May 26, 2012

THE RIGHT IS THE LEFT:

My break with the extreme right: I worked for Reagan and wrote for National Review. But the new hysterical right cares nothing for truth or dignity (MICHAEL FUMENTO, 5/24/12, Salon)

[N]ow I find myself linked not only with the Unabomber, but also Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Or so says the Chicago-based think tank the Heartland Institute, for which I've done work. Heartland erected billboards depicting the above three declaring: "I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?" Climate scientists now, evidently, share something in common with dictators and mass murderers. Reportedly bin Laden was scheduled to make such an appearance, too.

You see, I've published articles saying I do "believe in global warming." Yes, I've also questioned the extent to which man-made gases have contributed to that warming and concluded that expenditures to reduce those emissions would be as worthless as they'd be horrifically expensive. No matter; just call me "Ted." Or "Charlie." Or "Fidel."

This is nuts! Literally. As in "mass hysteria." That's a phenomenon I wrote about for a quarter-century, from the heterosexual AIDS "epidemic" to the swine flu "pandemic" that killed vastly fewer people than seasonal flu, to "runaway Toyotas." Mass hysteria is when a large segment of society loses touch with reality, or goes bonkers, if you will, on a given issue - like believing that an incredibly mild strain of flu could kill eight times as many Americans as normal seasonal flu. (It killed about a third as many.) [...]

A single author, Ann Coulter, has published best-selling books accusing liberals, in the titles, of being demonic, godless and treasonous. Michelle Malkin, ranked by the Internet search company PeekYou as having the most traffic of any political blogger, routinely dismisses them as "moonbats, morons and idiots." Limbaugh infamously dispatched a young woman who expressed her opinion that the government should provide free birth control as a "slut" and a "prostitute."

As a conservative, I disagree with the political opinions of liberals. But to me, a verbal assault indicates insecurity and weakness on the part of the assaulter, as in "Is that the best they can do?" This playground bullying - the name-calling, the screaming, the horrible accusations - all are intended to stifle debate, the very lifeblood of a democracy.

Meanwhile, these people who practice shutting down the opposition through shouts and smears accuse President Obama of having dictatorial dreams? A recent email I received, based on accusations from umpteen right-wing groups, blared in caps-lock fury: "BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA HAS SIGNED A MARTIAL LAW EXECUTIVE ORDER!" This specific message, from a group calling itself RightMarch.org, goes on: "THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS! BARACK OBAMA IS TRYING TO VIOLATE THE CONSTITUTION, BECOME A DICTATOR, AND TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS!"

Outrageous, indeed. Obama's order updated a National Defense Resource Preparedness act, which was essentially identical to one signed 19 years earlier and actually originated in 1950. It granted no authority to Obama that he did not already have under existing laws.

President Obama is regularly referred to as a Marxist/Socialist, Nazi, tyrant, Muslim terrorist supporter and - let me look this up, but I'll bet probably the antichrist, too. Yup, there it is! Over 5 million Google references. There should be a contest to see if there's anything for which Obama hasn't been accused. Athlete's foot? The "killer bees"? Maybe. In any case, the very people who coined and promoted such terms as "Bush Derangement Syndrome, Cheney Derangement Syndrome and Palin Derangement Syndrome" have been promoting hysterical attitudes toward Obama since before he was even sworn in.

No, I'm not cherry-picking. When I say "regularly referred to," interpret literally. Polls show that about half of voting Republican buy into the birther nonsense (one of the more prominent hysterias within the hysteria). Only about a fourth seem truly sure that Obama was actually born here. In her nationally syndicated column Michelle Malkin wrote regarding Limbaugh's slut remarks, that "I'm sorry the civility police now have an opening to demonize the entire right based on one radio comment." In a stroke she's expressed her disdain for civility and declared the new right's sins can be dispatched as an itsy-bitsy little single faux pas, "one radio comment."

No, Michelle, incivility - nay, outright meanness and puerility - rears its ugly head daily on your blog, which as I write this on May 23 has one item referring in the headline to "Pig Maher's boy [Bill Maher]" and another to "Jaczko the Jerk," [former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko]. She calls Limbaugh target Sandra Fluke a "femme-agogue" and her supporters "[George] Soros monkeys." Pigs? Monkeys? Moonbats? It's literal dehumanization.

Sure, there are enough hate-and-anger mongers on the left to go around. Among the worst was Keith Olbermann, who once called Malkin a "mashed up bag of meat with lipstick on it." Very edifying, Keith! But as the Christian Science Monitor reported, his ratings recently collapsed from an average of 354,000 viewers a night when he debuted on Current TV, to 58,000 viewers by the first quarter of 2012. He was recently fired. Again. Air America was intended to counter right-wing talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh. I was on Al Franken's show while he made fun of a soldier from my first battle who is now permanently paralyzed. Touché, Al! But Air America also failed.

Malkin, who revels in playing the victim, says that she's been called all sorts of horrible things, many based on her Filipina heritage. But most of what she cites come from email or anonymous comments on blog sites. It wasn't usually from paid professionals with large audiences, like her, aimed at paid professionals like her. It's thus hard to compare with the host of the most popular talk show host in history taking shots at an unknown 22-year-old woman. (She's hardly that now; Limbaugh himself promoted her to a national spokeswoman.)

Incivility is hardly the domain of the new right. American society grows ever coarser. But this is cold comfort. Conservative ideology demands civility of conservatives; demands, yes, self-policing. Let others act as they will, bearing evidence of the shallowness of their positions. It also demands respect for official offices, such as the presidency. When our guy is in office, you give him that modicum of respect - and when your guy is in office, we do the same. The other party is to be referred to as "the loyal opposition," not with words the FCC forbids on the air.

It's not important that our opponents measure up to our standards, it is that our allies do.

Posted by at May 26, 2012 5:42 AM
  

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