As it happens, I just finished this account of the 2012 attack on the American “diplomatic compound” in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead. It’s a riveting read, written with the help of the surviving members of the security team, and makes good on its promise to stick close to the what that team saw on the ground:
[This book] is not about what officials in the United States government knew, said, or did after the attack, or about the ongoing controversy over talking points, electoral politics, and alleged conspiracies and cover-ups. It is not about what happened in hearing rooms of the Capitol, anterooms of the White House, meeting rooms of the State Department, or green rooms of TV talk shows. It is about what happened on the ground, in the streets, and n the rooftops of Benghazi, when bullets flew, buildings burned, and mortars rained.
Still and all, the mere existence of this account, or really even the fact that the compound was left relatively defenseless in the first place, is for this reader pretty damning of just about anybody ranking higher than the staff under contract. Including Secretary Clinton (who, it should be said, has taken “full responsibility”). It’s patently clear that the attack was well organized by a milita with access to some fairly heavy artillery—one of the many militias operating freely in the wake of the fall of the Qadaffi government.
Zukoff’s description of Ambassador Stevens is fairly brief, but he was by all accounts a brave man with a many years of experience in the Middle East. He most certainly knew of the dangers and decided to risk them. It’s now clear, as it seemed clear to many at the time, that the attack was in no way a response to the YouTube video that had sparked protests elsewhere in the Middle East, a version of the events pushed fairly heavily at the time.
The Benghazi attack played a part in the 2012 presidential campaign, and now that Hillary Clinton has just announced her candidacy, it will certainly play a part in the 2016 campaign as well.
The whole sorry mess is now in the hands of the brainwashers and spinmeisters who run U.S. politics, so thoroughly so that all that spinning and washing is all but impossible to avoid. In that sense alone, 13 Hours in Benghazi is a great achievement. R.I.P. Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty.
I recently picked up this collection of longish short stories on the advice of a friend who noticed that David Foster Wallace was sometimes featured on this blog.
It’s very good. Or rather the first story, “Emission”, is truly excellent, and while the other three are something of a mixed bag, I think there are enough beautiful passages to justify that “very good”.
It all feels very contemporary … more than contemporary, actually, but up-to-date—the word “contemporary” describing, say, the prose style, which is in fact somewhat reminiscent of Wallace, while by “up-to-date” I mean to describe the content. Or can the two be distinguished? Here is a sample from the first page:
Take a pen, write this on a paper scrap, then when you’re near a computer, search:
Alternately, you could just keep clicking your finger on that address until this very page wears out—until you’ve wiped the ink away and accessed nothing.
And if it’s the erotics of art that you want rather than hermeneutics …
They say in this industry you need a professional name because then it’s the profession who’s guilty and not you, then the profession is at fault and not you or your parents, your schools or the way you were raised.
This professional name—and no, it can’t be as rudimentary or flippant as “Professional Name”—becomes a sort of armor or shield, speaking in newer terms a version of what this industry in its more responsible incarnations requires: protection, a prophylactic.
A condom, a condom for a name.
We’ve had that conversation here at Korrektiv before, and of course pseudonyms have been around since Kierkegaard. Long before that.
But I don’t think I’ve ever seen the connection between anonymity (pseudonymity) and eroticism and their inevitable pitfalls quite so poignantly before. Poignantly and hilariously.
Within 24 hours, one Richard Monomian, drug courier to the children of the wealthy and successful, finds the story of his most bare-assed embarrassing moment fractaling in variations all over the internet. This might mean internet hell for poor Richard, but it’s all good fun for everybody else.
Within a week a hundredplus results all replicated his name as if each letter of it (those voluble, oragenital os) were a mirror for a stranger’s snorting—reflecting everywhere the nostrils of New York, Los Angelws, Reykjavik, Seoul, as thousands cut this tale for bulk and laced with detail, tapped it into lines, and his name became a tag for abject failure, for deviant, for skank.
To pull a Monomian.
To go Monomian.
No one, had you asked them, would have thought he was real. Only he knew he was real. And he only knew that, he thought, by his suffering.
Art is one way, maybe the most enjoyable way, of exercizing your empathy, or at least your capacity for empathy. Not a bad thing for a Wednesday in Lent.