Sunday, August 26, 2007

Further evidence that your opinion of the conservative movement is too generous

Sometimes I wonder if I'm too uncharitable to the conservative movement in this country. Sometimes I wonder if it's really fair to characterize the right as an unholy alliance of plutocrats, theocrats, totalitarians, bigots, crooks, and thugs. However, I have to admit, this surprised even me. If anything, my opinion of conservatives is clearly too high.

One lone nut case waving around machine guns on stage is kind of disturbing, but relatively inconsequential. What's far more disturbing is the room full of cheering fans, and fact that the Wall Street Journal publishes his writing.

This is also why any false equivalence between nut case leftists and nut case right wingers is ridiculous. It is not the nut cases who matter; it is the relationships between nut cases and mainstream movements that matter. Nut case leftist loons who prance around on stage with weapons, yelling their fantasies about assassinating Presidential candidates and Senators, get excluded from the mainstream discourse pretty quickly. Yet nut case right wing loons like Nugent, and Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, remain tightly coupled to the mainstream conservative movement --- not marginalized, not shamed, but given voice in influential outlets where they can reach millions of people.


  1. I dunno, Michael Moore is, if not a nutcase, certainly in the same ballpark sleaziness-wise as Limbaugh. And I haven't seen much of a sign that mainstream left-wingers shun him. Certainly most of the lefty bloggers I read went to his latest movie, despite ample evidence that he's a shyster.

    And Al Sharpton is arguably as contemptible as Coulter. Yet I didn't hear a lot of complaining on the left that he was given a place on the stage with more credible Democratic candidates for president.

    I do agree with you that on the whole, the right has more crazies than the left at the moment. But both sides have their share of nutjobs.

  2. Sorry, Tim, but if you've honestly equating Moore with Limbaugh then I can only think that you've never paid much attention to what Rush Limbaugh actually says. Of course, almost nobody does, because Limbaugh works in a conveniently ephemeral medium. But some people are paying attention: Limbaugh's rhetoric reaches a level of hatefulness, deceit, and pandering to violent extremism that's really not comparable to anything Moore's done.

    The strongest case that can be made against Moore is that he presents a slanted and partial picture of the issues he tackles. In this respect, when you get down to the facts, I honestly don't think he's much worse than the rest of the news media, although I am willing to be enlightened on this point.

    As for Sharpton, he's a crook and a pernicious force in American politics. However, again, he does not advocate mass murder, assassination, or internment camps. He's a calculating demagogue, but he's not a nut. There are degrees of evil, and in politics, which is largely a game of lesser evils, it is important to maintain distinctions, as depressing as that sounds. "A pox on both your houses" is, frankly, not helpful, and provides easy cover for the worst of the extremists.

  3. Re: Limbaugh, I just re-read my comment and I should have written: "...almost nobody outside of his target audience [pays attention to Limbaugh]..."

    Of course, millions of people pay attention to Limbaugh, but his ravings are mostly invisible to literate blog-reading types.

  4. Well, I'm certainly not going to defend Limbaugh, who I admittedly haven't listened to in years. But here is a summary of the many lies (and they are blatant lies, not disagreements over interpretation) in Bowling for Columbine. I refused to give him any more of my money after paying to see BfC, but I have the impression that his more recent movies aren't much better. Several years ago I watched his TV show, The Awful Truth and remember finding it partisan and mean-spirited, although maybe it wasn't up to Limbaugh standards of partisan hackery.

    I think a big part of the reason the right-wingers are nuttier at the moment is that we've got an unusually incompetent and partisan president who happens to be a Republican. So every time President Bush does something reprehensible, the right-wing nutjobs feel compelled to defend him. That inevitably makes them say more crazy stuff than their ideological opponents.

  5. Thanks for the link; it's interesting, and I have about two thirds of a reaction composed in my drafts folder. I don't think I'll get around to publishing it in the near future, but the high order bit is that my opinion of Moore has been revised downward.

    My biggest problem with Limbaugh is not that he's a partisan, or even that he's a liar. I mean, those things are bad, and I certainly have a problem with them. But what's truly odious about Limbaugh and his ilk is the way that they traffic in violent, anti-rational, eliminationist fantasies for which I can find no equivalent in the mainstream left. Michelle Malkin wants to lock people up in internment camps. Ann Coulter wants to execute liberals for treason. Legions of adoring, cheering fans soak this stuff up.

    Liberals, by contrast, want to impeach Bush. When they get really wild, they even fantasize about sending some corrupt administration officials to jail for breaking the law.

    Somehow these things get held up as balancing each other out. I don't buy it.

    Also, truthfully I think the present era of conservative lunacy predates Bush. The seeds were all there during the Clinton years.

  6. Michelle Malkin wants to lock people up in internment camps. Ann Coulter wants to execute liberals for treason. Legions of adoring, cheering fans soak this stuff up.

    Well that's a good point. I tune some of that stuff out because I don't think anyone who matters takes it seriously. Frankly, I don't think Coulter takes her own stuff seriously. She strikes me as more a clear-eyed provocateur than a genuine nutcase. Malkin seems like she might be dumb enough to believe her own bullshit.

    But then a few years ago I wouldn't have thought we'd be seriously debating the propriety of torturing suspected terrorists. And, for that matter, for most of 2002 I didn't think we'd really invade Iraq. So maybe I ought to be more worried.

  7. I just ran across this blog and I'm very impressed. That said, I'd hope that smart people who really yearn to solve problems can get past name calling. It only fuels a useless and purposefully lit fire.

    There are nutcases on both sides. Both are publicized very, very well - they simply have different messages. The problem is that the publicized in the left incite the right, and vice versa, until we all become rage filled party pushers.

    You do know that is what they want? Your fervant rage fuels the inability of Washington to DO anything. In my political lifetime I have seen invasions of both the Dems and Republicans, and you know what? They both wasted our time and money and used this blather as an excuse.

    I can dream of a day where we let the insane scream themselves content and instead of arguing why semantically they are horrible people, that we make some inroads to fix this Military Industrial Complex that is beginning to choke our nascent nation.

    | Josh

    BTW, I very much enjoy your great collection of 1fps links. I can hope that my stuff will someday earn a place there... :)