January 12, 2011

WHEN "AT BEST THEY'RE CYNICAL" IS YOUR BEST DEFENSE:

Tone Versus Substance (Conor Friedersdorf, 01/09/11, American Scene)

I don’t think the right’s rhetoric is responsible for the shooting in Arizona. Long before this incident, however, I was arguing that the right does have a rhetoric problem. I still think that is true, and the aggrieved attitude of conservative commentators the last couple days is too much for me. Yes, I agree with many of them that Palin and friends aren’t responsible for this assassination attempt. Sadly, that is the most you can say in their favor. But it isn’t an entirely partisan impulse that causes some people to think otherwise.

Since Barack Obama took office, prominent voices on the right have called him an ally of Islamist radicals in their Grand Jihad against America, a radical Kenyan anti-colonialist, a man who pals around with terrorists and used a financial crisis to deliberately weaken America, an usurper who was born abroad and isn’t even eligible to be president, a guy who has somehow made it so that it’s okay for black kids to beat up white kids on buses, etc. I haven’t even touched on the conspiracy theories of Glenn Beck. The birthers excepted, the people making these chargers are celebrated by movement conservatives – they’re given book deals, awards, and speaking engagements.

If all of these charges were true, a radicalized citizenry would be an appropriate response. But even the conservatives who defend Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, D’Souza, McCarthy, and so many others don’t behave as if they believe all the nonsense they assert. The strongest case against these people isn’t that their rhetoric inspires political violence. It’s that they frequently utter indefensible nonsense. The problem isn’t their tone. It’s that the substance of what they’re saying is so blinkered that it isn’t even taken seriously by their ideological allies (even if they’re too cowardly, mercenary or team driven to admit as much).


Posted by Orrin Judd at January 12, 2011 5:25 PM
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