North Korea? Only a handful of occipitally gifted readers will recollect the celebrated tour de force of Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright–the woman who flew to North Korea during the denouement of Clinton’s presidency, and against all odds ended North Korea’s nuclear ambitions with a wave of her diplomatic wand.

Secretary Albright achieving peace in our time with North Korea. Wasn’t it Mike Heron who warned us about “smiling men with bad reputations?” Madeleine must have missed the memo.

In North Korea, Daddy Kim (aka: the late and largely unlamented Kim Jong-il) hosted a lavish dinner in Secretary Albright’s honor, plied her with a selection of fine French wines, and invited her to attend a mass propaganda event scheduled at Pyongyang’s sports arena (featuring graphics of missile launches, topically enough). Albright accepted, “fearing,” as the New York Times rushed to explain, “that rejecting Mr. Kim’s invitation would anger him.” A scattering of critics grumbled a bit, but Albright’s determination to preserve Kim’s mood bore fruit. A watershed concordance was reached guaranteeing a nuke-free North Korea in exchange for financial incentives aimed at lifting Kim’s economy out of the gutter. The appropriate documents were signed by the appropriate parties, the appropriate smiles and bows exchanged, and the press waxed appropriately effusive. The agreement sailed through congress, and America’s sanctions on the North were removed. All players hailed a dawning era of unprecedented international good will. Secretary Albright jetted home to bask in thunderous bipartisan applause on the Hill while newscasters ballyhooed her miraculous coup de mâitre. Major dailies hemorrhaged editorials in praise of Clinton’s foreign policy genius, and North Korea–its finances newly unconstrained except, of course, by communism–continued developing nuclear weapons.

Secretary of State Madeline Albright succeeds at not making Kim Jong-il angry.

The Chamberlain effect…

Chamberlain returns to England with Hitler’s autograph–at least TIME got some branding out of it!

The history of American foreign policy is strewn with similar burlesques. Most begin as well-intentioned leaps of faith, only to yield in due course to the unwelcome encroachments of reality. Truth be told, diplomats, as the record clearly indicates, are terrible judges of character. This helps explains why so many of their most optimistic endeavors shrivel into facsimiles of Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “peace in our time” misreckoning. But one needn’t summon the shade of Adolph Hitler to blindside the average diplomat; any garden-variety despot will suffice. Foggy Bottom’s elites, like so many jet-setting emissaries and not a few politicians, are reared in the tradition that negotiation is always better than confrontation, that discussions invariably signify hope, and, by extrapolation, any interruption of discussions automatically portends disaster. But one could argue, if one were of an incendiary bent, that diplomats have caused or prolonged considerably more human misery than they have averted, mainly because their pedigrees render them uniquely ill-suited to recognizing scoundrels.

“Nonpareil Diplomacy”

A little “fateful lightning,” now and then, is a useful option.

What subtle but enduring factor seduces one administration after another into near-canonical reliance on globe-trotting visionaries, even in situations that virtually cry out for the expedience of the mailed fist? Your editor calls it the mythos of nonpareil diplomacy, which he defines as the culturally embedded axiom that violence is justifiable only when prosecuted by oppressed peoples; that almost all oppressed peoples are oppressed by–or at least because of–us–in consequence of which America is karmically obligated to forsake violence and rely solely on diplomacy and/or foreign aid disbursements as instruments of foreign policy. A codicil routinely appended to the foregoing is that violence never solves anything anyway, so diplomacy is the only feasible means by which to achieve our geopolitical ends. The problem is not that this nonsense pops up periodically, befuddling our leadership until clarity is restored, but rather that it so pervades the establishment mindset that any departure from its precepts is met with horror–even authentic horror–by the dominant political culture, which almost never reacts authentically to anything.

A slaughter of scholars…

Muhandis’ professorial pursuits included supplying weapons to Hezbollah, organizing attacks on America and Saudi Arabia, creating his own armed Hezbollah militia, and commanding the 100,000-man Popular Mobilization Units…all with just a bachelor’s in civil engineering.

As a case in point, the LA Times virtually writhed in anguish upon learning that Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi Muhandis, whom they called “a bespectacled man with the mien of a professor,” was blown to flinders shortly after greeting “his personal friend and longtime ally, Iranian General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force,” by the brute, Donald Trump. After exchanging hugs and (culturally appropriate) kisses at the Baghdad airport, the pair climbed aboard an SUV and, with a small party of associates, headed onto the highway. Seconds later, their SUV exploded, blasted by a missile from an American MQ-9 Reaper drone. But we are slightly ahead of ourselves.

The Times’s depiction of Muhandis as a bespectacled intellectual whose contemplative repose was brutally shattered by the trigger happy Trump, was a virtual homage, hearkening back to the now-infamous effort by the Washington Post to portray slain Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (finally killed in Syria during an October, 2019 raid by American commandos), as “an austere religious scholar with wire-frame glasses and no known aptitude for fighting and killing.” In fairness, the Post’s obituary may not be entirely ascribable to the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. A classic ISIS propaganda video depicts Baghdadi blazing away with his AK-47–until it jams–at which point he gawks dumbfoundedly at the weapon until a minion pops into the frame and clears the jam for him. In this sense, Baghdadi’s aptitude for fighting might fairly be judged wanting–he was always more of a big-picture butcher.

“Austere religious scholar” al-Baghdadi–who apparently wore his wire-frame spectacles exclusively in the company of Washington Post staff writers, shown here sharing a few scholarly religious thoughts, his trusty “Draco” Kalashnikov assault rifle to his right.

“The guy who could build bridges…”

Siam-Abdullahu-Abu-Bakr-Al-Baghdadi, austerely religious at last.

Mimicking the “Gray Lady’s” grief-stricken motif, NBC news found a moment to reflect upon the finesse with which Baghdadi “maintained a canny pragmatism as leader, melding a fractious mix of radical Islamist militants and former Iraqi Baathists and army officers into a powerful military force capable of overrunning cities and defeating Iraqi divisions in battle.” NBC omitted adding “the better to kill as many Americans as possible together with an endless array of Iraqis and anyone else they didn’t approve of,” but editing the news for broadcast often results in the excerption of minor details. For balance, the network sought the views of William McCants, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy who gushed, “He was the guy who could build bridges between the foreign fighters and local Iraqis.” One can forgive NBC a momentary tearing of the eye, then, upon learning that such a pillar of Islamic unity, finding himself cornered by U.S. commandos, elected to blow himself and at least three of his children to smithereens by detonating his bomb vest–a cannily pragmatic alternative, presumably, to despoliation at the hands of infidels. But America’s fourth estate barely had time to mourn its loss when still more distressing news arrived.

Bespectacled man explodes!

The above-mentioned incineration by “droning” of General Qassem Suleimani and his traveling companions, followed fast upon the the group’s supervision of attacks on America’s embassy in Iraq. Attacking our embassy was unarguably an act of war, since embassies are internationally recognized as the native soil of the nation they represent, but Iran previously ignored this detail in 1979 when it overran our embassy in Tehran and held fifty-two American citizens hostage for 444 days. They were released–instructively, one dares say–the moment Ronald Reagan relieved Jimmy Carter of the presidency. Even the Mullahs recognized that Reagan, unlike his predecessor, was not one to preoccupy himself with nonpareil diplomacy.

Abdul Reza Shahlai, whose drone seems to be running late.

On the Tuesday prior to being blown up, Muhandis and Suleimani supervised attacks by so-called “supporters of Iranian militias” on the US Embassy in Baghdad.  But this time, the embassy attack was decisively repelled, and the planners annihilated. Besides Muhandis and Suleimani, the American drone strike killed the no-less-egregious Brigadier General Hussein Jafari Nia, Major-General Hadi Terumi, Colonel of the Guards Shahroud Mozaffari Nia, and Captain Waheed Zamanian.​ ​Naming “unnamed defense officials” as its sources, CBS took solace in reporting that the “U.S. military unsuccessfully attempted to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Yemen on the same day…” Perhaps so, but to paraphrase Meatloaf, six out of seven ain’t bad.

Acts of war…

Majid Takht Ravanchi explains how “military acts of war” are also “acts of terror” when your own guys get killed.

The Times of Israel offered an unvarnished description of the strike’s chief target, pegging Soleimani as “a deadly adversary [of] the US and its allies,” and “one of the most important power brokers across the region, setting Iran’s political and military agenda in Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” that agenda, of course, being the meting out of as much death and destruction as possible, whenever possible, wherever possible. But the only act of war recognized by the American liberal establishment–was Trump’s. The Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, gained overnight celebrity status by denouncing the drone strike. “Last night [the US] started a military war,” blurted Ravanchi, “by assassinating by an act of terror against one of our top generals. So what else can be expected of Iran to do? We cannot just remain silent. We have to act and we will act!”

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WHEN STATUES ATTACK! (Monuments Revealed as “Powerful, Hurtful, and Racist!”)

In Monumental stupidity forum on September 20, 2020 at 5:42 pm

Suddenly, statues all over America revealed themselves to be dangerous in the extreme!

Certain offenses against tradition are bound to offend social conservatives—and some are so brilliantly contrived as to offend, one might suppose, nearly any variety of conservative. In a time when conservatism is defined so variously, it seems ever more difficult to certify common ground. Surely, however, the destruction of national monuments rates as something of a unifier.

The worldwide totalitarian socialist conspiracy that governs us (file photo).

Even so, in an era so unblinkingly obeisant to the socialist totalitarian conspiracy that governs us, conservatives are wise to pick their battles. One needn’t keep Sun Tzu under one’s pillow to realize that in a society reduced to infantile tantrums emanating from pseudo-righteous miscreants bent on wanton feats of pillage and aggression, it makes sense to reserve one’s energies for the most exigent battles, and even then to resist engagements wherein one cannot press the advantage. Sam Houston got it—so, in Tolstoy’s view at least, did Kutuzov, although come to think of it, the decade is likely to end with more statues of the Russian Field Marshal left standing than of Houston.

As Janet Granholm says….

Governor Granholm, shown here lost in thought.

But as Michigan’s leftist governor Janet Granholm recently stated in dramatically distinct circumstances (as she would want us to emphasize), “There’s only so far you can go before you say enough is enough!” We at WOOF have no interest in prescribing what “enough” should amount to for the Governor, or for fellow conservatives, for that matter—but for us, “enough” was that point at which the self-professed Communist mayor of New York City announced that he was ordering a statue of Teddy Roosevelt removed from the American Museum of Natural History. Frankly, WOOF sought to steer clear of the controversies embedded in the vandalistic pathologies of the current wave of statue destroyers, but as Janet Granholm would say, enough is enough!

Exactly!

We at WOOF are not oblivious of the case against Teddy Roosevelt made by certain conservatives, let alone liberals, but the progressivism of a man who railed against “hyphenated Americans” is surely worth contrasting to our own era’s version, which praises multiculturalism as a virtual antidote to Americanism, which it views as a jingoistic pathology worthy of eradication. We, in other words, maintain a reverence for the 26th president, and while we chose to hang fire while certain statues of Southern notables were toppled by ravening nitwits in the throes of self-righteous delirium, we draw the line at T.R..

Lessons from The Smithsonian….

Nora McGreevy, gimlet identifier of Teddy Roosevelt and  all other treacherous sons of the Confederacy.

Why, readers may ask, was Teddy’s statue targeted by the current swarm of historic bowdlerizers in the first place? Fortunately, we are here favored with the learned insights of Nora McGreevy who explained the matter in no less authoritative a venue than The Smithsonian Magazine.  McGreevy wrote that Teddy’s removal from the Museum of Natural History “comes amid a nationwide push to remove public works honoring Confederate leaders.” Of course, she might as well have written that the statue’s removal came in the wake of an increased national awareness of the harmful effects of Styrofoam, especially if her purpose was to execute a perfect non-sequitur. But McGreevy has no cause to suppose her explanation will perplex her readership, the majority of whom were educated since the NEA conspired with Common Core to erase American History –except as an instrument by which various victims of racist imperialism may be identified and bemoaned.  That Teddy Roosevelt had no more association with the secession of the Confederate states than, say, Oprah Winfrey, needn’t be rehearsed for our famously illuminated readers. We mention it in passing because, as we occasionally point out, we have at least six or seven liberal readers, not to mention those who blunder upon our site from time to time, only to flee unnerved.

“Profoundly moved by…the movement”

Futter, adjudicate of historical wokeness, bids Teddy Roosevelt adieu! 

But one needn’t be a communist elected Mayor by the usual hordes of preternaturally obtuse New Yorkers, to come up with ideas this screwy. The proposal evidently originated with the museum itself, where museum president Ellen V. Futter told the New York Times, “Over the last few weeks, our museum community has been profoundly moved by the ever-widening movement for racial justice that has emerged after the killing of George Floyd.” Fair enough, but when did it become Futter’s job to show solidarity with aggrieved African Americans (and predominantly White Antifa nincompoops), by arbitrarily specifying items of historic significance to be dragged from the public arena in accordance with her whims, or those of the “museum community,” which seems a rather sketchy collective of amorphous proportions and dubious authority.

The Museum Community (file photo).

Patriots rally in support of Teddy’s museum statue, as reported almost nowhere by anybody–except by us,  and we’re probably fascists!

Nora McGreevy’s explanation of the event notwithstanding, Teddy Roosevelt was not, in fact, hauled off by the PC Gestapo for his putative role in the rebellion of the South. Rather, he was a victim of guilt by association, or put another way, he was judged by the company he kept. The statue in question features Theodore Roosevelt astride a horse–accompanied by an Indian [progressive readers will wish to substitute “Native American”] standing on one side, and an African on the other…or perhaps we should say, an African African–especially inasmuch as Native is now forbidden in this context, even though mandated in the former. Regardless, Teddy might well have continued his 80-year ride were it not for the furor aroused by these two “minority” figures, which is richly ironic–though liberalism, as we often point out, is institutionally oblivious of irony, mainly because liberalism’s basal emotion is sanctimony, which renders irony incomprehensible on contact.  

She likes to move it, move it!

End of the trail, Teedy! And take your friends with you!

So, why did Mayor de Blasio’s office, Ellen V. Futter, the “museum community,”and an endless array of woke establishmentarians, rule that Teddy’s statue had to go? To pursue Futter’s bizarre rationale, “We have watched as the attention of the world and the country has increasingly turned to statues as powerful and hurtful symbols of systemic racism! Simply put, the time has come to move it.” Now, seriously, even if we are willing to suppose that the attention of the world has suddenly found no better object upon which to fixate than the purported harmfulness of America’s historic statuary, and that this fixation automatically obliges Futter’s accordance, how did she arrive at the accompanying awareness that Teddy’s statue “explicitly depicts black and Indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior”? 

Radical sociologist and author James Loewen on national tour: Like we always say, irony is lost on Leftists!

We contend that Miss Futter’s inclusion of the adverb explicitly rings hollow. Surely, that is at best a subjective inference, suggesting more about Futter than Teddy. The African African and American Indian are simply marching at Teddy’s side–and rather dignifiedly so, we might add.  They don’t look remotely inferior. In fact, they look  proud to be there. The sculptor intended the figures to symbolize North America and Africa, both continents associated with Roosevelt’s adventures. True, TR is astride a horse whereas his minority companions are afoot, but it’s Teddy’s statue. It wasn’t, in fact, until 1999 that the accusation of racism was applied to the statue by far-left sociologist James Loewen. whose inelegantly titled opus, Lies Across America:, originated the notion that TR’s statue was intended to connote–wait for it– white supremacy.

Condi’s quandary…

Amid the dithering, someone remembered to ask Condoleezza Rice’s opinion. “I actually don’t know why anybody wants to defend the Confederacy and Confederate monuments,” said the first Black (as well as the first female) Secretary of State, as well as the first Black (as well as the first female) National Security Advisor, who served in both capacities during the Republican administration of George W. Bush. But, Condi observed, “I also don’t know why anybody wants to tear down a statue of Abraham Lincoln…which was actually funded by freed slaves,” (recently carted off for scrap in Massachusetts) “So this has gotten a little out of control, frankly. I don’t want to be the Soviet Union where we’re trying to erase history.”

This has gotten out of control, people! Don’t be the Soviet Union!

Erasing history more sensibly….

In July, the House of Representatives passed a $740 billion national defense bill despite progressives’ long-standing abhorrence of such expenditures, but added a rider mandating the removal of the names of Confederate soldiers and their leaders from all military properties in the country. In the Senate, the Republican majority responded with its customary courage and vision, declaring their more sober and responsible version of the legislation would do exactly the same thing, but over three years. Once more proving himself an unregenerate bigot, at least according to every establishment news network and daily, Donald Trump vowed to veto the bill, notwithstanding its newly acquired sobriety and vision.  Of course, doing so would mean depriving the military of funding, which could result in considerably more devastation to the homeland than Antifa is capable of inflicting.

In other words, our version will do all the same stupid stuff–but it will do it a lot slower!

Blows against the Confederacy!

Philadelphia abolitionist Matthias Baldwin, positively red in the face at becoming an Antifa target.

Besides Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, other statues desecrated, toppled, or demolished by felons, (sorry, we meant to say social justice activists) as repayment for southern racism include such notorious Confederate sympathizers as Ulysses S. Grant, the famous Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, a Seattle statue commemorating the grunge band Soundgarden’s front man, Chris Cornell, a statue honoring abolitionist Matthias Baldwin, and one of Mahatma Gandhi, desecrated outside the Indian embassy in D.C.. Thomas Jefferson’s statue outside Jefferson High School in Portland was sent sprawling, and, of course, statues of Christopher Columbus were scattered like bowling pins wherever encountered. Also targeted were Polish Revolutionary War hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, and statues commemorating the landing of Ponce de Leon at Melbourne Beach and Bayfront Park, Florida. For good measure, a statue of Viking explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni was dumped into Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River by indignant Antifa members whose precise rationale–as so often–remains elusive. 

Black Lives Matter protesters visit long-overdue social justice on the infamous Confederate partisan, Mahatma Gandhi.

Shaun King, BLM’s erstwhile person of color may have turned White, but his status as an idiot remains unassailed.

Man who demanded all-Black Jesuses turns White!

Elsewhere, that irredeemable son of the Confederacy, Democrat Mayor Frank Rizzo of Philadelphia, was smashed. Franciscan priest Junipero Serra, and Francis Scott Key–author of our national anthem, both felt the wrath of social justice. The George Washington statue in Chicago’s Washington Park was vandalized, and a white hood placed on Washington’s head. Shortly afterward, Jesus Christ transpired to be a symbol of white supremacy. Far-left BLM strategist, and famous idiot, Shaun King, tweeted that statues of Jesus Christ should be torn down to protest the Savior’s depiction as White. King also demanded the destruction of all “murals and stained glass windows of white Jesus, and his European mother, and their white friends.” Like we said, Mr. King is an idiot, and now seemingly a “cancelled” idiot, being recently relieved of his leadership in Black Lives Matter not because he’s an idiot, but because accusations recently surfaced that he is actually Caucasian, posing as Black. These accusations won him the mistrust of BLM’s founders despite their also being White, as well as boastfully Red. (Hint to readers intellectually crippled by the NEA and/or Common Core: “Red” means communist. We’ll explain later.)

Down with the National Anthem? Maybe BLM is Team Kate Smith?

Jesus beheaded in Miami for acting White..

In Minnesota, Duluth’s hopelessly un-woke NAACP chapter expressed outrage when civil rights crusaders vandalized the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, which commemorates three black men lynched after being falsely accused of rape. In Denver, Colorado, a sculpture commemorating the victims of the Armenian genocide was vandalized and inexplicably splattered with anti-cop graffiti.  In Cleveland, the Soldiers & Sailors monument in the city’s downtown was judged intolerably racist by “demonstrators” who not only vandalized it, but took the time to remove and desecrate the monument’s American flag during a May riot described as a peaceful protest by the media. 

In Birmingham, Alabama, a 97-year-old memorial honoring those who lost their lives in World War I was defaced by demonstrators who tried to pull the statue off its base, but failed. The statue was removed anyway, after the rioters dispersed, by woke city officials. Meanwhile, a monument honoring the 54th Regiment of African-American soldiers who fought the Confederacy in the Civil War was reduced to rubble.  Not to be outdone, the fascist wing of the radical Left, (nowadays called the “Alt Right” by hopelessly discombobulated progressives), managed some risible non-sequiturs of its own.  In June, for instance, a Confederate cemetery in North Carolina was vandalized by cretins who emphasized their distaste for racial inequality by spraying swastikas all over the graveyard.

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Doctor Who? (or) The shocking story of how everyone’s favorite time-traveling alien regenerated as a 2-dimensional anthropomorphic dog.

In TV Snide on May 29, 2020 at 10:20 am

Here in the WOOF cave, we are in fairly certain agreement that the first Doctor Who any of us remember is Tom Baker, but the legend of Who carries back considerably further into the dim-lit history of BBC broadcasting–all the way back to 1963, in fact, assuming such linear considerations matter to Whovians. [Editor’s note: “Whovians” refers to the fan base of the television program Dr. Who, but appears to be a chiefly American neologism, viewed askance nowadays by the program’s more sophisticated British fans who formed The Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS), in 1978.] But that’s not what we came here to complain about!

Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor: filmed in glorious 16 mm color.

The TARDIS–roomier on the inside.

Long a significant component of British pop culture, the program from its inception featured the exploits of a time-and-space-traveling alien (albeit one possessed of pronouncedly Brythonic verbal traits) who travels through time and across galactic space in a craft designated the TARDIS–an acronym for “Time and Relative Dimension in Space.” Although the TARDIS at some juncture in the show’s evolution revealed itself to be a sentient entity onto itself, its exterior exactly resembles a blue British police call-box (common throughout England in the 1960s), while its interior is disconcertingly–not to say impossibly–spacious, and spangled with twinkling arrays of bizarre gadgetry.

The Doctor is a “Time Lord,” meaning, approximately, that he is a member of an ancient extraterrestrial species native to the planet Gallifrey, (located in the constellation of Kasterborous, although nobody knew this, except presumably the Doctor, prior to 1969). Time Lords are Time Lords because they possess technology allowing them to patrol a non-linear temporal matrix, making their perception of time considerably less restrictive than ours. Though human in appearance, the Doctors are biologically superior, living for centuries and regenerating in fresh physical bodies when mortally wounded—or maybe whenever they like, we’re not certain. They have two hearts, maintain an internal bodily temperature of 59 degrees, can communicate telepathically, and occasionally exert telepathic control over others–for the greater good, of course.

Shabby Chic…

It bears mention that the TARDIS’s interior, as with so much else the program incorporates, is far more dazzling nowadays than was formerly the case. In the beginning, the show’s tawdry, low-budget sets and flash-powder special effects became grist for comedians, but inspirited early fans who saw the production’s cardboard-and-Styrofoam mise en scène as an embodiment of the Camp aesthetic.  Indeed, the program’s drollity was its most indispensable charm– a subtly facetious whimsicality that made the tinfoil-wrapped gizmos and monsters in foam rubber suits not only bearable, but endemic to the show’s appeal.  As TV Tropes comments, “the shoestring-budget look has become one of the most warmly remembered parts of the show,” to the degree that fans often bemoan the glitzy splendor on display in the program’s more recent seasons…but that’s not what we came here to complain about.

Inside the TARDIS across time: obviously a few improvements have been effected!

“Oops!”

Thirteen actors have played Doctor Who, whose post-graduate expertise, even today, remains elusive.  In 1970, the third Doctor’s traveling companion, Liz, asked him “What are you a doctor of, by the way?” and his reply was “Practically everything, my dear!” But we’d best pause here to clarify why it’s taken thirteen actors to play one time-traveling space alien. As mentioned above, it is Whovian canon that Time Lords regenerate themselves occasionally.  This means manifesting a new physical body, which demands a new actor with each transformation. It also prevents the Doctor from growing too old for the part–something the James Bond franchise should have considered.

Doctors one through twelve. Number thirteen to be discussed presently.

Precalculatedly tacky…

The Cybermen arrived in 1968, with baggie trousers and floppy talons.

Doctor Who gained an immediate toehold in England, and the show’s popularity grew rapidly. It ran for 26 seasons on BBC1, or from 1963 until 1989. Originally conceived as an imaginative means of providing British children with a scientifically educative adventure drama, the idea gave way to the science fiction stories that soon dominated. The telecast began in the epoch of black-and-white programming when very few American shows were broadcast in color, and none at all in England.  In America, initial airings of Doctor Who failed to attract a substantial audience, but spawned a cult following among college students and others attracted to the show’s unaffected kitschiness. The shoddy costuming and budget-basement props were more complimented than diminished by the pallor of black-and-white video tape. Moreover, Who shot video indoors as a cost-saving device, switching to film outdoors because the video equipment was too cumbersome to drag out of the studio. The resultant visual combinations seemed almost precalculatedly tacky.

Almost precalculatedly tacky!

Anthony Burgess, colorful, even in ironic black and white.

As a point of comparative trivia, the BBC first transmitted in “colour” early in 1967, though its leadership was leery of the concept. Novelist Anthony Burgess volunteered his presence on the BBC2 arts show Late Night Line-Up, appearing on a private broadcast viewed exclusively by curious TV executives who drew courage from Burgess’s example and initiated a  select menu of color transmissions in July 1967.  (Perhaps Burgess threatened to write a novel entitled The Clockwork Black and White if they didn’t come around—sorry, we couldn’t stop ourselves.) But in Who’s case, tackiness prevailed insofar as color episodes were filmed in grainy, budget-conscious 16mm, creating a rough approximation of intergalactic home movies. (We aren’t complaining about any this, by the way.)

Exterminate!

Attack of the Foam Rubber People…

Once shed of his educative role, Doctor Who, no matter which actor played him in which avatar, sojourned season after season as a brilliant, though antic, time-traversing eccentric, devoted to battling injustice on a cosmic scale while foiling various alien schemes to enslave or annihilate earthlings, or innocents on other planets. In these efforts the Doctor was typically assisted by a rotating cast of gobsmacked but plucky companions–usually attractive earth females–who found themselves by some plot twist or another, caught up in the adventure.  While his crusades placed him at loggerheads with numerous other-worldly adversaries, recurrent enemies gave him difficulty almost from the beginning. Most notable among these were the Cybermen–a race of cyborgs bent on subjugating all organic species, and the Daleks, who, despite resembling gigantic, tastelessly gaudy salt shakers, function as robotic death squads, ruthlessly bent on the elimination of inferior races, meaning everyone except themselves. While thus engaged, Daleks limit their dialogue almost entirely to the word “exterminate!” shrieked with chillingly non-organic fanaticism.

Daleks always looked like salt shakers, but they looked like cardboard saltshakers when they premiered in 1963.

Who regenerated…

Sylvester McCoy: Almost the last Doctor.

It seemed like curtains for the Doctor (played by actor Sylvester McCoy at the time) when the BBC cancelled the program just prior to the 1990 season. Wrathful fans received assurances that the  series would return, but hopes grew dim until, after several failed reboots and corporate re-alignments, Doctor Who finally returned with the episode “Rose” broadcast on BBC in 2005.

Tennant and Smith–quintessentially British space aliens–and both the same one, too!

This effectively inaugurated the new era of Who.  Although many longtime devotees objected to the show’s glitzy new production values, which they deemed a betrayal of the program’s shabby-chic ethos, the ratings told a different story. The Daily Telegraph of London was impressed, declaring, “The 21st century revival of the programme has become the centrepiece of BBC One’s Saturday schedule, and has defined the channel.” The Times (England’s, not ours) opined that an affinity for Doctor Who was “quintessential to being British,” while in America, Steven Spielberg condescended to remark, “the world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who.” Besides, Americans in particular love witty heroes with British accents, and the show moved from niche appeal to mass appeal in the States with the casting of David Tennant, who became the tenth Doctor in 2005, and, subsequently, Matt Smith, whom Who re-generated as in 2013. Both actors played the role with a mixture of wit, idiosyncratic balminess, British aloofness, and an impassioned sense of mission, bringing America firmly into the fold and expanding an already substantial viewership in England. 

No sour plonkers need apply!

The ardent Charlie Jane Anders,  WHOoever she is.

It would take a sour plonker indeed, to deny the show’s energy, creative verve, and frenetic panache during this period, and the 50th anniversary episode, airing in 2013, drew a record 3.6 million American viewers and 10.2 million British.  At its apogee of cleverness and creativity, the show’s replacement of pipe-cleaners and bubble wrap with state-of-the-art CGI, high-dollar props, and mind-blowing scenery did nothing to diminish and much to complement the manic charm of its protagonist–and thus all was well in Who-ville for a cheerful time–and all the Whovians rejoiced.  Even when the popular Matt Smith announced his departure from the role in 2012, necessitating the selection of a new Who, fans seemed to accept the older (and more accentedly Scottish) Peter Capaldi as the regenerated Doctor. Capaldi built a solid following as Who’s twelfth incarnation–so much so that Charlie Jane Anders wrote in Wired that nobody could replace him.  Admittedly, we don’t know who Charlie Jane Anders is, but we know she sports vividly Fuchsia hair (because we found her picture) and we know she writes about Dr. Who with a fearsome ardor (because we read her article), but mainly, we know she was wrong.  

Who…she?

TMI?

To paraphrase Magnum P.I. (the original, we never watched the other one) we know what you’re thinking! All right, not all of you, certainly, but right, left, and center, a not-inconsiderable number of you think we led up to the thirteenth Doctor just to complain about his/her sex change. Wrong, you sour plonkers!  That’s not what we came here to complain about! True, in the past, WOOF has solidly opposed what we consider undue characterological vicissitude–especially when pandering is the clear objective. For example, we objected to recasting James Bond as Black, because Bond was famously Scottish, and, by any rational extrapolation, White.  We may even have snarled at some point that the inproficient-though-gainfully-prolific authoress of the Harry Potter books might as easily have kept Dumbledore’s homosexuality to herself without shirking whatever reformist incumbencies she presumes herself heir to–and yes, we still admit bewilderment at how, precisely, Nick Fury became a one-eyed African American after decades spent as a one-eyed Caucasian, or how he stayed so young, being a veteran of World War II–although in Fury’s case, we don’t mind a bit; we just don’t see how it could happen. So, we can readily understand that some readers anticipate a misogynistic hissy fit from us simply because Dr. Who returned as a woman. But you misjudge us. We are not misogynists at WOOF, but rather genuinely convicted of the innate superiority of women. In fact, as G. K. Chesterton once remarked: that is why we insist on opening doors for them.

Nick Fury, White WWII hero, White agent of SHIELD, Black agent of SHIELD–you can see why we’re confused, right? Say, maybe he regenerates! Oh, but wouldn’t that fix his eye?

And our door (so to speak, because caves don’t actually have doors, per se), was opened broadly (no pun intended) for actress Jodie Whittaker, the moment she was named the thirteenth Doctor. Why not? It would require stuffier and stodgier traditionalists than us (and that’s really saying something) to reject the right of a Time Lord to regenerate in female form, at least once in a while.  And Whittaker seemed an ideal choice to pioneer the terra incognita of distaff doctor-hood.

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See? We weren’t kidding about the Twitter storm–but that is an absolutely terrible sketch of Jodie Whittaker!

Attractive but not glitzily glamorous, blond, yet exuding a keen intellect, shapely and fit to a degree that made overemphasis of these attributes unnecessary, and most imperatively, a capable actress able to display the full repertoire of whimsicality, eccentricity, and irony, blended with fits of analytical intensity, endemic to the part.  While some (more plonkish than we) took to Twitter to fulminate against Whittaker’s casting (check out: # NotMyDoctor!) we at WOOF remained unruffled, one could even say alacritous, regarding the matter.  In fact, our enthusiasm for the idea played a role in rendering our disillusionment all the more severe–our disappointment doubly intense.  And yes, of course, we are disgruntled–but our problem is not with Miss Whitaker (at least until she wins an International Emmy Award and breaks into a 15-minute rampage against the Christian Right), nor with female Time Lords in general.  No, our problem is with those unseen journeymen who labor to keep Dr. Who witty, winsome, and oddly profound: the writers.  The problem is, besides being unseen–they’re gone!

The replacement killers…

Chief assassin Chibnall–just look at those beady eyes!

Before the new season aired, BBCAmerica trumpeted that “Three new writers have jumped on board the TARDIS for the upcoming season: Nina Metivier, Maxine Alderton and Charlene James.” This veritable wrecking crew was invited aboard by the series’ new and equally subversive showrunner, Chris Chibnall, who said: “We’re thrilled that Doctor Who continues to attract some of the most the most exciting and dynamic talent working in television…we’ve adored working with them, and can’t wait to show you the explosive stuff they’ve created!”  (READ MORE!)