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Tilting at Windmills

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June 12, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Fighting Words

I am trying to figure out what would possess Erick Erickson to write something like this:

"You only thought leftists got excited when American soldiers got killed. As I've written before, leftists celebrate each and every death of each and every American solider because they view the loss of life as a vindication of their belief that they are right."

"Some" leftists, perhaps: there are a lot of people on the left, as there are on the right, and thus I imagine you could find members of either group who do any number of loathsome things. But Erick Erickson didn't write "some leftists." He wrote that "leftists celebrate each and every death of each and every American solider" [sic]. All of us.

Even those of us who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, or who have family or friends there. Even those of us whose family or friends have died. We all got excited. We celebrated. Each and every time a soldier died.

Duels have been fought for less.

I'm not interested in 'explanations' like: he's on the right, so of course he says idiotic things. Treating his opponents as one big undifferentiated cartoonish mass is part of what makes what Erick wrote so objectionable, and I have no interest in following his example. Nor is hyperbole a good explanation: it's not true that everyone on the left is happy when soldiers die, but that we don't go so far as to celebrate.

I think we can rule out the possibility that he believes this in good faith: that he asked himself, before writing this, "Is this really true?", thought about (for instance) the 44% of military voters who voted for Obama, liberals presently serving in combat, or the liberals on VetVoice, asked himself whether they actually celebrate when one of their own is killed in combat, and answered: "Yes."

He might be a pure hack, like those expert witnesses that the tobacco companies used to trot out to testify that nicotine is not addictive. But I suspect he's not.

The alternative is that he believes this in bad faith. Maybe, for him, writing blog posts has become a game: you score points when you can, and whether or not the things you write are actually true has ceased to be a concern. Or maybe hatred has got the better of him, like the person C. S. Lewis describes here:

"Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, 'Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that,' or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred." (Mere Christianity)

If you give in to "the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible", it's easy to see how you could end up thinking things about them that it is implausible to think about any group of human beings: for instance, that when a nineteen year old who enlisted because he wanted to serve his country gets blown up by an IED, your enemies think that that's cause for celebration. Your opponents become cartoons in your mind, and the normal duty to be charitable and generous, or even realistic, in your views about other people seem not to apply to them. You stop thinking of them as fellow human beings, and start thinking of them as enemies.

I suspect that this is the state of mind in which people laughed along with Rush Limbaugh when he said that Chelsea Clinton was "the family dog." No one who laughed at that could have been thinking of Chelsea Clinton as an actual adolescent girl whose looks were being ridiculed by the biggest talk radio host in the country. Had they done so, Limbaugh's sheer cruelty would have been obvious, and the only people who would have laughed are the kind of people who would laugh if they saw a dog being set on fire.

But Chelsea Clinton wasn't a human being; she was an opponent. And Limbaugh was scoring points. And the thought that an actual girl, and one who had never asked to be in politics, was being made fun of on national radio probably never crossed their minds, any more than the thought of actual human beings who are liberals and who are, or care about, soldiers, crossed Erick's.

No one -- not liberals, not conservatives -- should forget that their opponents are human beings. And no one can afford to start down the road Lewis describes, in which you allow yourself to be disappointed when your opponents aren't as bad as you first thought, or want them to be as bad as possible. And no one should get so wrapped up in political fights that in focussing on the mote in someone else's eye, they lose sight of the beam in their own.

Hilzoy 1:18 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (95)

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Comments

I often found myself arguing against progressives, insisting that I doubted Bush was doing that which he knew would hurt his country. Being badly, even egregiously, wrong is not the same as being evil.

On the flip side, I've had to sit down with some friendly conservatives and insist that we cannot have a conversation until they drop the presumption that as a liberal I am by definition a traitor. I certainly cannot be civil under those conditions.

Posted by: Jon on June 12, 2009 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

[quote]and I have no interest in following his example. Nor is hyperbole a good explanation[/quote]

Then allow me. Erick and his merry band of wingnut jackasses are the fetid crust of human existence. That they call themselves Americans is an eternal embarrassment to all that have served and fought for what this country is about.

THEY are the cartoons of public discourse, as is their false patriotism. There now, much better.

Posted by: Comrade Stuck on June 12, 2009 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

thank you. truly. i have lost faith in politics, but you at least maintain my faith in rationality.

Posted by: Mark on June 12, 2009 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

What an asshole!!!!!!!! I cry each time a name and the photo of the dead is posted. They leave families and friends behind to protect the right of Erickson to say such crap. I maintain it is the Bush administration that deminished the soldier and marine, by hiding their sacrific behind "privacy" concerns and now showing the return of the dead. Turns the war into a video game or episode of "Star Trek" where we don't see the dead or the casualties mindlessly march into machines that have predicted the death rate.

And where did Erickson and his keyboard commandos serve?

Posted by: Tigershark on June 12, 2009 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

I think it's fairly simple, really. Erickson has thrown his weight to the losing side. He's convinced his side has the right of every argument and he can't understand why the rest of the country doesn't see it his way. Ergo, "those people" are stupid and evil and their motives and actions are designed to frustrate and block his side. Thus, they're hateful.

Posted by: Linkmeister on June 12, 2009 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid it's far worse than just a simple Othering of a political/cultural opponent to the point of dehumanization.
As many have pointed out, including here at PA (I think one of the first and best proponents of this observation was David Neiwert, author of The Eliminationists and of the Orcinus blog), if you want to know what Publicans and conservatives are up to or planning soon to engage in, check to see what they're accusing Democrats and progressives (sorry, I mean, of course, "RATS" and "LIEBERALS") of doing.
Since the Rethugs have of late been making it unavoidably, nauseatingly clear that they'd be thrilled to death (we should be so lucky) at a recurrence of 9/11 (only worse), to validate their support of everything vile and unAmerican that the CheneyBush cabal did in the aftermath, they must needs ramp up the accusations of liberal delight in American casualties.
If you were to chart the frequency of such charges over time, I'd be very surprised if the rate and intensity of such claims were not both on the upswing right about now.
It would be interesting to try to determine the relative measure of projection vs hypocrisy / cognitive dissonance vs paranoia in the wingnut psyche -- and to see whether the ratios are static, or evolve over time, in response to changing conditions, and/or with advancing age, higher doses of FuxNews, etc. (I can't be the only one who thinks the crazy tends to worsen over time? Or is it just the recent reduction of Rethug power in the executive and Congress?)
Who knows, someday we might even find a cure.

Posted by: smartalek on June 12, 2009 at 2:43 AM | PERMALINK

Is it OK to give in to the sheer pleasure* of thinking Erick Erickson is as stupid as possible?

*Pleasure's not the word, I can't take any joy in being smarter than E.E.

Posted by: Half-Elf on June 12, 2009 at 2:46 AM | PERMALINK

...and so the lunatic fringe continues its grunt work, beavering away to drive a bitter wedge between left and right, painting each side in the colours of the enemy.

For some, hate hammers in their ears until it swallows them whole. Nothing will ease it but violence. Maybe there's been another time in America where a relatively small group worked so hard to ignite that spark that would touch off the whole powder keg... but I can't remember it.

Posted by: Mark on June 12, 2009 at 2:49 AM | PERMALINK

He likes hating. The question is why? My guess: because he is wrong about so many things-his ideology, his assumptions, his understanding of history--but he absolutely cannot admit error. Therefore the mere existance of another point of view is threatening to him.

I don't understand why there are so many people like that in our society: Malkin, Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Savage, a big percentage of the Republicans in Congress, Palin, the people who like and support them...

Is it fear of the future?

Posted by: wonkie on June 12, 2009 at 2:56 AM | PERMALINK

'Kay, see, I was going to post my usual comment here about people like Erickson (the three people who read these comment threads regularly know what 'my usual comment' is), but Hilzoy had to conclude with "No one -- not liberals, not conservatives -- should forget that their opponents are human beings." So now I have to be all thoughtful.

Or maybe not. The bottom line is that Erickson is a dick. This is a less polite way of saying what Hilzoy said: that Erickson (and Limbaugh, and Hannity, and Cheney [father and daughter], and many members of the GOP Congressional caucus and . . .) are more interested in scoring political points than they are in reasoned discourse, or governing, or behaving like civilized human beings.

So . . . in case anyone cares, this is exactly what I mean when, in many of the comment threads, I write "[so and so] is a dick." So for future reference, if anyone thinks I'm being unnecessarily vulgar or combative when they see me write that, please know that I simply consider that phrase a convenient shorthand for what Hilzoy has written here.

Posted by: David Bailey on June 12, 2009 at 3:43 AM | PERMALINK

I believe we are moving inexorably to a train wreck. Comments like Erickson's are not new. Anne Coulter wrote a best seller calling all liberals traitors after all. Rush Limbaugh's comments about Chelsey Clinton are now nearly a decade and a half old. In those days the left simply grinned and bore the pain inflicted.

What has different now.

A lot of progressives aren't interested in absorbing the crap still pouring out of the right wing noise machine. Most progressives now see themselves as being in charge. The feel vindicated. They don't understand why Erickson, Limbaugh and the rest still have their gold platted platforms. They don't understand why Congressional Democrats haven't kicked the noise machine to the curb. They don't understand why the media village still reports the noise machine's every hateful comment even if occasionally they report the comments derisively.

I believe a progressive backlash unleashed on the noise machine, all of those who either control or profit by it and Congressional democrats who still fear it, is very possible. Progressives on the warpath are every bit as relentlessly vile as conservatives egging on their remaining but mindless base. My fear is that a progressive backlash against the noise machine will, at a minimum, result in an assault on our First Amendment rights already in peril after 8 years of debasement by the Bush/Cheney administration. Worse the backlash could turn violent.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 12, 2009 at 5:24 AM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the desire of SOME leftists to respond to the irrational, unsubstantiated ranting spew of complete psychotic morons on the right. erickson's unsubstantiated spew that ANY "leftists" celebrate any soldiers death, let alone all leftists or some leftists is nothing more than his own perverted fantasy creating demons in his mind to justify his need for enemies to rail against. It is a complete waste of time to give imbeciles of the right a moments thought other than to be concerned that he, like all wingnuts incite violence against people.

There is no possible way to render rational explanations of the demented psychotic minds of the right.

Posted by: pluege on June 12, 2009 at 5:38 AM | PERMALINK

Erikson and other conseratives feel that way because they would take pleasure in soldiers dying if the loss of life would be the vindication that they were right. They want Obama to fail. They secretly rooted for Clinton fail in Kosovo. They just assume that liberals would do what they would do in the same place.

Posted by: David1234 on June 12, 2009 at 5:58 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry Hilzoy, but what Erickson has written here goes way beyond scoring political points, respectively who he would want to score points with reveals what this really is about, namely inciting hatred, pure and simple.

Intentionally or just casually careless, Erickson is providing his contribution to propel the 'direct actions' of the lunatics we have seen spring into action over the last few weeks. Of course, when challenged Erickson will insist that all he did was 'describe it as it is'.

I'm afraid that if the right wing hate mongers like Erickson, Beck, Savage, Limbaugh et al do not step back from their inflammatory rhetoric, there will be many more violent acts by right wing lunatics.

I'm not saying there is no hate on the left, but all one needs to do to see where the problem really lies, is to look at the statistics and the aspect which party held the presidency when these acts of violence occurred, i.e. whom that violence was directed against.

As to your question why Erickson may have written this, I don't know the answer either. But it is not an unknown psychological phenomenon that humans can derive satisfaction from smashing and destroying, literally and fuguratively, those who they perceive as their enemies.

In other words, maybe Erickson is suffering from a mild form of what propells people like Roeder and von Brunn to their rather more extreme actions.

Posted by: SRW1 on June 12, 2009 at 6:21 AM | PERMALINK

"... the normal duty to be charitable and generous, or even realistic, in your views about other people ..."

I like your choice of the term 'duty' in this sentence. Sometimes it really is a tough chore to try and be charitable.

Posted by: SRW1 on June 12, 2009 at 6:35 AM | PERMALINK

Crikey! The right actually goes to their funerals and mocks their families! I am thinking of Fred Phelps, the right-wing (no-one would call him a lefty) religious creep who proclaims 'God hates fags' and goes to the funerals of soldiers saying that the soldier was killed by God because of what our country is doing. I'm sure Erikson just forgot about this nutjob. Maybe someone should remind him.

Posted by: estamm on June 12, 2009 at 6:36 AM | PERMALINK

Erick Erickson has no humanity to forget. He's a despicable piece of garbage.

Posted by: Toast on June 12, 2009 at 6:41 AM | PERMALINK

"Progressives on the warpath are every bit as relentlessly vile as conservatives egging on their remaining but mindless base."

Really. Provide ONE piece of evidence to support that assertion. You ignorant clown.

Posted by: Toast on June 12, 2009 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

Every day the Right Wing Bloviators must shovel fuel into the furnace, lest the fires of hatred die.

These 'people'- and I use the term loosely- are merely Feeding the Beast, that dark swamp creature with the gaping maw that needs its daily dose of bile. Something out of Stephen King, needing hatred to power itself.

limbaugh, beck, coulter et al are providing a service to their Hate Radio audience, a group that pays them money (via advertisers) in exchange for making them feel good for a few minutes every day.

Sort of like prostitution, isn't it?

Posted by: DAY on June 12, 2009 at 6:49 AM | PERMALINK

I'd look more at the specifically political aspect-- Erickson, Limbaugh, et. al. see an advantage in cheapening the public sphere. But there's a basic contradiction there: they spend their time and energy in an arena they seek to coarsen and dehumanize. It's no wonder that things look grim to them-- they do their best to make it that way.

Posted by: MattF on June 12, 2009 at 6:54 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus, redstate is truly a sick site

Posted by: Polaris on June 12, 2009 at 7:01 AM | PERMALINK

Ron, I think that the worst thing progressives are likely to do to curb all the nasty rhetoric in the coming months is possibly to strengthen hate-speech legislation. I wouldn't actually even classify that as likely, but it's possible.

Erick's comments are related to the recent violence by right-wingers in that both are caused in large part by a systematic demonization of liberals and progressives by the conservative movement over the past half-century.

Posted by: Kris on June 12, 2009 at 7:04 AM | PERMALINK

> I often found myself arguing against
> progressives, insisting that I doubted Bush was
> doing that which he knew would hurt his country.
> Being badly, even egregiously, wrong is not the
> same as being evil.

Interesting that you said "Bush" and left out Richard Cheney.

Bush and Cheney executed 8 years of deliberate and relentless policies and actions that (1) made the United States less safe (2) launched an unprovoked war that killed at least 400,000 civilians in the target country (3) dispareged any Americans who attempted to get an honest accounting of the number of Iraqi civilians killed (4) enshrined torture as an official policy of the United States (5) implemented widespread domestic spying in violation of numerous laws and the Constitution (6) flat out refused to provide documents or testimony to Congress (7) used the Justice Dept to indict and prosecute (and in some cases convict) politicians for the crime of being Democrats (8)pursed a personal political vendetta by destroying a CIA anti-proliferation operation (9) and so on

I guess one could convince oneself that any one of these actions was not evil, although the relish with which they implemented torture would make that point a tough argument. But I have a very hard time understanding how I am supposed to classify people who acted that way deliberately over a period of 8 years as anything other than evil.

Cranky

Oh yeah: utter failure of response to Katrina, followed by an attempt to blame that failure on "Democrats".

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 12, 2009 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK

I don't believe in "evil." But it is a handy catch all term for people whose beliefs threaten society and human decency.

Anyone who supports a regime of torture is evil. Anyone who thinks the United States has a right to invade a country pre-emptively (and on almost non-existent grounds) is evil. That sums up about 30-60 percent of Republicans.

Lets be adults and not cede ground on the word "evil." We are not the ones putting ice blocks on people's chests, and we are not the ones who have a governing philosophy based on lies, distortion, fear mongering and theft. If we were the types to talk about mass deportation or loss of rights, then I'd reconsider this, but if the word evil is to have any USEFUL meaning at all in society other than to describe flesh-eating psychopaths, it has to apply to the extraordinary organizational evil that is born from every day fear and ignorance.

Posted by: inkadu on June 12, 2009 at 7:25 AM | PERMALINK

In my experience here, and in following the antics of modern movement conservatism and the current Republican Party, "good faith" is a concept they abandoned a long, long time ago.

But Chelsea Clinton wasn't a human being; she was an opponent.

Worse yet, she wasn't even that -- she was an opponent's daughter. But Limbaugh's audience takes pride in that kind of assholery.

This is another great post, hilzoy, and you've dispensed with the first part of that jackass' sentence, but I'd like to explore the second a bit (emphasis mine):

leftists celebrate each and every death of each and every American solider because they view the loss of life as a vindication of their belief that they are right.

IMO, it's that last bit that has Erickson in a twist, and it's unintentionally revealing. The death of each American soldier -- and allied soldier, and Iraqi civilian -- naturally calls into question whether Bush's Excellent Adventure in Iraq was worth the cost -- whether these lives deserved to be sacrificed on the altar of the political ambitions of Bush, Republicans and neocons. And as the costs get higher, and the lies Bush and his slimy crew told to get the policy they wanted become more apparent, the cost obviously becomes outrageously too high. And it seems this jerk can't stand liberals pointing that fact out. He can't stand the notion that we liberals are, in fact, right.

And so, like his fellow movement conservatives who treat 1894 as an instruction manual, he constructs a straw man.

Observing the Republican apologists who post endless amounts of bullshit here, I've long since abandoned the notion that movement conservatives have any shame at all -- posting bullshit is a pretty clear admission that your argument has no merit, after all. But now it seems to me that perhaps Ericson has some guilt issues after all. And he's well and truly earned them.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 7:34 AM | PERMALINK

Put me down for raw hackery. The same tired, raw hackery that served conservatives well until the Bush/Cheney regime exposed the greedy, mean spirited vindictiveness that held the conservative movement together. As such, the textbook liberal is an amalgamation of everything disliked, with conservatism it's polar opposite.

Actual political philosophy does not enter into the equation, unless the political philosophy is somehow disliked in itself. Radio screech monkeys played this masterfully through the Clinton years and into the Bush years. But by now, the shelf life of this hackery has expired. It's been reduced to singular purpose of inciting the mentally challenged.

I can only find one logical reason behind Erickson's rant - to incite rage in people who are incapable of objectively evaluating the world around them.

The other possible reason is that Erickson is as deranged as those he seeks to incite.

I wont fathom a guess, as it doesn't make much difference if his motive is malice or ignorance. Maybe he could offer a coherent explanation, but I wouldn't hold my breath for it.

Posted by: JoeW on June 12, 2009 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

As to why Ericson would post something like that, hilzoy, that's easy: He's an asshole.

And while hilzoy is absolutely right that we must never lose the perspective that our politicial opponents are human beings, the actions -- the repetitive actions -- of Erickson and many other prominent conservatives reveal that they're are piss-poor examples of human beings.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 7:40 AM | PERMALINK

And no one can afford to start down the road Lewis describes, in which you allow yourself to be disappointed when your opponents aren't as bad as you first thought, or want them to be as bad as possible.

But in the road Lewis describes, the test is one's reaction at finding out one's opponents aren't as bad as you thought. With this post -- just one sour note in the dissonant symphony of conservative bad faith, a mere second fiddle to the virtuosos of poison like Limbaugh and Malkin and Coulter -- movement conservatives reveal themselves not only as bad, but seem to positively revel in getting worse. And why not? Whipping up the wingnuts requires greater and greater stimulation for the same effect.

Whether we want our political opponents to be this bad is irrelevant, when it's self-evident that they want to be this bad. We're talking about Red State here, not a normally temeperate and honest conservative who lost his or her head in the heat of the moment. This kind of thing is what they do.

Also: 1984, above, not 1894 (the steampunk version). Sheesh.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

I think its a safe assumption that the hate being spread by the Ericksons and Limbaughs and Hannitys in our country is largely founded on xenophobia, racism and extreme Christian fundamentalism. I mention this because I've yet to see anyone address one of the primary reasons for their current severity.

I'm talking about our nation's broken education system.

Case in point: U.S. funding to improve education in Pakistan for 2009 is expected to be $163.5 million. That's money we're spending to help preempt future Taliban recruitment - the belief being that an educated person would be less inclined to join a group that promotes xenophobia, racism and extreme Islamic fundamentalism.

Now, I'm not saying Fox News or Limbaugh are terrorist organizers, but the hatred their spewing does come from the same trough. So, when we wonder why people like Mr. Erickson have readers, perhaps we should also wonder why our education system allows people like him to prosper?

(The conspiracy theorist in me is wondering if this is the reason why Republicans tried to kill the Dept. of Education for so many years? Just a thought.)

Posted by: Jake on June 12, 2009 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

Mz Hilzoy's last sentence speaks of the danger in becoming a zealot, where one views the world in distinctly either the darkest of shades of black or in the purest forms of whiteness. When progressives start to view the world the same way as the Shrubcheneyian world of "You're either with us or against us", they become zealots of an equally worst sort. Look no further than the response to the erudite progressive Mr Byers, supra, where someone, supposedly, on the left has called him an ignorant clown.

One of the reasons I have placed a V-Chip on the the KO Entertainment Hour show on MSNBC is because I believe Olbermann went far over the line in attacking Mrs Clinton. KO became a left wing BillO in his attacks. I disagreed with many portions of the Clinton Administration, including some of Senator Clinton's positions on Iraq. However, there have been many comments from progressives not only branding any and all Republicans EVIL, but, believing it is only appropriate for Mrs. Clinton to remain our SofS, as long as she submits to being burned at the stake, drawn and quartered and having her head placed upon a Pike over the Bridge at Toome. Yes, the poster of that attack against Ron Byers has, indeed, lost the sight of the beam in his or her eye.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 12, 2009 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

This is the best post I have read in a very long time. Bravo, sir. It can be very hard to regard certain conservatives as fellow human beings. Fortunately, I have a few friends and family members who are decent and considerate people, and Republicans. I have found it is possible to have rational and respectful conversations with them, even when we end up agreeing to disagree. But yes, there are a lot of nasty, rabid right-wingers out there. The challenge is to not cede ground without resorting to their tactics.

Posted by: frazer on June 12, 2009 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

With all due respect, hilzoy, I think "actual adolescent girl" means one of two things to Rush et al.: fuckable, or a waste of carbon. I don't think it would have been likely for him to consider anyone of Chelsea's age and, especially, gender as a human being.

Posted by: rabbit on June 12, 2009 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

I read the first graf of that Redstate post and couldn't get any farther; if someone had said that of me, to my face, I would have probably tried to gouge his eyes out. He dares accuse us - all of us - of that level of inhumanity?

Maybe I'm over-simplifying, but there's only two things I can think: either he honestly believes what he wrote, in which case he's suffering from a delusion that would take years to dispel, and more effort than it would be worth if not for the truly dangerous people who are being propelled to violence by such fighting words; or he doesn't believe it and put it out there anyway, in which case his actions are contemptible beyond redress, and the blood of the next atrocity - and I've got this sick certainty that there will be another atrocity - will be on his hands along with those of the other verbal bomb-throwers.

Posted by: BruceK on June 12, 2009 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

This is the best post I have read in a very long time. Bravo, sir.

Just FYI, hilzoy is a woman.

But there's a difference between an honest, rational conservative and modern movement conservatism, as illustrated by the shrinking of the Republican Party's support after the failures of the Bush Administration. Karl Rove and his rancid crew may have tried to "create their own reality," but the more their fantasies diverged from the real world, the more isolated they are in it -- and the more extreme the measures they need to take to sustain the fantasies.

Cognitive dissonance is a powerful force, but as I said above, the overwhelming need to not be wrong drives cretins like Ericson to such extremes. It has nothing to do with his worth as a human being, and it doesn't matter if in the final analysis he's merely at the mercy of a pathology borne of mental and moral weakness -- his actions, and those of many prominent Republicans, are simply unacceptable in civil society.

Limbaugh and his ilk may revel in being assholes, but most Americans see them for exactly that, and reject them for it.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

The problem with dehumanizing one's "opponent" is that the short step to total dehumanization makes it much easier to kill that "opponent" as they are not a person. (This is basic abnormal psych.)

We have come to look at politics as pure opponents for which points are to be scored. We neglect to see the bigger picture of a functioning country and the people within that country.

Lately, I find myself fantasizing about what it would be like to not have tools like Erick the Red and his band of merry misfits on the face of the earth. Sadly, those fantasies give me great joy.

It's a country, for god's sake.

Posted by: MsJoanne on June 12, 2009 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

I am willing to be convinced.

Please point me to one or two individuals with a public platform who share Mr. Erickson's politics and worldview and yet are respectful of their political adversaries to the left of center.

I know that it is a trap and a smug self-delusion to assume that only liberals are temperamentally and morally willing to be tolerant and open-minded. I know perfectly well that many liberals are not.

However, I could really use some actual evidence that such traits are even possible in Mr. Erickson's corner of the political spectrum.

David Brooks this ain't. It's very hard for me to untangle Mr. Erickson's hatred from the rest of his politics. Please, seriously, show me some evidence it's even possible.

Posted by: bcamarda on June 12, 2009 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

I disagree with much if not most of what self identified conservatives spew and sputter, but they seem to think that everyone who doesn't identify with them is engaged in some sort of colossal cosmic struggle with them where there is a winner and a loser, like in a football game. That is just another manufactured paradigm. I'm not struggling with them--I disagree with them. I have a different philosophy--but to them that makes me their enemy--and as their enemy they can accuse me of every imaginable kind of wrong mindedness--that doesn't make it true--but my disagreement with them turns me into a screen onto which they project their own dark side. I don't seem that simply as misguided--I see that as deranged.

Posted by: c4logic on June 12, 2009 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

It becomes far easier to destroy one's enemies when you dehumanize them. Placing your enemy into an "untermensch" form, thus, allowing you to believe you are an "obermensch" simplifies the problem. Thus, you are not attacking a fellow human being, but, destroying a "something" which is far beneath you.

Posted by: berttheclock on June 12, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

I am an extreme liberal and the only American deaths that I would celebrate will be those of Erickson, Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, and their like. There is something to be said for addition by subtraction. Sorry if this offends, I'm just being honest.

Posted by: BobW on June 12, 2009 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Meant "ubermensch" - Must remember the umlaut system - Geez, could I re-enlist and join some Geezer Unit in Germany, so, I could re-learn German?

Posted by: berttheclock on June 12, 2009 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

I could really use some actual evidence that such traits are even possible in Mr. Erickson's corner of the political spectrum.

Brooks? Please. Brooks pretends to be an honest conservative -- and the so-called "liberal" NPR lets him get away with it -- but he's as dishonest as they come; the more so for his pretense of reasonableness.

But John Cole is a conservative that the Terri Schaivo affair caused to re-think his support for the Republican Party, a process that, once begun, caused him to abandon the Party for good.

Jackasses like Erickson probably wouldn't claim Cole as a conservative, but that's part of the point -- Cole realized that the Republican Party wasn't being run on conservative values (other than tax cuts forever) and was simply too crazy to support. He criticizes Democrats and Republicans alike, but his journey to the light side has made his blog interesting to people of many political persuasions, and many of his regular commentors are like-minded honest conservatives that the Republican Party left in its stampede to embrace its John Birch Society fringe.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Terrific post, Hilzoy.

I got into a flame war over on Balloon Juice in a post where new blogger Ann Laurie was caricaturing all anti-abortion folks as "womb bigots" and "testicle defenders" and putting some crude comments in their mouths -- they're anti-semites, they're Freemasons, etc. -- just wildly cartoonish shit that only seemed aimed at riling up the true believers on her side and accomplishing little else.

I tried to express the points you outline here, but you've said it much more elegantly than I did.

Posted by: TR on June 12, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

My fear is that a progressive backlash against the noise machine will, at a minimum, result in an assault on our First Amendment rights already in peril after 8 years of debasement by the Bush/Cheney administration. Worse the backlash could turn violent.

And your evidence that progressives are looking to abuse the constitution to muzzle our critics, then become violent toward them, is...what? Please be specific.

Posted by: shortstop on June 12, 2009 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

As Ms Joanne mentioned "fantasy" in her excellent post, I wonder if there is the tiniest smidge in many of us of a fanatasy of standing on the street. ala "Dirty Harry", looking at either Rush or BillO and saying "Make my day".

Posted by: berttheclock on June 12, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Again very well reasoned. But it seems to me that ultimately such reasoning comes up against some cold realities. One of which I need to preface by saying that I love and cherish animals. I believe in being kind and compassionate to animals. All animals if possible. But in my considerable time on the planet it has become clear to me that the human species is simply another animal. A clever primate. The higher functions that we ascribe to 'humanity' are by no means universal. Oh they exist. And they are wonderful and precious. But they are not innate. They are not possessed by all or in equal measure by all. And if you start from that assumption, you end up very disappointed in life.

Posted by: SW on June 12, 2009 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

they seem to think that everyone who doesn't identify with them is engaged in some sort of colossal cosmic struggle with them where there is a winner and a loser, like in a football game. That is just another manufactured paradigm.

Manufactured it may be, but it dominates the mindset of modern movement conservatism. Look at the ridiculous lengths the McCain campaign went to in order to "win every news cycle" -- while Obama calmly went about winning the election itself in a landslide.

IMO a lot of the conservative pathology stems from an obsession to identify with winners. Certainly the Party's rhetoric, carefully selected by the likes of Gingrich and Atwater, was designed to portray the Democratic Party as weak, ineffectual losers -- and was so successful, you have guys like Harry Reid who seem to have utterly internalized it.

Again, this factor is likely the source of much of Ericson's anger. The quick military victory in Iraq -- a war of choice his side championed and many liberals opposed -- probably made him feel vindicated, like a winner. But thanks to Bush's incompetence, the steadily increasing and horrible cost, coupled with the steady revelations that the case for war he swallowed, if not advocated, was a tissue of lies, makes him feel like a loser.

(That's also the reason behind the whole "the surge worked!" meme -- we can see that it had little effect other than to make war supporters not feel like losers, at some great cost in human life. Nice.)

And, of course, we see the American people, if not the so-called "liberal media," rejecting movement conservatism and the faith-based bullsit it's founded on. The Republican Party is on its way to irrelevance as a fringe Southern regional party of old white men -- essentially, becoming the John Birch Society -- but to change would mean admitting they are wrong, and they just can't do that, so they double down.

And why not? Creeps like Ericson are rewarded by page hits and supportive comments by fellow radicals, while Liz Cheney and Newt Gingrich get on TV all the time and there's plenty of wingnut welfare for the likes of Goldberg and K. Lopez.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

I believe a progressive backlash unleashed on the noise machine, all of those who either control or profit by it and Congressional democrats who still fear it, is very possible. Progressives on the warpath are every bit as relentlessly vile as conservatives egging on their remaining but mindless base.

As someone else pointed out, how about an example? I was thinking "boycotts", and "spend money where you think it will do good". So no Domino's Pizza for me, nor any Carl's Jr. As a default rule, avoid large businesses, just because the little ones at least cannot afford the sort of corrupt lobbying funded by the big guys. Buy used cars (put money in local pockets), repair them as long as possible (put money in local pockets). Bike, if you can, when you can (keep money out of oil company pockets, better for you, better for the environment).

Pretty strident stuff, eh?

Posted by: dr2chase on June 12, 2009 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

Hyperbole in defense of a position is a vice. It's too bad the liberal/progressive world doesn't do more to put execrable thoughts like this in front of a wider audience. I applaud Hilzoy from wading into the swamp to read and report but what about the rest of the liberal world?
No response to crap like Erickson's bizarre thought will only lead to more of it.

Posted by: TJM on June 12, 2009 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus. When I read this, all I could think about was Andy Olmstead, and that Andy wasn't a real human being to this fuckstain, just some inanimate object he could pick up and use for his own sick pleasure. To be dropped and forgotten when no longer convenient.

Goddamn. Goddamn.

Fuck my duty to be charitable; I hate this motherfucker.

Posted by: elmo on June 12, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Shortstop, I don't believe progressives are looking to abuse the constitution, but I do believe their is growing frustration to the hate speech spread daily across the airways by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck. We won the last two elections, but to hear the media, the noise machine is still large and in charge. Limbaugh can say anything without consequence. We just fume and fuss. I don't think that will continue forever without a pressure valve. The pressure valve we shape could put pressure of the First Amendment. Already there is talk about restoring the old fairness doctrine. I know the talk started with the noise machine, but lately I have heard it mentioned in progressive circles. Frankly, the fairness doctrine has within it limitations on free speech I personally find offensive. Of course, the fairness doctrine or something like it might be necessary in a world where a handful of haters with a tiny audience have locked up AM radio for themselves.

Shortstop, just don't believe for a minute that progressives aren't human or are naturally virtuous. Sooner or later any human will respond in a very human fashion to the extreme tribalism and hate being spewed daily by Clear Channel, Fox Noise and the rest of the right wing noise machine. Usually such responses aren't measured. Measured comes later after the initial overreach.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 12, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

I am really puzzled about how the philosophy of no one is evil, even your political opponents applies when there is a Dick Cheney holding the levers of power.

Posted by: David Addington on June 12, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Erickson's quote you cite is simple vile language - extremely projected upon an rhetorically negative boogie man. What I heard from Rush regarding VanBrunn is equally disturbing. Unfathomable, utter disbelief, have they no shame - just a few responsive words to such tripe.

If Erik Erickson thinks he is contributing to our national dialog, he is gravely mistaken for his rhetoric is worth about as much as a discarded cigarette butt lying in a garbage soaked gutter! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on June 12, 2009 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

We won the last two elections, but to hear the media, the noise machine is still large and in charge. ... Already there is talk about restoring the old fairness doctrine.

The talk about reviving the Fairness Doctrine, for all the amusement factor of the right's tacit admission that their bullshit can't stand up to challenge, is a smokescreen. (And it wouldn't effect cable, anyway.)

Our policy should be to reverse the owenership rule changes brought about under Reagan. Rush can't broadcast over 10,000 Clear Channel stations if Clear Channel isn't allowed to monopolize the AM airwaves. Diversity of ownership would bring about that conservative - capitalist favorite, competition, and hopefully reverse the trend in bland, homogenized radio to boot.

Media concentration does not serve the American people, and there's no reason at all to allow Reagan's rules to stand.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory: I'm not saying here that Brooks is right, or even intellectually honest: merely that he can have a civil debate without presenting his adversaries as traitors.

That may be a low standard, but it makes him fundamentally different from the Ericksons of the world. You can point out where the guy is wrong or dishonest without a response that evokes involves baseball bats, submachine guns, nooses, or at minimum, accusations of treason.

I agree with you about Cole, but his conservatism seems to me founded in a very different place than Erickson's, explaining why it has led him to a very different place. It seems to me that Erickson's core principles, if you can call them that, are xenophobia and aggression, with "limited government" following distantly and applied only when convenient or profitable.

Cole, and yes, the dreaded Brooks, are individuals who would have heard of Edmund Burke. That Cole, Brooks, and Erickson have all called themselves conservatives in the past decade strikes me almost as an accident of history, and representative of one of the many fractures that has torn the conservative "movement" apart of late. (Along with religion vs. Wall Street and elitism vs. Joe-the-Plumber faux populism.)

It is certainly true that over the past 60 years, many people have used conservative ideas as nothing more than an ideological fig leaf for racism and/or greed. (William F. Buckley's National Review editorials in the late 1950s supporting white southerners against the civil rights movement come to mind.) But it was possible to do otherwise, and I think Cole is proof of that.

Today, most people would probably say that Erickson, Limbaugh, Hannity, et al are the "real" conservatives. That is a tragedy -- and it is a tragedy that is likely to worsen exponentially in the coming months, as they whip up ever more lunacy and provoke ever more domestic terrorism.

Posted by: bcamarda on June 12, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Pretty weak tea, Ron Byers. "I've heard a few progressives talking about the fairness doctrine," a tangent about the fairness doctrine, then a lot of "feelings" you have about overreaction being "only human."

You haven't backed up your statements at all, just further emoted without factual support. Worry about violence from the left if you must, but you haven't given us any reason to join you.

Posted by: shortstop on June 12, 2009 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

bcamarda: "I am willing to be convinced.

Please point me to one or two individuals with a public platform who share Mr. Erickson's politics and worldview and yet are respectful of their political adversaries to the left of center."

I'm not sure where one would have to be to count as sharing Erick's worldview -- if, for instance, dehumanizing liberals is part of his world-view, then by definition there is no one who shares it and respects his or her opponents. However, if you mean people who are quite conservative, and in the cultural conservative/anti-abortion camp, rather than the libertarian camp: Sebastian Holsclaw, who posts at ObWi, is an obvious example, as is Daniel Larison at Eunomia.

Posted by: hilzoy on June 12, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know which is more distressing, thinking that Limbaugh, Beck,Erickson, Bachman et al really believe what they are saying or that they are saying it for effect.

Unfortunately, extremists, regardless of leaning, tend to show black/white thinking, and the shades of grey that Lewis talks about escape them. It is a developmental problem, but I fear they will never grow up.

Posted by: marc on June 12, 2009 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not saying here that Brooks is right, or even intellectually honest

Well, of course.

merely that he can have a civil debate without presenting his adversaries as traitors.

But he wasn't above implying that critics of neoconservatives are anti-Semitic.

And anyway, as I've pointed out here several times: Constant bad faith in political discourse isn't fucking civil.

Yes, Brooks' schtick is to use a pretense of civility to make radical conservatism sound palatable and mainstream, but he, by his constant dishonesty -- of which his very pretense is an inseparable part -- is also part of the corruption of our civil discourse. As is the fact that the so-called "liberal" New York Times and NPR let him get away with it.

I agree with you about Cole, but his conservatism seems to me founded in a very different place than Erickson's

Of course it is -- Cole's conservatism is genuine, whereas the likes of Ericson and Malkin are just cheering for their team. Why do you think IOKIYAR ("It's OK If you're a Republican") has entered the conversational shorthand? These jerks have precious few pricicples apart from "we win, you lose."

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

You are right Shortstop, progressives are an entirely new species of exceedingly wise men and women who always turn the other cheek and are completely above the fray. They are all a combination of Jesus Christ, and the Buddha smiling knowingly on tribal conservatives whose every waking thought and action is to unfairly attack "lefties." We have a Spock like ability to shun the anger and hatred they direct at us daily. I know I have that ability and I am sure you are too. But what about Gregory?

Let me come back to this issue when I have a chance to actually research the topic.

Gregory, you are exactly right about how to handle the Clear Channel near monopoly of AM radio.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 12, 2009 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy

Did you also "try to figure out what would possess" a left-wing late night comedian to call Sarah Palin a slut and joke about her teenage daughter getting knocked up by a New York Yankee baseball player while attending the game with her mother?

Perhaps more to the point, what percentage of liberals laughed when they heard the joke?

Any liberal who laughs at this hateful Letterman joke has no right ever criticizing anything Rush Limbaugh has ever said mocking his liberal opponents.

Posted by: oldMarine on June 12, 2009 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, I don't think Erickson thought about what he said at all. I don't think any of them really do, or think about the next step or what it could mean or how their words could be construed.

They are going for that adrenaline spike--that sentence that the listener or reader will quote over dinner, that got their blood boiling with self-righteous anger.

That sort of reaction is why the person bothered to turn on the radio or click on the link--they want to feel superior and morally outraged. It becomes something they crave, and people like Erickson (or any of the others) provide it regularly and cheaply. Being angry isn't something I enjoy, so I don't understand it.

But I do know there's no thought to what words can mean or disbelief that anyone will take those words literally or personally. I've listened to the conservative true-believers I know spout this stuff, and they look truly confused when I ask directly, "so, do you really believe I'm like that? You know I'm a liberal, but I can't believe you think those things about me." They sputter that it wasn't *me* they mean--it is "liberals!" and just do not have a reply when I point out I'm probably the most liberal person they know.

It's carelessness and laziness. Which like explains why you get such a vehement projection of responsibility when things like the recent shootings happen. They don't want to think about what they say or write. And by blaming "liberals" for it, the continue to provide the same moral outrage spike for their audience.


Posted by: tess on June 12, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

oldMarine: No, but that's mostly because I don't watch Letterman, am pretty profoundly interested in what he says, and skimmed over the Letterman threads because (until now) I tend to skip all threads like that. If he did joke about that, I think it's totally wrong, of course.

Posted by: hilzoy on June 12, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Um, "likely explains why"

Posted by: tess on June 12, 2009 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect that the very simple reason Erickson feels this way is that every death of every soldier makes him sad/upset because he feels that he may have been wrong. Therefore, of course his opponents must feel happy because they feel vindicated. His day consists of overcoming his emotional response and staying the course even though the world keeps punching him in the gut. Therefore his opponent's day must consist of celebrating the evidence that comes their way making it easy to believe that they are correct. I suspect that hatred does cause the thought to be formed, it flows from the thought afterward. Yeah for false dichotomies ruining the world.

Posted by: socratic_me on June 12, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

You are right Shortstop, progressives are an entirely new species of exceedingly wise men and women who always turn the other cheek and are completely above the fray. They are all a combination of Jesus Christ, and the Buddha smiling knowingly on tribal conservatives whose every waking thought and action is to unfairly attack "lefties." We have a Spock like ability to shun the anger and hatred they direct at us daily.

Ron, you're digging yourself deeper. This is just more hyperemotion.

Look, this isn't hard if you'd try dealing in facts. You stated that you think a First Amendment-abusing and violent backlash is coming from the left. We asked you for specific evidence of this. You couldn't provide any and responded with over-the-top drama queening that uses a particularly adolescent style to wildly mischaracterizes what I've said.

I shouldn't have to explain this to you, but no one is saying that liberals don't get fed up or behave badly. We're asking you to defend your prediction of liberal violence and free speech suppression with a fact or two. If you can't deliver, spare us the hysterics.

Posted by: shortstop on June 12, 2009 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you, Hilzoy, for this excellent post.

Posted by: msmolly on June 12, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

But oldMarine, by that logic anyone who has ever laughed at Rush Limbaugh has no right to be offended at what Letterman said about Palin's family. And that's clearly not right. What Letterman said is offensive on its own merits. It doesn't, however, vindicate any of the nastiness people like Rush and John McCain also directed at a teenage girl in the 1990s.

Posted by: Mike from Detroit on June 12, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

I shouldn't have to explain this to you, but no one is saying that liberals don't get fed up or behave badly. We're asking you to defend your prediction of liberal violence and free speech suppression with a fact or two. If you can't deliver, spare us the hysterics.

And while you're at it, explain exactly why you think anything I've said in this thread supports your position, 'cause I sure as hell can't see it.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

I should acknowledge that my above is complete mindreading. It is also my best attempt at a benevolent reading. And of course, all of hilzoy's post about the need to stop and ask oneself if one is addressing one's opponents as true human beings with real human feelings and not just caracature feelings still apply.

Posted by: socratic_me on June 12, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Any liberal who laughs at this hateful Letterman joke has no right ever criticizing anything Rush Limbaugh has ever said mocking his liberal opponents.

Letterman's joke at the expense of a politician's daughter is bad for the same reasons Rush's characterization of Chelsea Clinton was.

But your post is typical of the false equivalences practiced by movement conservatives -- Letterman's one incident of bad behavior does not compare at all to Limbaugh's basing his entire career on hate.

Moreover, Letterman really is just an entertainer, with no obvious aspirations to political power or influence. For all Limbaugh's disingenuous claims to be an entertainer, it's clear by now who holds the power in the GOP, isn't it?

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

Stunning moment of clarity: how much of the lunatics' projection onto moderates and leftists that "they must be celebrating our failure" comes from applying a zero-sum model to things which are manifestly not zero-sum?

IE: the neocons took us to war, the left objected, the war didn't go as the wingnuts wanted, so if they're miserable, their opponents must be happy ... when the truth is that most of us are just as miserable as they are, only for different reasons. We mourn the deaths of those who fall in the war zones, though maybe for different reasons - all too often, at least in my case, it's been "those troops deserved better."

It's also a bit paradoxical: for myself, I hope the troops succeed, as best they can, while at the same time thinking the overarching policy that put them in harm's way is possibly the worst strategic blunder the United States ever committed. I don't *want* them to fail, I don't *want* them to die; I want them out of the meat grinder, safe and sound.

The simplistic view is very much in keeping with the "you're with us or you're with the terrorists," "why do you hate America?" crowd.

(Heck, I'm not even wishing for any of the wingnuts to meet a grisly fate. Not even Yoo, Gonzalez, or Cheney - though in those last three cases I'd make an exception, provided that it was preceded by a sentencing judge asking for God to have mercy on their souls.)

Posted by: BruceK on June 12, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

Disclaimers: yes, both Limbaugh's and Letterman's comments were vile. And, I don't watch/listen to either of them, so perhaps I am off here.

But, wasn't Letterman clearly making a joke(even if it was not much of a joke)? Isn't that his thing, he does satiric comedy?

Limbaugh, on the other hand, is supposedly something of a pundit. I'm not under the impression that he presents himself as a comic.

Doesn't context and the speaker's intention figure in?

Posted by: Ohio Mom on June 12, 2009 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

oldMarine, Letterman's joke crossed a huge line. But the equivalency is still a false one. First, the Clinton's went to great lengths to keep Chelsea out of the public eye in part knowing that was the best way to keep Limbaugh-like attacks to a minimum. Palin exploited her pregnant teenage daughter and infant grandson as campaign props every chance she got. She, not Letterman, put them into the arena. Second, Letterman is not political, and is not acting for a political purpose. Limabugh is. Letterman, being a full-time comedian, was trying to be funny and wasn't. Limbaugh was trying to rally a political constituency, and sadly with some it worked. And by the way, any candidate to trys to seduce votes by going to a debate and winking at America is a slut. Dont think it was sexual? Ask Rich Lowry why he was "on the edge of his couch."

Ron Byers (and a couple of others), even if the Fairness Doctrine were reimplemented, it does no violence to the First Amendment (and I'm pretty absolutist about the First Amendment). Spectrum is a very limited resource, "owned" by the public or privately but as a public trust. It has long been accepted (although, sadly, unenforced) that those making use of that scarce resource have a duty to do so in the public interest. It has long been accepted that the public interest is disserved by a monopoly of a single viewpoint being provided on the spectrum.

At present, scarce public spectrum is being used to mislead, to lie, to undermine democratic institutions, and in a highly one-sided manner. This was never the intent nor the proper public purpose of the scarce public spectrum. There are two solutions. One is to return the Fairness Doctrine, which served everyone but Rush Limbaugh well for several generations.

If people don't like that, here is another: remove all pretense of a public interest test from use of the spectrum -- but make those who would use it buy that complete, unfettered interest outright. Currently, broadcast radio and TV get their spectrum essentially for free. Wireless telephone and data, on the other hand, pay literally billions of dollars for the same spectrum. Clear Channel and Citadel dont want to be bothered with silly things like "fairness," or "civility," or "truth," or other traits in the public interest? Fine. Give up the subsidy that you and me and all progressives grant these broadcasters; let Clear Channel and Citadel pay billions for the bandwidth, just like wireless voice and data have to do.

Posted by: zeitgeist on June 12, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, make that four: I forgot to include Rumsfeld in that last category.

Posted by: BruceK on June 12, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy: Fair point about defining Erickson in a way that precludes anyone else from fitting the definition. It does appear to me that dehumanizing liberals is the centerpiece of his ideology and worldview, and that of the Savages, Coulters, and their ilk as well -- and that they represent a frighteningly large number of people.

I've heard good things about Larison and will make a point to start reading him. I hadn't been familiar with Holsclaw. Thank you.

Posted by: bcamarda on June 12, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Gregory, I just agreed with your take on how to deal with media concentration.

Shortstop, I have never said that progressives have already embraced policies damaging to the First Amendment. I just said that such a tact is logical in the face of the right's continued attack on all of us.

Going back to the fairness doctrine. Gregory is absolutely right on how we should deal with the noise machine. Get rid of media concentration and let hundreds of voices compete with Rush Limbaugh and the rest. He will be drowned out in a sea of Free Speech. But notice that we aren't talking about eliminating media concentration. We are talking about instituting something like the fairness doctrine. Some really shrewd right wing people have preempted the discussion. No doubt some foolish Democratic congressman will jump on board. The net result is that we will be perceived as wanting to limit both the First Amendment and free enterprise. The more we hear Rush spew hate the more we will overlook the obvious and superior way to attack the noise machine.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 12, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy - Great and thoughtful post. Maybe E.E. has deep psychological issues to resolve with respect to his own father? Yes, I am projecting.

Posted by: Scott F. on June 12, 2009 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Hate and anger turned inward causes synaptic failure. Seeing red means you are breaking blood vessels...Maybe Mr. Erickson needs to go take a walk.

Posted by: johnnymags on June 12, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Shortstop, I have never said that progressives have already embraced policies damaging to the First Amendment.

This is becoming comical. No, Ron, I know you never said that. Nor did I state or imply that you had.

I just said that such a tact [sic] is logical in the face of the right's continued attack on all of us.

And we just asked you to provide some support for your fear that this will happen. You still haven't done so. "I have a vague and unsupported bad feeling about X" is not synonymous with "X is logical."

Posted by: shortstop on June 12, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Any liberal who laughs at this hateful Letterman joke has no right ever criticizing anything Rush Limbaugh has ever said mocking his liberal opponents.

Conservatism in a nutshell: "One cruel joke by our opponents vindicates 20 years of Limbaugh's rantings!"

Also, since when did Chelsea Clinton become a "liberal opponent"? Was she making policy at the age of 12?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on June 12, 2009 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Hilzoy, you almost lost me near the beginning of your piece: "'Some' leftists, perhaps: there are a lot of people on the left, as there are on the right, and thus I imagine you could find members of either group who do any number of loathsome things."

Why do you posit that? I have never encountered, in person or in print, an American leftist who would celebrate the death of a U.S. soldier. I live in a college town where our local progressives still hold antiwar rallies every Saturday afternoon. I know some pretty extreme leftists. None of them has ever vilified the soldiers who do the fighting and dying. I know plenty of people who would celebrate the conviction and execution of the criminals who launched this illegal war, but that's something entirely different. The only people who have celebrated the deaths of America soldiers have been right-wing freaks like Fred Phelps and his sick followers.

So again, why do you posit that "some leftists" might celebrate the death of American soldiers? Don't go back to other eras; stick to the present and give me evidence. You're conceding something to the demented right that I refuse to concede.

Posted by: tohjiro on June 12, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

This post (and this site) is a prime example of the difference between discourse between left and right.

Show me one rightwing site, that gets as much traffic as this one, where the discourse and posts are as civil, thoughtful, and accurate as posted here.

Just. One.

Show me one rightwing blogger so willing to engage in rational discourse with someone they disagree with in the comments section of his/her site the way hilzoy is.

Just. One.

Show me one righwing site that allows clear trolls to continually post, or even allows a dissenting opinion to be posted.

Just. One.

It's simple: The GOP is going down a very, very dangerous path, both for their own party and our nation. I don't think that's hyperbole, either -- the way they work their viewers/listeners/readers into a frenzy is what led to the recent shootings in Pa. and Ky. And the more they do it, the worse it's going to get.

They need someone -- ANYONE -- within their party to step up, take charge, and tell them to STFU. They need someone to take the mantle or rational discussion and propose REAL ideas and alternatives.

In short, they need to act like grown ups.

I just don't think it will happen any time soon.

Posted by: Mark D on June 12, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

The only actual content of the fake, phony, trumped-up, focus-group tested, scripted, corporate-sponsored, Madison Avenue programmed pseudo-ideological cult known as "conservatism" in America today is hatred of "liberals" -- just as the only actual content of the phony pseudo-ideology of mid-1930s German brownshirts was hatred of "Jews".

"Conservatism" in America today is not a political ideology. It is a cult of hatred.

And it is a cult of hatred that was and is deliberately, systematically created and cultivated by America's corporate oligarchy to create a legion of obedient mental slaves, who will slavishly believe whatever they are told to believe, do what they are told to do, and say what they are told to say by the paid corporate propagandists of the so-called "conservative" media.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on June 12, 2009 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's a small point, but the Limbaugh schtick about Chelsea Clinton was from his short-lived television show in the early 90's. I saw that particular segment when it was first broadcast, with the fat man showing a picture of Chelsea smiling with her braces, and the studio audience laughing. I knew at that moment all I ever needed to know about Rush Limbaugh ... he's a guy who will make fun of the appearance of a teenaged girl, in public, for laughs. Noted.

Posted by: InflatableCommenter on June 12, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

tohjiro: "So again, why do you posit that "some leftists" might celebrate the death of American soldiers?"

I assume that in any sufficiently large group of people, there is at least one who believes and/or does just about anything. I mean: wouldn't it be odd if no liberal, anywhere, ever did bad thing X -- given that there are millions of us? That's one reason why I don't like picking one liberal/conservative at random and saying: look! look what they believe!

Posted by: hilzoy on June 12, 2009 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

That's one reason why I don't like picking one liberal/conservative at random and saying: look! look what they believe!

hilzoy, I've long admired your efforts towards fairness, but even so you're being unfair to yourself.

Ericson, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, etc. aren't "conservatives at random." They've selected themselves -- with considerable assistance from the corporate media and the so-called "liberal" media -- as prominent conservative voices. RedState was founded expressly as the Republican answer to Daily Kos; it isn't just some random twit with a website.

After 9/11, disingenuous hacks like Glenn Reynolds tried hard to present some guy named Ward Churchill as representative of liberals. Liberals almost everywhere responded with, "Ward who"? Today Limbaugh is widely perceived, among the general public and Republicans alike, as the leader of the conservative movement in general and the Republican party in particular -- a perception Rush goes out of his way to reinforce by browbeating any actual elected Republican who challenges him.

If the conservative movement in general and Republicans in particular didn't want jackasses like these speaking for them, they could at least say so. Instead, they buy their books, invite them to speak at their conferences, and heap wingnut welfare upon them. Holding them and the pack of John Birchers they represent accountable for their words is not only fair, but also necessary.

@Ron Byers: We are talking about instituting something like the fairness doctrine. Some really shrewd right wing people have preempted the discussion.

You have this exactly backwards. It was the bloviators on the right who brought up the Fairness Doctrine at all. It probably isn't to the credit of the pack of corporate wusses that make up the Democratic congressional caucus that they didn't put revisiting the fiarness doctrine on the agenda, but we're only talking about it at all because the conservatives brought it up -- no doubt in an attempt to move the Overton window.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Wonderful post--a big cut above the way most political discourse is conducted these days. I would have felt better about my own side, however, if more of the comments in this thread were as humane and thoughtful as the post that elicited them.

Posted by: Casaubon on June 12, 2009 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

I know I'm beating a dead horse here, but oh well. The crazies on the republican right hate people who are not just like them. This is why they hate our system of government which purports to give everyone a say via the vote, and they hate our society because it was built to work in the presence of people of widely differing viewpoints in such a way that its citizens could live in the presence of people they didn't necessarily like. This latter part was entitled civility, something else the republican right hates. These folks dehumanize their political opponents because they just hate everyone on the other side.

Posted by: rbe1 on June 12, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

Gregory: After 9/11, disingenuous hacks like Glenn Reynolds tried hard to present some guy named Ward Churchill as representative of liberals. Liberals almost everywhere responded with, "Ward who"?

Unlike Limbaugh, disrespected by the faculty of almost every college and university in the U.S., Ward Churchill was a tenured professor. His comment was taken as evidence that idiocy such as his is common and, indeed, respected on American campuses. Churchill was not the only university professor making such comments. Limbaugh might be miseducating the people who listen to him while they work or whatever, but leftists/antiamericanists like Churchill are educating American youth on college campuses.

Leftists view crime in the streets the way that rightists view a few of the recent high-profile murders: as a result of unfair pressures in society. This is why, to pick some famous examples, they support furloughs for convicted violent criminals and art instruction in the prisons.

Consider, for another example, the leftists who think that the violence caused by Hamas is the fault of the Zionist occupation of Israel, the Gaza strip, and the West Bank: if only Israel had not expanded beyond its 1967 borders there would be peace, and there will be peace if Israel withdraws back to those borders.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 12, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Unlike Limbaugh, disrespected by the faculty of almost every college and university in the U.S.

You say that like it's some kind of a problem, Marler. Limbaugh ought to be disrespected -- just like you, who play the same bullshit game.

Ward Churchill was a tenured professor.

So? He's also one obscure example, whose very obscurity illustrate hilzoy's point about the dishonesty of that kind of citation, you mendacious jackass.

His comment was taken as evidence that idiocy such as his is common and, indeed, respected on American campuses.

No, his comment was presented as such by dishonest jacksasses such as yourself.

Churchill was not the only university professor making such comments.

Then you won't have any trouble citing them. Thanks in advance.

But then, if that's true, why was the perenially dishonest Glenn Reynolds harping so much on Churchill and not the others?

Limbaugh might be miseducating the people who listen to him while they work or whatever

Aw, listen to your cute euphemism for Limbaugh's disgusting, hate-filled lies!

but leftists/antiamericanists like Churchill are educating American youth on college campuses.

First of all, you assert that Churchill is anti-American. Your assertions are worthless, as you know, and given the way dishonest conservatives equate criticising Republican policies or shameful episodes in American history with anti-Americanism, you need to back that statement up.

And anyway, so what? That doesn't validate the comparison of an obscure college professor to the bloated liar widely perceived as the leader of the Republican Party.

(I mean Limbaugh, not Cheney or Gingrich.)

On top of that, we have the likes of John Yoo educating American youth on college campuses too, not to mention entire univesities set up by religious conservatives to prevent their students from questioning authority.

You're dishonest, Marler, but you usually aren't stupid.

Leftists view crime in the streets the way that rightists view a few of the recent high-profile murders: as a result of unfair pressures in society.

The difference, of course, being that liberals have data to back up their claims, while the right-wing extremists who dominate our discourse -- but give you those sweet, sweet tax cuts! -- are just trying to avoid responsibility for their rhetoric.

Jackass.

This is why, to pick some famous examples, they support furloughs for convicted violent criminals and art instruction in the prisons.

No, they support those programs to reduce recidivism, numbskull.

Consider, for another example, the leftists

...many of whom, interestingly enough, live in fucking Israel, you dishonest jerk! Not that you'd know it from the exclusively Likudnik perspective offered by the so-called "liberal media" in the US.

who think that the violence caused by Hamas is the fault of the Zionist occupation of Israel, the Gaza strip, and the West Bank

Wait a minute -- are you saying it isn't? Please expand upon this novel theory!

if only Israel had not expanded beyond its 1967 borders

"Exapnded beyond its 1967 borders" is another cute euphemism, Marler! I think the phrase you're looking for is "conquered and occupied someone else's land by force."

there would be peace

Like there is with Egypt and Lebanon, you mean?

and there will be peace if Israel withdraws back to those borders.

Funny, that sure seems to be Israel's assumption, what with its land-for-peace treaties, embrace of a two-state solution, and all.

It's always amusing to see you drop your oh-so-cute pretense as an honest commentator and revert to your usual right wing bullshit. This kind of dishonesty is why you don't fool anyone, Marler.

Thanks for the assist, Marler, and for ruining all your efforts, futile as they are, at restoring your credibility. Good Ford, but you're a dishonest shithead. Shame on you.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

....but help me out here, Marler: Other than to throw out a bunch of irrelevant and inaccurate straw man criticisms of liberals, what exactly was your point?

I expect dishonesty form you, Marler, but this stupidity is really a surprise. Shame on you.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I would have felt better about my own side, however, if more of the comments in this thread were as humane and thoughtful as the post that elicited them.

Concern troll is concerned.

Help a fella out here -- could you identify some of the comments in this thread you feel lacked humanity and thought?

Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Gregory on June 12, 2009 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Leftists view crime in the streets the way that rightists view a few of the recent high-profile murders: as a result of unfair pressures in society.

So, leftists say that street crime is caused by the fact that economically disadvantaged persons weren't given a fair chance to find their place in society and rightists say that political violence by right wing extremists is caused by the fact that these people were not given a fair chance at ..., what? You have to help me out a little bit here, Marler. I don't quite get it.

I won't go into your argument about Hamas. Suffice it to say though that Hamas started out as a creature of the Israeli secret service to combat the secular PLO. In other words, it came into existence as a fundamentalist counterweight to a secular Israeli foe.

That a fundamentalist Islamic organization would not turn against the Israeli occupation was a pipe dream only truly deluded people could have dreamed.

Posted by: SRW1 on June 12, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

The only group that celebrates the deaths of US soldiers is the right wing whacks that follow Fred Phelps. I won't give them the courtesy of calling them a "church" because it unfairly casts a negative light on religion.

Posted by: LWH on June 12, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I wish people like this could have spent a couple of special hours for me in the Nam. No, actually I would not wish that on my worst enemy.

That movie has played constantly for the last 40 years. I felt sorry that my two best friends died on the same day at 18. Now I envy them.

I feel for the dead and wind up crying every day for the men, women and children who die for the evil. I pity the poor troops who will come back and have the movies going constantly.

Over 100,000 of my fellow vets sleep on the streets of America every night.

I was once a proud patriot.

Now, I'm just killing time until I die and the movies stop.

Funny but I would have kinda like to have had a life.

Posted by: less is more on June 12, 2009 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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