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September 15, 2011 8:40 AM The kind of ‘news’ only far-right bloggers can provide

By Steve Benen

If you read conservative bloggers regularly, you know many high-profile, far-right sites are pretty worked up this week about one of the dumbest flaps I’ve ever seen.

Before today, when the right-wing media made up quotations to attack progressives, they at least had some audio to misinterpret. But now, they are reduced to lip-reading.

The Washington Times’ senior editorial writer for foreign affairs James Robbins and right-wing bloggers are claiming that Michelle Obama likely disparaged the American flag during a ceremony commemorating the 9/11 attacks.

There’s a video of the First Lady whispering briefly in President Obama’s ear during the ceremony. We see the president turn a little, smile, and nod in agreement. What did Michelle Obama say? I haven’t the foggiest idea; there’s no audio. But a whole lot of far-right bloggers believe they can read the First Lady’s lips — even though the video shows her mouth partially obscured behind a partition.

No matter, the right says. They know Michelle Obama took this precise moment, during a ceremony commemorating the 9/11 attacks, to condemn the American flag.

And these bloggers aren’t kidding.

Enough conservatives threw a fit that Kristina Schake, the communications director for Michelle Obama, issued a statement explaining, “The words, meaning and context in these claims are all wildly off the mark. The First Lady was commenting to the President on how moving and powerful it always is to watch all that America’s firefighters and police officers do to honor the flag. It was an emotional moment on a powerful day and she was awed by the ceremony and all that the flag symbolizes.”

I mention this for two reasons, other than the general amazement about just how deranged the Obamas’ detractors really are. First, the right should probably remember the story about the boy who cried wolf. If conservatives were a little more selective, and a little more grounded, when they raise a point of concern about the White House, it’d be easier to take it seriously. But if they get hysterical over nothing, they just look like loons.

Second, just two years ago, editors at the Washington Post and the New York Times agreed that major media outlets should make an effort to take right-wing blog content seriously. If these conservative writers/activists are pushing a story — ACORN, Van Jones, etc. — establishment media should take heed and follow up on these “bubbling controversies.”

This garbage about the First Lady offers a reminder: taking these bloggers seriously is a mistake.

Steve M. concluded, “This is the GOP base. This is the heart of the modern Republican Party…. Kill one crackpot theory — birtherism — and they will breed a hundred more. And you’ll never persuade them that what they believe is delusional.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

  • Patrick Hasburgh on September 15, 2011 8:46 AM:

    Except that their deranged over reactions are working...

  • efgoldman on September 15, 2011 8:48 AM:

    The Whitey Tapes hit the media next week!

  • walt on September 15, 2011 8:55 AM:

    Racism is a core Republican value. Can we finally stop tiptoeing around their delicate sensibilities here? Read Drudge, watch Fox, or listen to Rush and the message is loud, incessant, and obvious: they hate blacks.

  • Steve Paradis on September 15, 2011 8:58 AM:

    They know exactly what she said. They hacked her phone.

  • Anonymous on September 15, 2011 9:00 AM:

    “This is the GOP base. This is the heart of the modern Republican Party…. Kill one crackpot theory — birtherism — and they will breed a hundred more. And you’ll never persuade them that what they believe is delusional.”

    From personal up close experience, I know that that statement couldn't be more true. If anybody doubts it, just head over to the Washington Post, choose an op-ed (liberal or conservative will do), read it, then read some of the reader comments, then try to discuss things with a wingnut. Lest you get too frustrated (or stunned) at the stupidity or ignorance or both (willful or not), just remind yourself that the trip to Wonderland was free (discounting the cost to nervous system, of course).

  • CJWhite on September 15, 2011 9:06 AM:

    And here I thought they couldn't get any lower than the paperclip scandal. Shows me.

  • pol on September 15, 2011 9:07 AM:

    If anybody doubts it, just head over to the Washington Post, choose an op-ed (liberal or conservative will do), read it, then read some of the reader comments, then try to discuss things with a wingnut. Lest you get too frustrated (or stunned) at the stupidity or ignorance or both (willful or not), just remind yourself that the trip to Wonderland was free (discounting the cost to nervous system, of course).

    It's all a part of the plan to interrupt the thoughtful dialog of liberal blogs and other liberal commentary -- to sew division amongst our ranks.


  • BrklynLibrul on September 15, 2011 9:08 AM:

    I agree that this works with low-information swing voters. They keep hearing horrible insinuations about the Obamas, so something must be up -- where there's smoke, there's fire.

  • MattF on September 15, 2011 9:09 AM:

    Can we please cease being surprised by right-wing craziness? Remember Vince Foster? Remember a guy named Dwight David Eisenhower, about whom Joseph Welch said, "Could Eisenhower really be simply a smart politician, entirely without principles and hungry for glory, who is only the tool of the Communists? The answer is yes." He went on. "With regard to ... Eisenhower, it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason."

    They're lunatics. Period.

  • kevo on September 15, 2011 9:17 AM:

    I'm a Republican, and I'm not racist!

    No, don't make the mistake of making a claim that is nonsensically too broad. Racism cuts through all party affiliates, and is open or cloaked by its participates as they will!

    The Republican Brand, I would agree, has embraced racist strategies as of late, but it was Eisenhower who carried out the Warren Court mandates lest we forget!

    We are in peril today largely because of a mean-spirited attitude (cloaked in individualism and the need for "job creator" as opposed to say working to put Americans back to work through legislation that promotes American jobs, not Wall St. profits, but I digress), a reinforcing message of hate (sublimely put forth by some on the Right, and laid out like red meat by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and his WBBs), and exacerbated by a Supreme Court ruling that has opened the flood gate to shadowy monies as free speech, even for foreign interests and governments (Citizens United)!

    So don't go making hollow generalizations! Get to the central issue, and tell all your loved ones, neighbors and acquaintances that if they love themselves, their other neighbors, and all their remaining acquaintances they'd vote for no more Republicans in their lifetimes!

    But don't just sit back and say meaningless things! -Kevo

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 15, 2011 9:21 AM:

    Anonymous above (...Wonderland...) was me. Just forgot to fill out all the proper documentation.

    @pol: "It's all a part of the plan to interrupt the thoughtful dialog of liberal blogs and other liberal commentary -- to sew division amongst our ranks."

    It's much, much deeper than that. These people are TRUE believers of the nonsense they espouse and repeat ad infinitum. There's another forum I visit off and on (I can't stomach much more) in which it's clear these are just folks hanging out on the internet with other like-minded souls to get a big dopamine rush having their views reinforced by being echoed back to them. These people REALLY, REALLY believe the shit they're saying. It's just frightening.

    If any of you haven't experienced this, you really should. It'll make the importance of the next election for the future of the country and whether or not the last 120 years is going to be thrown by the wayside really hit home. The Dems can't afford to fuck up anymore. It's time to circle the wagons.

  • walt on September 15, 2011 9:25 AM:

    Kevo, FYI, I hold non-racist Republicans responsible for their party. If at this late date, the Southern Strategy, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, and the neo-Confederate nostalgia isn't obvious to you, you're fast asleep.

    Racism and Republicanism is hardly a generalization. It's the central fact of our political discord today. It underwrites the entire premise of the plutocracy/working-class white alliance. If you condone it, you're part of the problem.

  • martin on September 15, 2011 9:27 AM:

    it was Eisenhower who carried out the Warren Court mandates lest we forget!

    And 90 years before that Lincoln led the nation during the civil war. So we are do for another good Republican president in about 30 years?

    criminals. ecianced adds Captcha

  • Peter C on September 15, 2011 9:28 AM:

    You are right @pol, but there is more. Their strategy is also to make the practice of politics and political debate unpleasant and uncomfortable - to make it feel UNSAFE to participate. They push disagreements up to defcon 4 practically immediately in order to chase normal people out of the discussion - to make them disengage. When they chase normal citizens out of the public square, they suppress turnout and participation and thereby magnify their power despite their small numbers. They make discussion of public affairs a taboo subject that we hesitate to discuss with our neighbors for fear that they too may react with vehemence and rancor. The less we discuss civilly, the more they win.

  • martin on September 15, 2011 9:30 AM:

    "Due", not "do"

  • DAY on September 15, 2011 9:31 AM:

    Jim Lehrer told Jon Stewart that TV changed politics. (Nixon v Kennedy debate) you know the details.

    And the Internet has done likewise. Anyone can now be Drew Pearson or Jack Anderson- and do it in their PJ's. . .

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 15, 2011 9:34 AM:

    Eisenhower's to the left of Obama.

  • ckelly on September 15, 2011 9:34 AM:

    Enough conservatives threw a fit that Kristina Schake, the communications director for Michelle Obama, issued a statement explaining,...

    This is part of the problem. Ignore them, marginalize them. Point and ridicule if needed. But for the love of God, don't feed the wingnuts.

    Amazingly, Craptcha has gotten even harder to decipher.

  • Skip on September 15, 2011 9:45 AM:

    EVERYBODY KNOWS that the color of one's skin dictates the shallowness of one's national pride in the same vein as having a Democrat voter card signifies an evil and treasonous character.

    Republicans equate stripping this nation of its resources and safety nets and everything that makes America a great place to live as "loving" it, surround themselves with like minds so their consciences don't eat at them, and bully anyone who chooses to live less greedily. I see it every day, F-250 commuter vehicles, many with pro-red or anti-blue bumper stickers on them.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 15, 2011 9:50 AM:

    "The less we discuss civilly, the more they win."

    Wingnuts don't understand civility. They won't submit to civility. They'll keep with the idiotic assertions (you're a Socialist, American hating...) If they're not tamped down in some way, they just keep coming back. Which in turn makes them appear stronger than they are, which keeps the media engaged on them, ..., and a positive feedback loop occurs that puts us in the situation we are today. Democrats being scared of their shadows is no small part of the problem.

    Thomas Jefferson had it right. When you find yourself confronted with unreasonable, faith-based, empirical-facts-don't-matter people, you have but one recourse: personal humiliation, insults, etc. It's quite simply war with these people. And we have to treat it like that. (To wit, how did that reasonableness campaign by Obama during the debt ceiling episode work out.) If they can be embarrassed -- which, in some cases I've run across, it's doubtful -- then we should embarrass them. Otherwise, fight fire with fire. Go after them any way that works. These people have existed all our lives but knew they were on the outskirts of the sensibilities of the great majority of people, and they kept pretty low key. Now they've been self-injected with a big dose of testosterone, and have no compunctions against putting their views on display. We need to stop the feedback loop and, any way we can, make them feel they are still on the outskirts. If that requires being uncivil to them, so be it. Civility is not working.

  • SWENXOF on September 15, 2011 9:51 AM:

    This is the heart of the modern Republican Party…. Kill one crackpot theory — birtherism — and they will breed a hundred more.

    The 27 full-time employees over at Cato tasked with writing all those all caps chain emails have to have something to work with.

  • kevo on September 15, 2011 10:29 AM:

    Walt - I would never condone injustice anywhere, because it is a threat to justice everywhere!

    I am not in disagreement with your second post, but I would caution you not to make a value statement regarding those who may not share your perspectives.

    The Republican party has indeed been hijacked by the less-desirables among us, and the party leaders have been complicit in the process! -Kevo

  • Rathskeller on September 15, 2011 10:34 AM:

    The thing that's interesting about this non-story to me is that Rick Perry can actually do things with real-world impact: Gov. Perry can cut the fire-related budget by 75% right before gigantic state-wide fires, President Rick Perry would do what he could to privatize or eliminate Social Security because it's "unconstitutional" or whatever his pea brain suggests.

    But Michele Obama actually has no real power, and so they're flying off the rails in response to nothing at all. Obviously, she didn't say anything. But in fact, she could have said the most vile things about the American Flag, and its real-world impact is zero. This is a nothingburger, something served up so that these people can have their daily two minutes of hate. Michele's problem is that she's a black Democrat married to a black man, and we live in a country half-populated by racists, still fighting issues related to our civil war.

  • Bartender on September 15, 2011 12:31 PM:

    Replying to an earlier comment, Rush Limbaugh changed politics. The Kennedy/Nixon debates was an incremental change, Watergate perhaps more so, but it was Rush who in his articulate rants - right or wrong - divided the electorate dangerously futher by pushing the Republicans to the extreme right and became the mouthpiece and the centerpiece of the conservative movement. Politics basically boils down to who can sway the independent voter block in they're favor. Right now I'd say the Republicans have the edge but it's not irreversable. They are ever so closer to moving to the edge of the political abyss.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 15, 2011 12:36 PM:

    @Bartender: Limbaugh was just the ingredients. It required Gingrich and Luntz in the 90's to cook that nasty toxin.

  • ORgone on September 15, 2011 12:52 PM:


    the sentance of the republican court would be that she be lashed to the cannon and whipped thirty times after which she will be taken to the to the public square and hanged.

  • Mitch on September 15, 2011 1:25 PM:

    @DisgustedWithItAll

    "It's quite simply war with these people. And we have to treat it like that."

    You are correct. And until Dems in power begin fighting back with the same vitriol as the Repugs, then they will keep winning. The national discourse will keep shifting to the Right.

    But Dems are afraid to list the facts (even though they are on our side), afraid to challenge the Republican memes (even though they are easy targets), and afraid to attack the Republicans with the same force with which the Republicans attack Dems.

    However, I am growing more and more cynical about this nation. Politics is not really a question of Right versus Left anymore. It seems that both sides live to serve Big Money, and to hell with the rest of us.

    While I agree that many Republicans are racist (I am from Kentucky, a white guy who dated a black girl for much of high school; I have been the target of vicious racist pigs, and they are all proud Tea Baggers/Republicans) I think that the party as a whole only uses racism to secure votes. They do the same thing with religion. The Republican Party as a whole is not religious, and it's motives are not Christian; but it is easy to manipulate the faithful.

    So I don't think the struggle is about Race or about Religion. I think that this is an economic war. And it is not The Rich vs. The Poor. . . it is The Rich manipulating The Poor to destroy the Middle Class.

    The Oligarchs and Plutocrats are building a new feudalism, and nobody is fighting back. We voters can do our part, but no infantry can win without officers. Our officers are either too naive and trusting, or they are tools of the system as it stands.

    If Dem politicians want to see their base become enthusiastic, then they have to be willing to go to the mat for our ideals. They have to be willing to fight back against the constant barrage of Republican lies and insults. They have to find a means of enforcing Party solidarity so that the Blue Dogs and other DINOs don't keep destroying everything.

    We normal voters have a job to do, and so do our elected officials. If the Dems currently in power don't show leadership, then how are they going to get people to follow them? If they refuse to fight back against the Repug lie factory, then how can we fight the lies?

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 15, 2011 3:22 PM:

    @Mitch: I'm in Louisville. Where are you?

    Agreed about the economic war for the most part. That started 30 - 50 years ago resulting from the smoldering remains of the Goldwater defeat with think tanks, law school seminars on law and economics, etc. The redistribution of wealth is not a mistake and it's not a coincidence that the acceptance of the phrase "free market" in society has coincided with it. This has been a well-orchestrated, cynical, clever plan by the establishment and far right to reverse the early post-war advantages that went to the middle of the country and it's been wildly successful. Surely everybody's heard of ALEC. If not, check it out.

    But don't underestimate the Tea-hadist Dominionist part of it. They're ascendant for the time being and they're nothing more than the rebranded Christian right as we've just recently learned. It seems every major economic downturn brings out a society's cockroaches. It happened n the Great Depression and our time's cockroaches is the Tea Party.

    But if Dems can quit screwing up, and get past this next with Obama as President and not too much damage in Congress, I think we'll have survived the greatest danger. Demographics (and their own obnoxious ideas and policies) will catch up with the Republicans in the not too distant future. Lies can't live forever said MLK and they certainly can't keep being anti-science (especially anti-AGW) and anti-middle class for too much longer.

  • Villabolo on September 16, 2011 5:57 PM:

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire

    If you lived in a neighborhood where a third of the neighbors were psychotic, would you not think that you should be armed?

  • Mike Crichton on September 18, 2011 9:38 PM:

    According to these Deaf viewers ( http://www.alldeaf.com/sign-language-oralism/94601-anyone-able-make-out.html ), she said "It's amazing how they fold that flag." You might want to add this to your post.

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