The Email Smear

Sure, the cottage industry of bogus rightwing emails seems like an underrated cog in the overall noise machine. The general outline works as follows: elected officials, FOX and the thinktanks put out borderline credible ideas, gasbags like Rush and the blogosphere right take care of stuff that won’t stand up to scrutiny and the email forward campaign handles stuff so ludicrous that nobody else will touch it. Into this bin go the fabricated stories about Al Gore John Kerry dressing down Ollie North for warning about bin Laden, Bush/Quayle malapropisms rebranded as Kerry gaffes (I got that one a few times), fabricated leftard-spits-on-soldier anecdotes, etc. For the average right-leaning media consumer who doesn’t spend much time checking stuff on Google it all builds an indestructable sense of belonging to a small righteous minority besieged by an inchoate Other consisting of atheists, muslim terrosists, liberals, communists, fascists, Hollywood and the ACLU.

If you take the Gingrich revolution in political discourse as a done deal, the scheme makes perfect sense. It’s good psychology and good politics. I guess that Democratic campaigns can freak out about countering the moronic emails, but that just serves whoever wrote the things. The whole point of a whispering campaign is to get the candidate to deny that he had sex with the pig. My reaction is that if the Dems don’t do this, and apparently we don’t, why not? The answer, I think, cuts more deeply to the core of Democratic politics than most people realize.

Think about what makes these email campaigns painfully effective. In the short time that most spend skimming our email, few of us would bother annoying our email circle with a statistic or the latest thinktank report unless we felt something when we read it. We pass on things that grab us at a sub-conscious level and we expect will grab everybody else as well. Conservatives pass on emails to their liberal brothers-in-law because they know that more or less everybody gets the underlying point – liberals hate America and the troops, don’t have the balls to protect the country, etc. Muslims and really any Enemy Other du jour are crazy, incomprehensible manimals to be suppressed, threatened, beaten into submission.

Don’t even think of laughing. These moronic principles won elections in 2002 and 2004 and still terrify Democrats into voting ludicrously against their own interests. Just read John’s post below. They get it, Dems don’t.

Heck, people are trying. I get crap all the time from liberal organizations that I don’t remember subscribing to. However, I never seem to get the dubiously-sourced, probably bogus anecdote forwarded a bajillion times and aimed straight at my amygdala. The saddest thing is that libs don’t even need to make their stories up. Republicans really did dismiss bin Laden before 9/11. Salacious real-life tales of mismanagement, sexual deviancy and corruption could stuff my inbox for years.

As far as I can tell the stuff doesn’t catch on because it doesn’t serve any larger theme. Sure, Republicans are corrupt deviants who couldn’t manage a little league team, but that doesn’t get to the philosophical heart of Republicanism. It just says that some current Republicans let down their country and their party. Salacious liberal email spam won’t work unless it reaches a bit deeper, until the bogus or real anecdotes give liberals fundamental reasons to feel good about being liberals.

Your average neoconservative may be a corrupt moron, fine, but that just opens the door for an honest neoconservative to take over next year. We’ll still go to war with Iran. Why not start with the point that the entire movement apparently never managed to graduate middle school? Read profiles of Norman Podhoretz, responsible as much as anybody for the movement’s current direction, here and here. Or skim through Jonah Goldberg’s regular fantasies about punching people in the nose. At its core modern “conservatism” reads like a frightened man-child overcompensating for a crushing sense of his own weakness. He’s afraid of international institutions because he worries that American values cannot triumph on their merits so we need to impose them by force. In my opinion that shows remarkably little faith in American values. Who cares if Syria takes a turn chairing some UN committee? That doesn’t impart moral high ground and the world knows it. Lumping our adversaries and rivals into an indistinct mass labeled ‘islamofascism’ just as clearly reflects a child’s intellectual laziness.

The picture isn’t any more universally true than the rightwing movement’s sketch of liberalism, but with Podhoretzes and Kagans throwing their influence around it’s true enough. Emphasizing the core philosophical problems that underlie modern day conservatism (as opposed to the old fashioned Goldwater/Sullivan/John Cole kind) would provide a coherent motive for the Democratic movement. Better, if conservatives decide not to wail and cry but instead make an effort to prove us wrong then we would get better conservatism.

As far as making the case for liberal policies in general, I doubt that anybody could put it better than Michael Moore’s latest movie. The market gave healthcare its best shot and still Americans get screwed left and right. Other countries do considerably better for less. The message cuts right to the fundamental weakness of markets, which is that they don’t work for things that people can’t live without. The film had the exaggerations and flubs (Cuba) that you expect from an unusually good Limbaugh screed, because that’s exactly what it was. Demagogic rabble-rousing. The kind of messaging that only works if you tap into something deeper than the prefrontal cortex. If Republicans can mainstream the technique to the point that they win despite the public opposing most of their policy positions then Democrats can give it a try.

You’ll know that it’s working when your liberal brother-in-law starts clogging the inbox with dubious forwards.

***Update***

Another example – when an adult needs to spend money he budgets for it. Give a child a credit card and he’ll just spend the money, figuring that the debt will work itself out later. Sound familiar?






84 replies
  1. 1
    capelza says:

    At a non-political board I belong to these things get posted regularily as gospel.

    The usual Snopes link then gets posted that debunks them either by me or someone like me.

    The last one I remember was the “madrassa” Obama one…did you know he was sworn into Congress on a Koran!!!!!!!!

  2. 2
    Bruce Moomaw says:

    “You’ll know that it’s working when your liberal brother-in-law starts clogging the inbox with dubious forwards.”

    Well, I’m doing my best, Tim…

  3. 3
    garyb50 says:

    I used to get these a lot and they were from right wing born again christian fundementalist ‘acquaintances’ who so thoughtfully included me in their 30 + spammy forwards. I tried doing the Snopes thing for awhile; first replying to the sender, and when that didn’t work, I replied to all with the Snopes refutation. When that didn’t work I started ‘replying to all’ liberally using my lifetime accumulation of profanity. That did the trick. I can’t remember the last time I got one of these….

  4. 4
    gypsy howell says:

    My comment to Kevin Drum on the same topic today:

    The sad thing is, these pernicious emails even confuse and convince some of my more liberal friends and family members, especially any emails that conflate right-wing christian crap and patriotic pablum.

    People who profess to HATE Bush and all he stands for routinely send me crap about evil Muslim America-Haters (the infamous “Budweiser-Muslim story” made its way into my inbox just last week), why America is a Christian nation, why atheists don’t deserve a voice in American politcs, jingoistic military garbage, etc etc.

    I can’t tell you how disheartening it is for me to get this sh*t from supposedly-democratic friends. I expect it from the wingnuts, but to know that it suckers in gullible people on our side too is depressing.

    I’d like to think we could mount a serious counteroffensive simply by forwarding email chains containing real life tales of Republican malfeasance and criminality, but truth doesn’t seem to enter into the equation at all in politics today. If it did, we might not be in this situation to begin with.

    BTW, is “amygdala” the Word Of The Day today? This is the fourth time today I’ve read it.

  5. 5
    ThymeZone says:

    The reason why amygdala appeals work on the right is that the right appeals to the personal, the instinctive, the irrational and the emotional. The left’s appeal is (supposedly) grounded in logic, reason, the empirical.

    It’s a classic contest between two natures of man. It’s actually the basis for the great struggle we’re supposed to fear, between the fundamentalists (the Turrists) and … you know … us.

    It’s deliciously ironic, and horrifying, at the same time, that the people who want us locked in that struggle here are the fundamentalists and the amygdalists.

    Personally, I think we have seen the peak of Amygdalism in this country, but next year is crucial to stifling this beast in our midst.

    Suggesting that Dems resort to amygdala appeals (if anyone is, or is thinking of it) is counterproductive. It’s Ends Justifies Means politics, and as I always say, EJM is not compatible with democracy in my opinion. Not in the long run anyway.

  6. 6
    Tim F. says:

    gypsy,

    The emails aren’t going around because they don’t serve any larger narrative. Stories of malfeasance that don’t underlie a broader ego-reinforcing point just aren’t that interesting.

    TZ,

    I strongly doubt that there is any fundamental left/right difference here. Tom DeLay thought that Gingrich was a self-destructive nut when he started with this behavior. But then when it worked his party caught on, Dems didn’t. My feeling is that it’s a pity that we have sunk to this level, but complaining about the weather doesn’t make it go away. If the monsoon’s here then we might as well figure out how to stay afloat.

  7. 7
    gypsy howell says:

    TZ, now I can make that 8 times I’ve read it today.

    I like that term “amygdalism.” And “amygdalist.” It’s so… “amygdalic”

  8. 8
    capelza says:

    Oh, oh…I remember now..the latest one to get posted (I don’t get these on my e-mail, just penis enlargement offers…though I have yet to get an offer for a penis, a prerequisite I’d think) is the ‘Sounds of Hell”…

    Proof of hell was found in a Siberian drilling operation. Though the sound of hell more resembles a middle school assembly…

  9. 9
    KCinDC says:

    I agree with ThymeZone. We need to develop tactics of our own, not copy conservative tactics that appeal to the sorts of people who tend to be conservative. Air America Radio hasn’t been that successful not because of a conspiracy against it (though the playing field isn’t even) but because few liberals really get into talk radio. It’s not our thing, even if we agree with the views espoused by the hosts.

    Now, I don’t have any bright ideas about exactly what we should be doing instead of building our own slime-forwarding campaigns, but I’m extremely skeptical that such campaigns will work.

  10. 10
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    The reason why amygdala appeals work on the right is that the right appeals to the personal, the instinctive, the irrational and the emotional. The left’s appeal is (supposedly) grounded in logic, reason, the empirical.

    TZ is a spoof of Ted Rall.

  11. 11
    Tom Gellhaus says:

    Look Tim, I read this blog and like you both but I just have to say that your sentence “The market gave healthcare its best shot and still Americans get screwed left and right.” is just simply TOTALLY FALSE.
    I’m not talking ridiculous libertarian “WalMart is great” stuff, either. You check out any TRUE free market discussion on healthcare, or anarchist blog that mentions it, and you will find long discussions of the UNFREE healthcare market.
    The “market” has never fully existed in America in a very long time. It has cozied up to government any time it can.
    I will be happy to send links to some left-libertarian sites that bring this point up if you want.
    But please, let’s not pretend that the “market in healthcare” has had any chance at all.

  12. 12
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Of course, when you post the Snopes link debunking the latest right-wing retardation, that doesn’t count because–you guessed it–by debunking right-wing retardation, Snopes is a RADICAL LEFTIST ORGANIZATION!

    Fuckin’ idiots.

    That MyRightWingDad site is great.

  13. 13
    Tim F. says:

    KC,

    This isn’t about tactics. It’s about the party having a fundamental and coherent narrative. Republicans have one, even if Bushism and terrorism have necessarily pushed it far from its Goldwaterite moorings. Dems do not.

    Look, tactics are what you worry about after you have the narrative in place. Otherwise you end up like Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid, constantly reacting and dealing with every situation de novo, all tactics and no strategy. The fact that they’re strategically adrift wouldn’t be more obvious if they printed special t-shirts.

  14. 14
    Peter Johnson says:

    And you’re saying Democrats don’t do this? Remember when all the liberals were forwarding stuff to each other about Karl Rove getting indicted? Remember Jason Leopold and Truthout?

    sad day for liberals… It appears they won’t be seeing a perp walk from Karl Rove in, what I hate to call the “CIA leak” case because that’s so misleading about what really went down, and what the investigation really was about… So let’s just refer to it as “Plamegate” instead.

    Fox News just reported, and the NY Times already has the story as well:

    WASHINGTON, June 13 — The prosecutor in the C.I.A. leak case on Monday advised Karl Rove, the senior White House adviser, that he would not be charged with any wrongdoing, effectively ending the nearly three-year criminal investigation that had at times focused intensely on Mr. Rove.

    The decision by the prosecutor, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, announced in a letter to Mr. Rove’s lawyer, Robert D. Luskin, lifted a pall that had hung over Mr. Rove who testified on five occasions to a federal grand jury about his involvement in the disclosure of an intelligence officer’s identity.

    In a statement, Mr. Luskin said, “On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove.”

    I can almost hear deranged liberals crying all around the country right now. I’m curious to see the liberal reaction, particularly the KOS kids, many of whom claimed a few days ago that the Zarqawi kill was just a timed political move to take attention away from a looming Rove indictment. Many agreed that it was at least a timed plan by President Bush to distract from his sagging polls, etc.

    Beyond the Kosnuts, I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what TruthOut.org has to say about this. If you aren’t familiar with TruthOut.org, they are the lefty loon site that claimed 4 weeks ago that Rove was indicted. Background here, here, and here.

    I’m not back up to full blogging capacity yet, so I doubt this will get many hits… but if you’re a liberal and you’re reading this quick post, please leave a comment… I’m interested to hear your reaction. (Hint: Say something about Bush lying about WMDs, Halliburton, and tax cuts for the rich… that’ll get me good!)

    ***UPDATE***
    A lot of the KOS commenters are seeking to distance themselves from Truthout.org/Jason Leopold’s bogus story, even though 4 weeks ago the left side of the internet was screaming “gotcha!” Interestingly, while I didn’t personally get a reply to my email to Truthout.org, someone did get them on the phone, and they are still clinging to the story!

  15. 15
    ThymeZone says:

    Remember when all the liberals were forwarding stuff to each other about Karl Rove

    Karl Rove is a fellow who sold his party to people who think the earth is 6000 years old.

    Your entire rant fails on that fact alone.

  16. 16

    How do you respond to emails like this? It’s real simple.

    Send back… “Is this true?”, or “Are you certain this is true?”

    don’t argue with them. Don’t try to counter the facts. Make them look it up themselves, and when they realize it’s wrong, or they refuse to research… you’ve won the argument. You don’t even need to say you won, they’ll know you won.

    Anyway, you make several compelling points Tim. Good post.

  17. 17
    Tsulagi says:

    Another example – when an adult needs to spend money he budgets for it. Give a child a credit card and he’ll just spend the money, figuring that the debt will work itself out later.

    And if you’re on the Republican model, that R-child just knows daddy, or better yet his friends, will pay the bills. They’re Deciders like that.

    You can see why they defend and protect the snowflake babies that haven’t yet thawed. They need them down the road to help pick up their tabs. Along with their yet unborn great-great-grandchildren. Ah, family values.

  18. 18

    And you’re saying Democrats don’t do this?

    But when Democrats do it it’s wrong.

    It’s OK if you are a Republican.

  19. 19
    Zifnab says:

    The emails aren’t going around because they don’t serve any larger narrative. Stories of malfeasance that don’t underlie a broader ego-reinforcing point just aren’t that interesting.

    Or maybe some people have better things to do with their time than forward email messages. Seriously, how many college educated, newspaper reading, practical, intelligent individuals get their information from the email right below “RE: PENIS BIGGER”?

    The “liberals” are doing just fine when they tune into John Stewart and swing by their favorite crop of blogosphericals. Kos/Media Matters/truthout/etc do a respectable job of vetting themselves and each other. Stewart’s yet to make a gaff big enough for people to remember, and he’s informative enough to keep the ADHD crowd up with the news. The New York Times and the Washington Post offer competent news coverage that rational people continue to read. Every now and again Little Mikey Moore releases another feel-good liberal movie and Al Gore wins another award, and that does wonders for the liberal ego.

    While, I agree, if we want to break the conservative cycle of bullshit, we need to win people on more than just the logical level, I think our greatest mistake was assuming that the feel-good flower-power of the 60s and the “paint’m with a broad brush of incompetence” of the 90s are the answers. Fight emotion with fact, and when the conservatives are wrong enough times people will stop listening to them. If “good” conservatives rear their heads again ten years down the line, keep’m honest by continuing to deluge the information sphere with facts.

    Eventually, evolution will run its course. People who believe whatever their Republican Overlords tell them will suffer, weaken, and die. People who cling to common sense and reason will survive and flourish. There’s a reason California and New York have lots of people in them, while Alabama and Mississippi do not. There’s a reason cities trend blue.

  20. 20
    cleek says:

    many on the right are convinced there’s a far-left-liberal conspiracy to outlaw religion, take away their guns, put us all under UN law, and flood this great (white, protestant, English-speaking) country with illegal immigrants. that’s not an exaggeration, of course; you can find those people in the comment section of any wingnut blog that allows comments, callign into any talk-radio show, writing letters to the editor.

    they’re the people who swallow these email whole and forward them to every email address they can get. they think they’re some kind of semi-underground freedom crusade, set-upon by the great liberal Overwatch. they think the liberal media, as part of the greater scheme to dominate the world, controls the news they get: hides the good news about conservatism, while covering-up liberalism’s failings. it’s all one grand conspiracy. so this talk-radio and slime-email network is their way to get information the wicked liberal media won’t distribute. fact check it? bah! who cares if the real truth about Osama’s secret Islamic training isn’t in the MSM? they’re all a bunch of liars anyway!

  21. 21
    John S. says:

    The reason why amygdala appeals work on the right is that the right appeals to the personal, the instinctive, the irrational and the emotional. The left’s appeal is (supposedly) grounded in logic, reason, the empirical.

    And FWIW, there was a study that recently concluded which indicated there are differences in the way people think based on their political persuasion.

    The match-up was unmistakable: respondents who had described themselves as liberals showed “significantly greater conflict-related neural activity” when the hypothetical situation called for an unscheduled break in routine.

    Conservatives, however, were less flexible, refusing to deviate from old habits “despite signals that this … should be changed.”

  22. 22
    Peter Johnson says:

    There’s a reason cities trend blue.

    There is. It’s called air pollution. And it causes brain damage.

  23. 23
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    There’s a reason cities trend blue.

    I would’ve guessed “slums and government housing projects,” but that works, too.

  24. 24

    many on the right are convinced there’s a far-left-liberal conspiracy to outlaw religion, take away their guns, put us all under UN law, and flood this great (white, protestant, English-speaking) country with illegal immigrants. that’s not an exaggeration, of course; you can find those people in the comment section of any wingnut blog that allows comments, callign into any talk-radio show, writing letters to the editor.

    Actually our goal is to hand the country over to Osama bin Laden and impose sharia law on everybody.

  25. 25
    ThymeZone says:

    there are differences in the way people think based on their political persuasion.

    True, that’s why “faith” is defined as “belief despite evidence to the contrary.”

    One has to wonder how long a country can sell itself to a demographic that believes things despite evidence to the contrary, and let those people call the shots under the banner of “faith.”

    My hunch is that they’ve run out that string, but like I said, next year is about as crucial as it gets in this struggle between civilization … us … and the Amygdalists …. er, Republicans.

  26. 26

    I would’ve guessed “slums and government housing projects,” but that works, too.

    Laugh it up fuzzball.

  27. 27

    True, that’s why “faith” is defined as “belief despite evidence to the contrary.”

    Only in right-wing circles. The rest of the world defines “faith” as “belief despite lack of evidence to support conclusion.”

  28. 28

    With all this talk of Amygdalists, I think we need to invite Natalie Portman to guest blog here.

  29. 29
    Ted says:

    TZ is a spoof of Ted Rall.

    I’m starting to think you’re a spoof of Randall Terry.

  30. 30
    Zifnab says:

    Send back… “Is this true?”, or “Are you certain this is true?”

    don’t argue with them. Don’t try to counter the facts. Make them look it up themselves, and when they realize it’s wrong, or they refuse to research… you’ve won the argument. You don’t even need to say you won, they’ll know you won.

    I reference NRO and WorldNetDaily. When Jesus isn’t talking directly to WND reporters, he’s talking to Bill Kristol. The Bible says so.

  31. 31
    Tim F. says:

    The rest of the world defines “faith” as “belief despite lack of evidence to support conclusion.”

    I prefer Alexander Bain’s functional definition of belief as “that upon which one is prepared to act.” If you won’t act on it then claiming you believe it don’t make it so. See, biblical fundamentalism and divorce.

  32. 32

    I’m starting to think you’re a spoof of Randall Terry.

    I think you are a spoof of Cliff Clavin.

  33. 33
    Ted says:

    Karl Rove is a fellow who sold his party to people who think the earth is 6000 years old.

    EEEL was telling us the other day about “Adam and Eve rid[ing] velociraptors.” It was cute.

    I would’ve guessed “slums and government housing projects,” but that works, too.

    More like the political conclusions humans tend to come to when they have to figure out how to live with large numbers of other humans. But your subtly racist answer is the best you can do, I guess.

  34. 34
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    Muslims and really any Enemy Other du jour are crazy, incomprehensible manimals to be suppressed, threatened, beaten into submission. Don’t even think of laughing. These moronic principles won elections in 2002 and 2004 and still terrify Democrats into voting ludicrously against their own interests.

    Yeah, I remember when Bush closed all the mosques, outlawed Islam, and had all Muslims beaten with Koran-wrapped rashers of frozen bacon.

    That you present your faith-based notions of how elections were won and lost with such naive certainty is hilarious to me.

  35. 35
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    Actually our goal is to hand the country over to Osama bin Laden and impose sharia law on everybody.

    Well, that’s the endgame. In the interim, we’ve got to ban religion, take away everybody’s guns, and allow hordes of Mexislamofascists to bum-rush the country. Oh, and it goes without saying that we will enforce mandatory abortions.

  36. 36
    ThymeZone says:

    Only in right-wing circles.

    I’m sorry, I think you meant only in the circles of the people who are currently running our country.

    A subtle, but important, difference.

  37. 37
    Peter Johnson says:

    I think you are a spoof of Cliff Clavin.

    Favorite Cliff quote:

    Due to the shape of the North American elk’s esophagus, even if it could speak, it could not pronounce the word lasagna.”

  38. 38
    Cyrus says:

    The Other Steve Says:
    With all this talk of Amygdalists, I think we need to invite Natalie Portman to guest blog here.

    Like we’d need the excuse.

  39. 39
    Dreggas says:

    Sorry to interrupt but….Larry Craig – the gift that keeps on giving

    Seriously I am cheering him on and hope he wins this not because I approve of sex in public restrooms but because it does seem to me that this was an arrest that was based off of ambiguous evidence that was part of “profiling”. Even though we all know he was in there to get his “Larry”, “Craiged”.

  40. 40
    jenniebee says:

    Sorry to interrupt but….Larry Craig – the gift that keeps on giving

    Anybody else here sending him notes of encouragement and checks for $12.75? God, I love it that this guy is sticking around.

  41. 41
    Punchy says:

    Dr. F, can I get the Cliff’s Notes version of this post?

  42. 42
    Zifnab says:

    Sorry to interrupt but….Larry Craig – the gift that keeps on giving

    Something he should have done from the very start. This is the sort of thing I’ll support Craig on, and I hope he wins with a landslide. Honestly, the idea that a homophobic closet case can be a force opposed to discrimination when his political career is on the line warms my heart.

    I just hope more Republican Senators get hit with vice crimes. We could witness the end of an era.

  43. 43
    Tim F. says:

    Yeah, I remember when Bush closed all the mosques, outlawed Islam, and had all Muslims beaten with Koran-wrapped rashers of frozen bacon.

    If you’re responding to an argument that someone actually made then I recommend you blockquote that instead.

  44. 44

    Yeah, I remember when Bush closed all the mosques, outlawed Islam, and had all Muslims beaten with Koran-wrapped rashers of frozen bacon.

    I don’t remember that. Gotta a link?

  45. 45

    Larry Craig is awesome! Unconstitutional. lol!

  46. 46
    Ellison, Ellensburg, Ellers, and Lambchop says:

    If you’re responding to an argument that someone actually made then I recommend you blockquote that instead.

    And I recommend that you provide attribution for “Muslims and really any Enemy Other du jour are crazy, incomprehensible manimals to be suppressed, threatened, beaten into submission.”

    So there we are.

  47. 47
    Zifnab says:

    And I recommend that you provide attribution for “Muslims and really any Enemy Other du jour are crazy, incomprehensible manimals to be suppressed, threatened, beaten into submission.”

    Link

    Also, Link.

    I can only give you two before they cut me off.

  48. 48

    And I recommend that you provide attribution for “Muslims and really any Enemy Other du jour are crazy, incomprehensible manimals to be suppressed, threatened, beaten into submission.”

    Islamofascist Awareness Week was Oprah’s idea?

  49. 49
    Tsulagi says:

    Sorry to interrupt but….Larry Craig – the gift that keeps on giving

    Larry has always been a giver. Who knew he’d be a top?

    Sorry for going O.T., Tim. It’s Friday, and I’m outraged out.

  50. 50
    Fledermaus says:

    Conservatives pass on emails to their liberal brothers-in-law because they know that more or less everybody gets the underlying point

    I think this is also more prevelant on the right becuase they usually analyze the merits of factual claims based solely on who is making the argument. Rush is right because he is Rush. QED. The NY Times is liberal, therefore the Times is wrong – (unless they says something righties like then it’s “even the liberal MSM cannot deny the rightness of our claims. See Miller, Judy.

  51. 51
    DougJ says:

    I think this is also more prevelant on the right becuase they usually analyze the merits of factual claims based solely on who is making the argument. Rush is right because he is Rush. QED.

    The mainstream press is just as bad or worse about this. Broder’s right because he’s Broder. Krugman should be ignored because he’s Krugman. Russert does great interviews because he’s Russert.

    I hate to get all Bob Somerby on your asses, but the Cokies and MoDos and Broders of the world are a much bigger problem than the Rushes and Hannities and Becks.

  52. 52

    The market gave healthcare its best shot and still Americans get screwed left and right.

    You know, I think I could rewrite this sentence and prove the opposite:

    You know, the government gave use prescription drugs and still Americans get screwed left and right.

    I saw sicko the other night. I agree that there are problems with healthcare in the US. I find it funny that at one point Moore wants the government to provide health care, then he goes on about how bad the prescription drug program is (this part I agree with).

    How do folks who support socalized medicine really think it’s going to be any different? How is this corruption going to be avoided? Sell this to me: How do you go about instituting a single payer system that is more efficient than what we have now and avoids all of the special interests? Campaign finance reform, I really don’t think that could cut it? I’ve seen nothing to address my skepticism.

  53. 53
    Pb says:

    No open threads anymore, eh? Well, I’ve got a story for ya, Tim. This is what it’d look like if the idiots at Newsbusters ran our government–maybe some of them do?

  54. 54
    Zifnab says:

    I think this is also more prevelant on the right becuase they usually analyze the merits of factual claims based solely on who is making the argument. Rush is right because he is Rush. QED. The NY Times is liberal, therefore the Times is wrong – (unless they says something righties like then it’s “even the liberal MSM cannot deny the rightness of our claims. See Miller, Judy.

    To a certain degree, liberals do that too, however. And ethnicities, and those who are religious/anti-religious, and so on. If the Pope gets up and talks, a large number of Catholics will take what he says as the word of God. If Clinton or Gore make a pronouncement, your average Democrat won’t dive into a library to research whether they’re right, but instead take their claims on a degree of faith. When Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton cry “racism” a great many people listen strictly because they hold Jackson and Sharpton in such high regard. Thus is the nature of the human being.

    That’s why Judy Miller was so deadly. It wasn’t just wingnuts giving each other back slaps, it was independent confirmation of right wing bullshit that caused the saner among us to doubt our senses. When Rush Limbaugh and the front page of the “Drive By Media” NYT agree on something, then support looks overwhelming.

    And even now, I’ll admit when I swing by Media Matters or C&L or Kos, I don’t run off and independently verify every allegation from its primary source.

    That said, what is so stunning is how shmucks like Dan Reihl/Red State/LGF/etc will continue to buy snake oil from the snake oil salesmen, long after everyone else realizes the scam that is being pulled. John Cole started jumping ship at Shavio, Sullivan edged towards the life preservers amid one of the gay-bashing orgies, even TV personalities like Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarbrough continue to sour on their conservative love-affair. But some people just seem more patriotic than ever. The Malkinites who will stalk a 12-year-old boy because they hate the idea of socialized medicine. The Gathering of Eagles guys who will swear to their dying day they saw that “Kill the Troops” CodePINK poster that never existed. The LGFers who will look you in the eye and swear up and down that Hillary Clinton is an Al-Qaeda operative because of some email he read in his Junk box. That’s what is scary.

  55. 55
    DougJ says:

    You guys talk about Judy Miller like it was isolated. What about Kit Seelye’s crazy hit jobs on Gore? What about Bumiller’s fluff pieces on Bush? What about David Brooks and his crazy pieces about what a great leader Bush is (even to this day)?

    And don’t even get me started on the Sunday morning shows or on the Wash Post editorial board. Or on the “liberal” Brookings Institute.

    The whole system is fucked. People who think Rush has more credibility than David Broder or Howard Fineman aren’t that wrong: none of the three has any credibility.

  56. 56
    Tim F. says:

    And I recommend that you provide attribution for “Muslims and really any Enemy Other du jour are crazy, incomprehensible manimals to be suppressed, threatened, beaten into submission.”

    We both know that you’re not a fool, so don’t play one.

    But heck, fine with me. Would you prefer rightwing demaogues classifying Islam itself as defective and evil? Sure, I could pinch my nose and wade through LGF, Michelle Malkin, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and cetera until you get tired of the linkage. Glenn’s bit challenging Keith Ellison was particularly comical, if hardly the most extreme example. Lt. Gen. William Boykin was also particularly obvious in his religious-right islamophobia, if only because he said what respectable rightwingers kept to their chatroom buddies. He was Rumsfeld’s Deputy Undersecretary for Intelligence.

    Maybe you would prefer evidence that conservative leaders conflate the various Islam-based threats into one inchoate mass? We could start with the term “islamofascism.” So clear, so simple, so totally lacking in any meaning. What distinguishes al Qaeda and Iran? If you go by righting terminology, nothing! That’s why smart people keep away from conservatism. Then there’s neoconservatives declaring that Iraq has no history of sectarian tensions. Remember how most of the rightwing noiseosphere swallowed the idea that a secular Baathist like Saddam Hussein would ally himself with al Qaeda fundamentalists? I do. About a third of America still believes that. No doubt Cheney constantly conflating of the two has nothing to do with it.

    Then there’s “the enemies who attacked us on 9/11.” Are any of them in Iraq? I’ll make that one easy for you – no. Zarqawi had his own terrorist outfit before 9/11 happened, he just added the “AQI” badge for the free publicity. Then he became a fundraising power and bin Laden had to deal with him, but that’s another story. Suffice to say that if we leave Iraq it won’t help the enemies who attacked us in any way. Those guys are still sitting in caves in Pakistan hoping that we continue shortchanging the Afghans long enough to take the important parts back. And the Iraqi squatters who do align with AQ are so hated in the country that after we leave they won’t have time to enroll in life insurance.

    Maybe I lost track. What was I supposed to link again?

  57. 57
    tBone says:

    Remember how most of the rightwing noiseosphere swallowed the idea that a secular Baathist like Saddam Hussein would ally himself with al Qaeda fundamentalists?

    Presented without comment.

  58. 58
    John Cole says:

    TBONE- My favorite part ofthat link is this snippet:

    Happily, Cheney appears to have been too pessimistic in his predictions of longterm inviability of a Saddam-less Iraq. The Iraqis got a new government in place far quicker than Cheney thought we could. Thusfar, there’s been no breakup of Iraq post-Saddam. Polls in Iraq have shown that Iraqis want to stay as one country.

    You stupid liberals prolly thought Cheney was talking about sectarian violence and stuff, which has been well documented. He wasn’t you big dummy-heads. He meant GEOGRAPHICALLY.

    And if you look at a current map, you can see he was right. Iraq is still together!

  59. 59

    I call these Republican tactics the “Tiny Penis Theory of Political Discourse.” George Carlin explained it thusly: “What? They have bigger dicks? Bomb them!” It’s visceral, atavistic stuff, and it speaks to the eat-hump-shit-kill (not necessarily in that order) instincts of all people. I think Al Gore called it “Amygdala Politics” or something.

  60. 60
    Punchy says:

    With all this talk of Amygdalists, I think we need to invite Natalie Portman to guest blog here.

    Alright, Myriad Steves, I’ll bite: what the hell does this mean?

  61. 61
    qwerty42 says:

    I believe the words of Rep Stark were a remarkable affront to this weird “right” of today — hence their hysteria about it. This one cut too close to what so many feel. The “amusement” part was the worst — given the president’s own flip remarks over the past few years, and his seeming indifference to ongoing failure and incompetence, it struck home.

  62. 62
    Zifnab says:

    Maybe I lost track. What was I supposed to link again?

    Ponies

  63. 63
    Tsulagi says:

    Happily, Cheney appears to have been too pessimistic in his predictions

    Sorry, I just couldn’t continue reading the quote after getting that far. I was laughing way too hard.

    So, are all the nutters locking hands singing O Happy Day while the search continues for troops buried under flowers and candies? Surely the last dead-ender went through his last throes long ago. Yep, now we have the much improved predictacating Cheney.

  64. 64
    libarbarian says:

    I think this is also more prevelant on the right becuase they usually analyze the merits of factual claims based solely on who is making the argument.

    Yes and its something I simply couldn’t stand once it passed the level of “understandably human response to a complicated world” and became a pathological need to believe what one wants to be true and/or a pathological belief that one can re-fashion reality through force of will.

    But, to play Devils Advocate:

    1. Its universal. Take the issue of possible Iranian “meddling” in Iraq. Few people seem interested in the facts – many people believe what they want to believe.

    2. I see lots of people who can’t tell the difference between “factual claims” and “plausible claims that I happen to like”. Real Facts are more rare than many people think. This is particularly true in areas, like economics or social policy, where many factors interact in complicated ways which blur the distinction between reality and appearances. Often multiple theories fit the observable facts and we pick amongst them based on more emotional considerations.

  65. 65
    tBone says:

    And if you look at a current map, you can see he was right. Iraq is still together!

    True. Although if you’re looking at real-time satellite imagery, it’s difficult to make out under the mounds of flowers and sweets.

  66. 66
    ThymeZone says:

    Sorry to interrupt but….Larry Craig – the gift that keeps on giving

    Actually, others including Frank Rich of NYT (whose excellent piece I linked earlier) and ACLU have argued this for some time now. The idea that you can be arrested for basically making hand and foot gestures amazingly doesn’t strike the supposedly “liberal” crowd here as being anything unusual. After all, the guy is a faggot and a Republican, so who cares if we shit on him? Sorry if I summed up the counter argument too rudely, but I don’t really have a lot of respect for it.

  67. 67
    Keith says:

    I’d like to see the emails (and hell, Youtube vids) taken to the level of satire such that those who actually believe these things begin to confuse the satire from the planted, effectively crowding ALL the shit out with noise. Think “Communists for Kerry”, but even more ludicrous and volumous. “Gays for Romney”, “Reformed Felons for Rudy”, homespun Gravel-like Youtube commercials that make Hillary out to be a babbling loon, fake emails about Fred Thompson asking a reporter to pull his finger. Just a total barrage of this stuff so people will hopefully stop taking it seriously.

  68. 68
    Gus says:

    TZ, I think that I’m perfectly capable of thinking Larry Craig got screwed (no pun intended) while also feeling schadenfreude. I do hope he beats the rap, though.

  69. 69
    DougJ says:

    fake emails about Fred Thompson asking a reporter to pull his finger.

    Those were fake? Maybe I shouldn’t have forwarded them to everyone at work. And fake or not, Mark Halperin described it as a brilliant political move, folksy and authentic.

  70. 70
    merlallen says:

    I stopped getting those emails when I treated them like a joke. I always replied, hahaha that is some funny shit, where did you find that? Or like the other commenter, with a lot of profanity like, If I was a fucking moronic half wit I wouldn’t believe that motherfucking stupid ass shit.

  71. 71
    ThymeZone says:

    TZ, I think that I’m perfectly capable of thinking Larry Craig got screwed (no pun intended) while also feeling schadenfreude.

    “Feeling” anything in this situation isn’t too helpful. We’re dealing with the leading edge of the equal protection aspects of law and law enforcement here. If the law isn’t capable of being blind (say, to the essential shittiness of Larry Craig) then … we are the ones who end up getting screwed. When the law is used to screw people you don’t like, then as soon as you get on the wrong side of the like-o-meter, you’re screwed.

    If you want fair law, then you have to treat everyone fairly, even the Larry Craigs. Republicans never get this, but we aren’t them. So we can get it.

  72. 72
    Ted says:

    The idea that you can be arrested for basically making hand and foot gestures amazingly doesn’t strike the supposedly “liberal” crowd here as being anything unusual. After all, the guy is a faggot and a Republican, so who cares if we shit on him?

    I’ve definitely felt throughout Craig’s ordeal that he should never have been arrested or even detained by the police. He should never have been charged with anything because he did nothing solidly illegal. His predicament is unjust to him.

    But you’ll forgive me if I absolutely love the predicament it puts the anti-gay GOP in because of it.

  73. 73
    Peter Johnson says:

    This is amazing. I’ve never heard any of you say a single good thing about a Republican until now. And the one you’re saying nice things about is a sex pervert. Would you forgive Bush for all of his “crimes” if you found out he hung around men’s rooms trying to get hand jobs?

  74. 74
    ThymeZone says:

    I absolutely love the predicament it puts the anti-gay GOP in because of it.

    Tempting, I know. But they can snub Craig and do it, apparently, with the tacit approval of the totally dishonest and hypocritical Dems who are watching it happen and saying nothing. This is not a proud moment in American history for anybody.

  75. 75
    The Other Andrew says:

    The lack of a narrative on the left has always bugged me. The right has a narrative–it’s illogical, it’s dishonest, and it contradicts itself in many places, but it’s there, and it’s designed to tap into widespread assumptions/beliefs and to make people feel like they’re part of something bigger. (I often hear utterly apolitical, “I never pay attention to the news” people repeating GOP talking points without even realizing it–sometimes, it’s the message-machine sneaking in at the edges, and sometimes, it’s simply the basic cultural myths that the GOP taps into.)

    On paper, the left should be trouncing the right. Conservatives are alienating key demographic groups, they’re making themselves look like horrible people, they’ve had a ton of high-profile screwups…but they’re united and psychotically passionate in a way that the left isn’t. Yes, part of that is the willingness to engage in ironically communist-like groupthink, but part of it is narrative. They think they know exactly what their party is fighting for, they think they know what America has been and should be…whereas the left’s narrative is all over the place, less succinct and hard-hitting and more dry and policy-based. I’m afraid that if you ask the American people to choose between a bad blockbuster and a non-melodramatic film, they’ll choose the blockbuster, as it has greater scope. The Dems need to learn how to tap into the American imagination, again. We haven’t really done that since Kennedy. I’m not just talking about being inspiring, I’m talking about “world-building” on a thematic, exciting level.

    If I had the chance to design the left’s narrative–well, key ingredients would include progress, science, modernity, and equality. Due to the current situation, the left has been forced to play defense, focusing on the negatives of the current maniacs…but I think it’s time to go on offense and focus on the positive. The right’s goal has been to drag us back into the past, our goal should be to move towards the future. Granted, the right *has* goals that they loudly proclaim, we have…um…sort of vague hopes that the politicians don’t remotely come close to mirroring.

    I’d love for the left to win, but I think it’s more likely that the right will lose. We won’t beat them–like all good villains, they’ll beat themselves. At some point, the social cons will realize that controlling government doesn’t have that much effect on shaping culture (which is what they really care about–yeah, Bush has been in office for the last six years, but gay people are finding more acceptance, video games are even more violent, the thong epidemic continues, etc.), and they’ll get apathetic and/or try to find another route. Or the economic populists will look at the financial hole modern conservatism has dug, or at the GOP’s willingness to sell them out for cheap illegal labor, and go Dem or third-party, respectively. Or they’ll get lucky and manage to kick abortion down to state level, losing the suburban moderate women that they need to win at the national level.

    So–I hope we get a narrative soon, but I’m not realistically expecting it. Instead, it’s a matter of seeing how much crap America is willing to take from the right. Will bombing Iran be the final straw? Explicit torture videos/Iraqi civilian slaughter videos? Some previously-unforeseen social issue that makes the GOP look absolutely twelfth century? I hope to god it’s something minor and silly, like Bush accidentally mentioning that his daughter is living with a guy, thus alienating the less hypocritical social cons, but I’m afraid it’s going to be more disastrous.

    In the interests of gallows humor, we should really have a betting pool going. Put me down for “Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and possibly Syria decide to fight over Iraq in a more overt way.”

  76. 76
    ThymeZone says:

    Would you forgive Bush for all of his “crimes” if you found out he hung around men’s rooms trying to get hand jobs?

    What would his sexual preferences have to do with accountability for his governing … or vice versa?

    Craig is a complete butthead. But he still deserves fair treatment WRT to his personal behavior.

    Bush is a complete butthead, and would deserve the same fair treatment.

    Both of them deserve to be cursed with eternal crotch-infesting maggots for their shitty work as government officials.

  77. 77
    Jess says:

    This is amazing. I’ve never heard any of you say a single good thing about a Republican until now. And the one you’re saying nice things about is a sex pervert. Would you forgive Bush for all of his “crimes” if you found out he hung around men’s rooms trying to get hand jobs?

    Craig is a complete butthead. But he still deserves fair treatment WRT to his personal behavior.

    Bush is a complete butthead, and would deserve the same fair treatment.

    Yeah, what TZ said. What amazes me (although I am no longer surprised) is how foreign the concept of fairness is to the right-winger’s mind. Do most of us non-wingers despise Craig? Yes. Does that mean we can’t come to our own conclusions as to whether he was treated fairly in this one instance? No. Can a hard-core right winger feel some compassion for someone he disapproves of, or can he recognize and speak out against injustice no matter who is doing it to whom? Apparently not–or at least I haven’t seen many good examples.

    And by the way, I think most of us could find good things to say about many Republicans–just not the ones that have currently taken over the party and are fucking up the country. It’s a matter of patriotism.

  78. 78
    Jess says:

    To forestall any arguments that a (supposedly) left-wing organization would not fight for the rights of someone from the opposite camp (from the MN Star Tribune):

    an earlier friend-of-the-court filing by the American Civil Liberties Union argued that Craig’s foot-tapping and hand gesture under a stall divider at the Minneapolis airport are protected by the First Amendment.

  79. 79
    BIRDZILLA says:

    AL GORE is so full of HOT AIR if he did,nt wear leaded shoes or a lead belt he would float away and JOHN KERRY is a scoundrel

  80. 80
    Justin says:

    Tim,

    Why not just start e-mailing around the pictures of Rudy dressed in drag, with the subject line being “Too funny!” or something to that effect. Then in the body of the e-mail, discuss his lunacy concerning foreign policy and tendency to expand and abuse executive power. To sane people, the pictures would be comic relief – they deflate the image of the “tough guy” image he tries to build. To our wingnut family members and friends who regularly send us e-mails, this would be the most scandalous thing they have ever seen. To them this is “TEH GAY!!!!!”

    Besides, shouldn’t his hypocrisy–being a non-homophobic man and seeking the nomination of THE anti-gay party–be exposed?

  81. 81
    Justin says:

    Tim,

    I actually think you’ve hit upon something important here. I’ve been getting these e-mails for years, and as they really do have a tangible effect on people’s perceptions and voting habits, and I’m thinking in particular here of the smears against John Kerry’s religion, personality, military service, credibility, etc.

    Here’s my idea: Why not just start e-mailing around the pictures of Rudy dressed in drag, with the subject line being “Too funny!” or something to that effect. To our wingnut family members and friends who regularly send us e-mails, this would be the most scandalous thing they have ever seen. To them this is “TEH GAY!!!!!” I had an older man I know, a preacher in fact, tell me that he would not vote for Giuliani because he is, in his words, “a homosexual.” I had to stop myself from laughing right there at the irony.

    Besides, shouldn’t Rudy’s hypocrisy–being a non-homophobic man and seeking the nomination of THE anti-gay party–be exposed?

  82. 82
    Justin says:

    oops, didn’t mean to post the incomplete comment the first time.

  83. 83

    […] Tim F. expands on the idea (while also taking a few well-earned swings at liberalism) at Balloon Juice.   […]

  84. 84

    […] This point is more important than most people appreciate, and not just because I have hit on it before. When you watch the Democratic debates, just like the Republican debates, everybody more or less takes for granted that we have a right to throw the US military around the world without regard for anybody’s opinion but our own. On the face of it that seems silly, not only did the Bush years show that it can be a catastrophically stupid approach but we have every reason to think in advance that casually throwing the military around would cause more problems than it would solve. There is a good reason why diplomatic corps and the FBI have a frustratingly cautious approach to international operations. […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] This point is more important than most people appreciate, and not just because I have hit on it before. When you watch the Democratic debates, just like the Republican debates, everybody more or less takes for granted that we have a right to throw the US military around the world without regard for anybody’s opinion but our own. On the face of it that seems silly, not only did the Bush years show that it can be a catastrophically stupid approach but we have every reason to think in advance that casually throwing the military around would cause more problems than it would solve. There is a good reason why diplomatic corps and the FBI have a frustratingly cautious approach to international operations. […]

  2. […] Tim F. expands on the idea (while also taking a few well-earned swings at liberalism) at Balloon Juice.   […]

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