I would not consider myself a regular reader of the War Nerd blog. I probably check in once a month or so when I am regularly reading it. In fact, I went a long time not reading it until John Derbyshire mentioned it a few months back. The fact is there are too many sites and too many writers to keep up with all of them regularly. I have a lot of interests so I’ll drift away from a site or a writer if they are not writing about what is interesting to me at the time.
Anyway, Derb’s mention of the War Nerd brought me back to it. The other day this entry got my attention. Reading it, my bullshit detector was pegged to eleven. Right out of the shoot, this struck me as very weird from someone claiming to be living in Kuwait.
I read a long article called “My Terrifying Night with Afghanistan’s Only Female Warlord” last month. It was utter crap, and so similar to a lot of utter crap I’ve been reading about the women fighters of the Kurdish YPJ militia in Syria that I realized it’s time somebody called foul on the offensive, ignorant crap going around about what the media likes to call “women warriors.” I don’t particularly enjoy the role of progressive scold, and it don’t hardly come natural to me, but somebody’s gotta do it.
What happens, in every case where writers and TV reporters with no background in military reporting try to describe “women warriors” is that they sexualize everything, ignore the real context, and betray a deep misogyny in every word they write or speak on camera. I mean, to the point that it’s surprising, at least to me, because a lot of these people make a big deal about being progressive. I’m kinda shocked, actually, how crude their gender bias is. Nobody seems to be even trying to hide it.
That’s not the voice of the usual guy writing about the drinking in Kuwait or the bureaucratic insanity of the American defense procurement system. Instead, it sounds like a middle-aged white women from a typical American state college. The word “sexualize” is the thing. You only ever hear that from lefty scolds in the academy.
Then there is this:
I’m an American, and it wasn’t until I’d lived in the Middle East for years that I could see just how American I was, above all in my notions about gender and bodies. Americans see everything as a sexual hierarchy, and that seems so natural to us that you have to work very hard to realize it’s not a universal human pattern of thought, but a particularly American one. Percy hasn’t taken that time, doesn’t even know she needed to if she was to see what this Tajik matriarch is doing. The results…well, they’re pretty durn funny, and then infuriating, by turns.
That’s the sort of thing a young writer pens when they are trying to write travel fiction from their parents vacation house. It’s the sort of thing a non-traveler thinks experienced travelers have learned. It just sounds fake to me. The bit about how Americans “see everything as a sexual hierarchy” is right out of the womyn’s studies department of third rate state college. It’s the sort of line I write when making sport of feminism.
That led me to consult wiki. The Wiki on the blogger is fascinating and I feel confirms my suspicion. This bit is what I mean:
Gary Brecher is the pseudonym of John Dolan, author of The War Nerd, a twice-monthly column discussing current wars and other military conflicts, published originally in the eXile, then NSFWCorp, and currently in PandoDaily. A collection of his columns was published by Soft Skull Press in June 2008 .
When you look up John Dolan you get this:
John Dolan was born in Denver, Colorado in 1955. Dolan taught and studied at UC Berkeley, where he completed a PhD thesis on the literary writing of the Marquis de Sade.
He has published poems in many US and New Zealand literary journals and his first collection won the Berkeley Poetry Prize in 1988. In 1993, he moved to Dunedin, New Zealand, where he lectured at the University of Otago. During his time in Dunedin, Dolan contributed regularly to the Otago literary journal Deep South. In 2001 Dolan resigned his academic post, and moved to Moscow to become co-editor of the eXile, a bi-weekly English-language publication based there. He was the first reviewer of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, a bestseller featured on Oprah’s monthly bookclub, to correctly expose this alleged memoir as fraudulent years before that was officially brought to light (the title of Dolan’s review was “A Million Pieces of Shit” and the first line was “This is the worst thing I have ever read”) . He is married to his former student, Katherine Liddy. Dolan relocated to Canada to teach at the University of Victoria in Canada in 2006. He claims to have been fired for encouraging students to criticize George Monbiot in 2008. Until spring 2010, Dolan was an associate professor of English composition and literature at the American University of Iraq – Sulaimani. He was fired in 2010 and wrote a lengthy article on his experience there.
I don’t want to belabor it, but it seems pretty clear that the guy behind the War Nerd blog is mostly full of baloney. He had a brief time in Iraq a few years ago and has created a fictional character as the blogger “War Nerd.” That’s my sense of it, least ways. The reason some of the posts sound like the howlings of a third wave feminist is they are probably written by his wife and former student.
Maybe this is old news and I’m late to the party. Like I said, I’m an infrequent reader. Still, just goes to show that you can’t take anything at face value.
I’ve read everything quoted in this post, and more from the War Nerd, or on Gary Brecher / John Dolan. It’s quite plausible that Dolan’s wife influenced some of his ideas (my current one does and my previous relations did, too), but other than that, I fail to see the relation between the textual evidence and the argument. Indeed, I’m not sure it’s very clear, other than ‘oh, the guy uses a pseudonym’ (duh) or ‘I don’t believe he lived in Kuwait’ (why not?) and ‘his wife wrote this stuff’ (maybe, if we were in the 19th Century – no woman writing this stuff nowadays would accept that her husband sign it himself). Isn’t it much more probable than a smart misfit got serially fired from precarious Academic jobs – in my experience, a common occurrence – and made a mild success of what was initially a fun blog?
Btw, who are YOU, thezman? Can we assume that you actually exist, or are you a figment of your own imagination?
“Right out of the shoot …” is a gag I regularly employ just to have some fun. I’ll also spell “guerrilla war” as “gorilla war.” It makes people crazy, but I find it entertaining. If you keep reading, you’ll find other little gags like that from me. I have a lot of them.
“Right out of the shoot …” As a pun, it fails. “Chute,” as in a rodeo cowboy on a horse or bull.
Real warriors have an air of authenticity about them that is hard to co-opt. They rarely brag about heroic deeds if they mention any deeds at all. Z and K – as usual your B.S. detectors are properly calibrated.
Plus, look at the guy. He looks like Michael Moore raped the lead character from Confederacy of Dunces.
I always figured he was a basement geek who’d read hundreds of war books and had an above average IQ but zero military training or combat experience. He wrote with false bravado, like a PUA but about war.
Thanks Kathy. It is so good to know everyone has a “BS detector” of full charge and us poor saps who just think people are people are soooo easily duped. And thanks for being OK about it. Wow, I can feel the love from here.
Pingback: Five Feet of Fury – Kathy Shaidle – ‘It seems pretty clear that the guy behind the War Nerd blog is mostly full of baloney’
Thank God a _dude_ finally said it, because when I used to complain about this guy going back almost 10 years, well… anyhow…
My b.s. detector isn’t 100% but there was something phoney about him. A lot of anti-war libertarians had man-crushes on him, because he validated their existing beliefs.
(And not sure why anyone would be “grateful” for fakery and having been conned, but ok. See above I guess.)
The other thing that sent my BS meter off was “I’m guessing the woman and her fighters are Tajik, from the north side of the big watershed…” It’s vague enough to avoid a fact checker, but implies a first hand knowledge. There’s simply no way this guy could know that. It just reminds me of listening to fake war stories from guys who flew a desk, but like to bore the hell out of people with tales from their days in the service.
As I said, I could be wrong, but the more I look at his writing, the less inclined I am to take it at face value.
Kathy’s point about antiwar libertarians is a good one. A whole lot of otherwise sensible people were driven mad by the Muslim Wars of the last 15 years.
If War Nerd is a fake — and nothing should surprise me these days on tinterwebz –then I am sorry to hear it. I used to like some of his columns about what war was. Not the glorified, prettied version dished out by Pollywood but the fact that there were (and are) some awful and brutal things going on in the wide world.
But, if he be a fake, all I can say is he did it well for a time. For that alone I am grateful.